INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—It looked like old times in Indianapolis on Sunday.
Peyton Manning was in control and Marvin Harrison was catching touchdowns while the defense pressured the quarterback and forced turnovers. Heck, the Colts even won a home game for the first time since December 2007.
After a month of bumbling around and hearing critics question whether they still had it, the Colts sent a strong message to the rest of the league with their 31-3 rout of Baltimore: They’re back.
“It’s about being consistent, but today’s game was a little more like what we expect around here,” Manning said.
Fans had been waiting to see a performance like this since last December.
Manning, who had struggled with his timing after recovering from offseason knee surgery, finally looked like himself. He hit receivers in stride and completed passes into double coverage, finishing 19-for-28 for 271 yards with three touchdowns—easily his best game of the season.
The receivers were in sync, too.
Harrison, the perennial Pro Bowler, quieted those who thought he had lost a step by burning Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister for a a 67-yard touchdown to open the game and scored two TDs in a game for the first time since December 2006. The other Pro Bowler, Reggie Wayne, caught a 22-yard TD pass and had a 67-yarder called back on a holding penalty.
Indy also was efficient on the ground despite losing Pro Bowler Joseph Addai in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, and third-stringer Mike Hart in the second quarter with a right knee injury. That left Dominic Rhodes as the only remaining back on the active roster and he ran 25 times for 73 yards.
The combination was enough for the Colts (3-2) to revert to form.
“We’ve just been a little off and not been as sharp as we need to,” coach Tony Dungy said. “We saw that again a little today but we saw more of that sharpness today. I think it’s good for the young guys to see how I think we can play.”
The Colts’ defense took the cue, frustrating rookie quarterback Joe Flacco all day and limiting the Ravens to 49 yards in the first 2 1/2 quarters.
Flacco struggled, throwing an interception on the third play of the game, losing a fumble, botching a handoff, getting sacked four times and needing more than a quarter to produce a first down.
Predictably, the Ravens (2-3) lost their third in a row.
“This is bad,” receiver Derrick Mason said. “You take your hats off to them, but we did some things to make it easy for them to score.”
The Colts capitalized on every opening.
Manning and Harrison hooked up for the 67-yard TD pass on Indy’s second series.
Then Manning threw a perfect strike to Wayne in the back of the end zone on the next series to make it 14-0. And after Flacco’s fumble late in the first quarter, Adam Vinatieri made a 37-yard field goal to give the Colts a 17-0 lead.
That ended a 20-minute span, dating to their incredible comeback last week in Houston, in which the Colts outscored their opponents 38-0 and forced five turnovers.
“This is how we’re built,” Dungy said. “We’ve got to get ahead of people quickly, and it helps when you get the lead because you play better.”
Manning certainly illustrated the point.
He led the Colts on a 52-yard drive just before halftime, finding Harrison on a 5-yard TD pass and took Indy 80 yards to open the second half, capping the drive with Rhodes’ 1-yard TD run to make it 31-0 with 9:25 left in the third quarter.
Flacco was 28-for-38 with 241 yards, most coming after the game was already out of reach, and Baltimore’s trademark ground game was never a factor after falling into the deep, early hole.
“We got what we deserved,” first-year coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s what happens when we play the way we did.”
Harrison’s two TD receptions gave him 126 in his career, moving him past Walter Payton and into 10th on the league’s career list. … The Ravens have lost six straight to the Colts, who called Baltimore home for more than three decades before moving to Indy. … Running back Willis McGahee and guard Marshal Yanda both left the game in the fourth quarter, but Harbaugh had no update on their condition. … Indy won in its third regular-season home game at Lucas Oil Stadium, with the sun shining down on the field for the first time ever. It also took the Colts three tries to win their first game at the RCA Dome.