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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Indy Colts Beat Denver Broncos 34-31; Remain Undefeated At 7-0

Manning, Wayne help Colts escape Denver

NFL.com wire reports

DENVER (Oct. 29, 2006) -- Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne picked, poked and plowed their way through a Denver defense that was designed specifically to stop them.

Manning passed for 345 yards and three touchdowns - all to Wayne - and Adam Vinatieri kicked a 37-yard field goal with 2 seconds left Sunday to lift the Indianapolis Colts to a 34-31 victory over the baffled Broncos.

Wayne finished with 10 catches for 138 yards and did most of his damage against defensive back Darrent Williams. Williams was Denver's first pick of the 2005 draft, a defense-heavy class that was part of an ongoing effort by the Broncos (5-2) to shore things up after those embarrassing playoff debacles in Indy in 2003 and '04.

It looked as though things were coming together very nicely; Denver came in comparing favorably to the best defenses of all time, having allowed only 44 points through six games.

Then came Manning & Co., who gained 437 yards to become the first team to start 7-0 in consecutive seasons since the 1929-31 Green Bay Packers did it three straight times.

Manning went 32-for-39 for 345 yards with a passer rating of 129.2. He wasn't intercepted, wasn't sacked, was barely touched, in fact.

His counterpart, the much-maligned Jake Plummer, did a wonderful job matching Manning, leading a Denver offense that hadn't scored 20 points all season. Plummer went 13-for-21 for 174 yards and a passer rating of 104.1. Rookie running back Mike Bell came off the bench for 136 yards and two scores.

But this was one of those games where the team that has the ball last was going to win.

Wayne's third touchdown gave Indy a 31-28 lead with 3:35 left. But when Bell answered immediately with a 48-yard run, the Broncos stalled at the Colts 30 with 1:49 to go and had to settle for a tying field goal. It then became clear this would be Indy's game to win.

Manning did it cruelly and efficiently, working the sidelines and finding every soft spot in the zone defense the Broncos used, and surprisingly stuck with, even as Indy's yardage piled up.

The two big plays were Manning to Wayne for 14 yards and Manning to Wayne for 9 more - both catches made in front of Williams, who all week acknowledged this game was something of a referendum on his presence in Denver.

Vinatieri, brought to Indy to make kicks exactly like this one, nailed the 37-yarder to finish a 4-for-4 day and help the Colts finish a perfect second half - they scored each of the five times they touched the ball after halftime. Denver's desperation kickoff return went nowhere and the Broncos saw their 13-game, regular-season home winning streak ended.

Indy, meanwhile, re-established itself as the team to beat in the AFC, taking a two-game lead in the win column over Denver and all the closest contenders with the season nearing the halfway point.

Joseph Addai ran for 93 yards for Indy and Dallas Clark, the tight end who has long been tough for Denver to cover, finished with six catches for 68 yards, as Manning spread his 32 pass completions to seven receivers.


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