News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 19, 2006

Indy’s defense looks super

Manning, Harrison hook up three times as Indy wins convincingly

Tom James

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts knew that they would need a complete team performance if they were to register a win Monday night over the streaking Cincinnati Bengals.

Indianapolis got exactly what they needed, and more, with a 34-16 victory that allowed the Colts to snap a two-game losing streak and keep pace with the rest of the AFC’s top-seeded teams.

The Bengals had won four straight games coming into the nationally televised matchup at the RCA Dome.

With quarterback Peyton Manning completing 29-of-36 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns, including three to wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Tony Dungy’s squad improved to 11-3 for the season heading into Sunday’s road game against AFC South rival Houston.

The Colts’ much-maligned defense rose to the occasion, shutting down one of the league’s better offensive teams for most of the evening. After giving up more than 375 yards on the ground last week at Jacksonville, Indianapolis limited Cincinnati’s Rudi Johnson to 79 yards in 22 carries.

Defensive end Dwight Freeney, who came into the game with just two sacks on the season, got to Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer three times while defensive tackle Raheem Brock also had a sack.

Palmer hit on 14-of-28 passes for 176 yards, but was held without a touchdown pass.

Indianapolis took a 17-10 lead into the locker room at halftime as placekicker Adam Vinatieri hit from 30 yards out with eight minutes remaining in the first quarter and Manning fired a pair of short second quarter touchdown passes (four and three yards) to wide receiver Marvin Harrison.

Cincinnati managed a 27-yard field goal by Shayne Graham with just over a minute left in the first quarter and a 12-yard burst up the middle by running back Rudi Johnson with 6:49 remaining in the first half.

The Bengals’ touchdown was set up when Indianapolis return specialist Terrence Wilkins mishandled a Kyle Larson punt at the Colts’ 25-yard line. An eight-yard keeper on third down by wide receiver Reggie McNeal, who lined up at quarterback, gave Cincinnati a first-and-10 at the Indianapolis 14-yard line. Two plays later, Johnson went for the touchdown.

Manning completed 18-of-20 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the first half for the Colts. Johnson had 64 yards in 13 carries and a TD for Cincinnati over the first two quarters.

Graham added a pair of field goals in the second half, hitting from 30 and 28 yards. Indianapolis got a third touchdown of the game on a one-yard pass from Manning to Harrison with 6:36 left in the third quarter. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne later hauled in an 18-yard scoring pass from Manning later in the quarter.

Vinatieri’s second field goal of the night, from 44-yards out, closed out the scoring for the Colts.