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Monday, November 06, 2006

Indianapolis Colts' Perfect - Beat New England Patriots 27-20 - Indy Star

Prime-time punchout

By Phil Richards

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Peyton Manning piled up the big numbers but the Indianapolis Colts' much-maligned defense made a bunch of the big plays Sunday as it contributed five takeaways to the Colts' 27-20 victory over the New England Patriots at rowdy, chilly Gillette Stadium.

It's only midseason, but the Colts' 30th victory in their past 33 regular-season games pushed them to 8-0 and gave them what amounts to a three-game lead on the Patriots (6-2) in the chase for the AFC's No. 1 playoff seed, because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Colts are at least two games ahead of everyone else in the conference and remained three up on Jacksonville (5-3) in the AFC South.

It was the Colts' second consecutive victory at New England after a run of nine losses in succession here.

Manning completed 20-of-36 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns to become only the second Colts quarterback to throw for 300 yards in three consecutive games. John Unitas did it in 1963.

"You have to win as a team," Manning told an NBC reporter after the game. "You can't win playing as an individual against these guys."

The Colts embodied team. On a night when they were outrushed 148 yards to 53, the defense kept taking the football away.
Defensive tackle Raheem Brock forced and recovered a fumble. Safety Antoine Bethea intercepted one pass in the Colts end zone. Safety Bob Sanders stole another at the Colts 3-yard line.

The second of linebacker Cato June's pair of interceptions came on a pass that deflected off Patriots running back Kevin Faulk and put the game away. It came with 1:18 to play with New England driving and at the Colts 39.

"They were around the ball," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "They've got good aggressiveness on defense. They got their hands on it. They didn't drop any."

Adam Vinatieri, who played the first 10 years of his career for New England before signing with the Colts as a free agent in March, had a forgettable homecoming night. He converted 23- and 31-yard field goals but missed from 37 and 46. He was booed throughout by the sellout crowd of 68,756.

Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison caught eight passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. It was his seventh 100-yard game against the Patriots, two more than he has against any other NFL team.

Harrison's most spectacular catch was for the third-quarter game-winner, the touchdown that gave the Colts a 24-14 lead. He beat cornerback Eric Hobbs into the end zone. Harrison stretched with his left hand, tipped Manning's pass, then gathered it in and got both feet down before he fell out of bounds.

It was touch, artistry, ballet. And it came against one of the NFL's top defenses.

New England hadn't permitted a touchdown in its past two games and was the only team in the league that hadn't allowed an opponent to score more than 17 points in a game all season.

"The thing I like about our team is we're finding different ways to win," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "We're still not playing our best."

Manning came into the game on a roll. In victories over Washington and Denver, he had thrown for 342 yards and four touchdowns and 345 yards and three touchdowns, respectively.

After missing his first two passes Sunday, he hit his next nine for 140 yards and two touchdowns as the Colts took a 14-7 lead.

"We had them in a chase position most of the night," Manning said. "That was part of the plan and it worked out well for us."


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