Colts struggle on offense, but still triumph

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indianapolis Colts aren't just winning

shootouts anymore. Their defense is winning games, too.

Allen's Analysis

Eric Allen

Question on the Texans: At this point, where do they need the most improvement?

The offensive line. The Texans were hit hard by injuries on their O-line (especially OT Tony Boselli). Rookie QB David Carr has been sacked at record rates this season. If they had a better line, they would have won more games.

Question on the Colts: What do you think of them heading down the stretch?

The Colts look good. Tony Dungy has done a great job of getting them back in playoff shape. With Marvin Harrison (the NFL's best receiver, in my book) and Peyton Manning, they have weapons on offense, and the defense is responding to Dungy's style.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

The Colts converted two first-quarter fumbles into 10 points,

got two field goals from Mike Vanderjagt and used a late touchdown

run from James Mungro as the defense dominated in a 19-3 victory

over Houston on Sunday.

"We were able to take control of the game and not let them beat

us in anything,'' defensive end Brad Scioli said. "It seemed every

time they got something going, we just came back and stopped


Indianapolis (8-4) won its fourth straight and stayed one game

ahead of Tennessee, setting up a showdown for the AFC South lead

next week in Nashville.

But with the Colts' usually productive offense bogging down

Sunday, Indianapolis had to take a different tact -- relying on a

vastly improved defense to shut down the expansion Texans (3-9).

No problem.

Indianapolis allowed 165 yards, forced two turnovers deep in

Houston territory, sacked David Carr six times and just missed

producing its first shutout since December 1997.

It was the kind of performance that was unthinkable a year ago

when the Colts were among the league's worst defenses, or even

earlier this season.

The changes, however, have been dramatic.

"Their defense has improved, I think, tremendously since we

played them the first time,'' Houston coach Dom Capers said. "We

had a hard time establishing much offense.''

The Colts weren't much better.

Marvin Harrison was his usual self, catching nine passes for 101

yards and tying Raymond Berry's franchise record for receptions.

Both players now have 631 career receptions, and it was Harrison's

fourth straight 100-yard game.

Everyone else struggled.

Peyton Manning was 15-of-28 for 190 yards and one touchdown,

while two-time rushing champ Edgerrin James carried 20 times for 65

yards and sat out the final few series after irritating his injured

right ankle. The Colts finished with only 267 yards in offense.

With the offense going nowhere, the Colts' defense turned in one

of its most complete performances of the season. Indianapolis

swarmed to the ball and created all kinds of confusion for Houston

(3-9), resulting in a series of penalties and turnovers that

continually stopped the Texans. Their most sustained drive went to

the Colts 26 before ending at the Houston 47 late in the game.

Houston's only points came when Kris Brown made a 34-yard field

goal with 3:51 to go after Troy Walters fumbled a punt at the

Indianapolis 21.

"They come out and do the same thing every week and they're

good at it,'' Carr said. "They shoot you down. What's so

frustrating about it, is you have to sustain drives. Or you have to

be in a two-minute situation. You're not going to get big plays

against this team.''

The Colts had their own problems, committing nine penalties

compared with Houston's 14. But the Texans' mistakes were more


After going nowhere on the first series, Houston fumbled the

next two times it touched the ball.

The first led to Vanderjagt's 31-yard field goal, and the Colts

took advantage again when Frank Murphy fumbled on the ensuing

kickoff. On the first play, Manning hooked up with wide-open Marcus Pollard for a 16-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead six minutes into

the game.

The Colts defense took care of the rest.

Vanderjagt kicked a 46-yarder early in the second quarter to

make it 13-0, and Indianapolis sealed the victory with a nine-play,

55-yard fourth-quarter drive that ended with Mungro's 1-yard TD run

to make it 19-0.

Carr was 20-of-35 for 137 yards, while James Allen was the

Texans' workhorse. He carried 16 times for 64 yards and caught 10

passes for 49 yards.

"We had to keep chipping away,'' Colts coach Tony Dungy said.

"The defense had to keep us in there, and they did that.''

Game notes

Carr has been sacked 64 times, eight short of the NFL's

single-season record set in 1986 by Randall Cunningham with

Philadelphia. ... Manning topped the 3,000-yard mark for the fifth

straight year. He is the first NFL quarterback to open his career

with five straight 3,000-yard seasons. ... Since moving to

Indianapolis, this is the second time the Colts have gone 8-4 or

better. They were 10-2 in 1999. ... Although the game was blacked

out in Indianapolis, it was a sellout by kickoff, extending the

Colts streak to 30. ... Houston was 2-for-15 on third-down