James pounds out 120 yards

In one of his best games since injuring his knee during the 2001 season, Edgerrin James helped carry the Colts to victory.

Updated: September 15, 2003, 11:33 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Dragged down from behind last Sunday by a Cleveland Browns defender who latched on to a strand of hair dangling below his helmet, Indianapolis Colts tailback Edgerrin James vowed never again to be hampered by an errant hunk of dreadlock -- so he did the unthinkable.

Yep, the man with one of the NFL's most notable hairstyles undid his 'do, chopping off a few inches off the dreads this week before the Colts faced the Tennessee Titans. Fortunately, for James and the Indianapolis offense, the outcome was not one of biblical proportions.

I felt pretty strong. The (knee) isn't something I think about anymore. It's not a conscious thing anymore for me. I just want to win and keep the offense going and we did both those things.
Edgerrin James, Colts RB

Suffice it to say that James did not become Samson, who was trimmed by the treacherous Delilah and transformed from a mighty strongman into a veritable wimp.

In one of his best performances since the knee injury that wrecked his 2001 season, James rumbled for 120 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries in a 33-7 victory over the Titans. The mere notion of a fully healthy James, slashing through defenses again with reckless abandon, could be a, well, hairy proposition for upcoming opponents.

"He was kind of back to being the pre-injury 'Edge' again," said center Jeff Saturday. "He ran hard and decisively. When he's rolling like that, then we're hitting on all of our cylinders, and that makes us a pretty tough team to defend. As an offensive lineman, it's great to see him blasting through people like that, believe me."

It wasn't as if James was consistently prolific against a Tennessee defense primed to stop him and turn the Colts into a one-dimensional entity. Half of his 30 carries netted two yards or less, and he had 10 rushes of one yard or less.

But there were also seven gains of seven yards or more, three for 10-plus yards, and the perception that James was always pointed in the right direction. James lost about 20 more yards on runs that were nullified by penalties.

The fifth-year veteran ran, as Colts coach Tony Dungy pointed out, "behind his pads." Translation: In notching his third 100-yard performance since the '01 injury, James got his shoulders squared and his body lean positive, and principally ran north and south.

James, 25, has now appeared in 54 regular-season games and rushed for 100 or more yards in exactly half of them. No player has ever gone deeper into his career with such a ratio of 100-yard outings.

The Colts resurrected their staple off-tackle "stretch play" and, while the results were mixed, quarterback Peyton Manning went to it time and again to help control tempo. James' three longest runs all came on the "stretch play," when the tailback elongated the Tennessee defense to its breaking point, then turned decisively upfield.

"I felt pretty strong," James said. "The (knee) isn't something I think about anymore. It's not a conscious thing anymore for me. I just want to win and keep the offense going, and we did both those things."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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