INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—The Indianapolis Colts have a message for the NFL: The Triplets are back and better than ever.
Not to mention still perfect.
For the second straight week, Peyton Manning threw three touchdowns and Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James each topped 100 yards, helping the Colts retain their title as the NFL’s only unbeaten team with Sunday’s 31-17 victory over Houston.
“In this offense, it can be anyone’s day,” said Manning, the league’s two-time MVP. “But when you see it on film, we do spread it around. … It can put the defense in a bind.”
As if the Texans (1-8) weren’t already overmatched, playing the league’s hottest team with a makeshift offensive line and missing their top running back.
Manning carved up the Texans secondary, completing 26 of 35 passes for 297 yards and three TDs. Harrison caught seven passes for 108 yards, including a 30-yard TD pass that made Manning and Harrison the first duo in NFL history to account for 10,000 yards. The tandem now has 755 completions for 10,034 yards and 90 touchdowns—all NFL records.
James, too, had a milestone day. He carried 26 times for 122 yards—his 47th career 100-yard game, tying him with Pittsburgh’s Franco Harris for the eighth most in league history—while topping 1,000 yards for the fifth time in his career.
It also marked the 21st time James and Harrison accounted for 100 yards in the same game, breaking the NFL record of 20. The record previously belong to Dallas’ Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.
And the trio made Houston look bad all day.
“They have so many weapons, you just can’t let up,” linebacker Antwan Peek said of Manning. “But it’s tough to stop them all.”
This victory, though, didn’t follow the usual script for the Colts (9-0).
Coach Tony Dungy worried all week about his team’s response to an emotional Monday night victory at New England, and at times, Indianapolis had problems.
Twice they muffed short punts when the ball hit blockers running down field. Houston turned those miscues into 10 points, keeping it closer than most people expected.
But Manning & Co. answered every challenge as Houston dropped to 0-8 all-time against Indy.
“I thought our guys played well,” Dungy said. “We had a few glitches on the punts, but there’s not really anything you could do about that.”
On paper, it looked like a mismatch—and that was long before the Texans put running back Domanick Davis (knee), offensive linemen Zach Wiegert (ankle), Drew Hodgdon (sprained arch) and Todd Washington (neck) on the inactive list.
Coach Dom Capers improvised. He moved offensive lineman around, then had to make another adjustment when right tackle Todd Wade sprained a knee ligament in the fourth quarter. Capers called both Wade’s injury and safety Jason Simmons’ pulled hamstring significant.
The rash of injuries also included defensive tackle Gary Walker, who limped off the field once and later returned.
“It looks like we can’t play a game without losing someone,” Capers said.
Indianapolis took advantage.
They limited Houston to only two first downs, one by penalty in the game’s first 27 minutes.
Manning led the Colts on three straight touchdown drives, throwing 14 yards to Dallas Clark for one score, getting a 5-yard TD run from James and then connecting with Brandon Stokley on a 21-yard touchdown pass that made it 21-0 midway through the second quarter.
Houston got back in the game when Ramon Walker recovered the first muff and Jonathan Wells, Davis’ replacement, scored on a nifty 14-yard run as he stretched across the goal line. Wells finished with 15 carries for 58 yards.
But Manning countered with the 30-yard TD pass to Harrison, and Houston never challenged after that.
“Peyton threw for a high percentage again,” Dungy said. “We ran the ball well. That’s what we’ve been doing all year in the right situation—making plays.”
Colts defensive end Robert Mathis failed to record a sack for the first time this season, ending his consecutive games streak at eight. … Carr threw a touchdown pass in his ninth straight game, a career-high. … Harrison’s 50th career 100-yard game tied Don Maynard for second on the all-time list. Jerry Rice’s 76 100-yard games are an NFL record.