Colts 30

(4-3, 3-1 away)

Bills 14

(1-6, 0-4 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, November 4, 2001

Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY 

1 2 3 4 T
IND 0 17 7 630
BUF 0 7 0 714

Colts' defense finally takes pressure off Manning

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- The Indianapolis Colts didn't need Peyton Manning to be perfect. They didn't need injured running back Edgerrin James at all.

Peyton Manning celebrates his touchdown run during the Colts' victory over the Bills.

Chad Bratzke and the defense made sure of that.

After enduring months of criticism, the Colts' defense produced its most complete effort. Bratzke had a hand in two forced fumbles, the defense got a season-high six sacks, and went 54 minutes without giving up a point.

Add Manning's efficient 199 yards passing, and a 100-yard rushing performance from James' understudy, Dominic Rhodes, and it equaled Sunday's 30-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Suddenly, the Colts are playing like a balanced team and not just Manning and Co.

"You don't feel the pressure to force one in there," Manning said, referring to playing with a comfortable lead. "You're certainly just as aggressive and going for touchdowns, but it certainly enters into your thinking that, 'Hey, our defense is playing well. Let's protect the ball. Make big plays and try to get the win.' "

How impressive was Dominic Rhodes today?
Rhodes had another impressive performance today (34 rushes for 100 yards, one touchdown) after last week's impressive performance (four rushes for 87 yards including a 77-yard touchdown run, plus an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown). So he's put together back-to-back strong outings.

Rhodes has shown the Indianapolis coaching staff that they have a viable backup to Edgerrin James, who missed today's game with a sprained left knee. It was the first game James has missed in his NFL career.'s Vinny Cerrato was director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.

It was a solid turnaround for a defense that had given up an average of 359 yards and more than 30 points a game. Sunday, Indianapolis forced three turnovers that led to 17 points, and limited the Bills to 232 yards on offense.

"Certainly it's one of the best games that we played," Bratzke said. "I don't want to say we made a statement. Let's retract that. We executed well."

The Colts (4-3) have won two straight after a three-game losing streak.

The Bills (1-6) have lost all four home games this season, and are 0-6 at Ralph Wilson Stadium dating back to last year -- Buffalo's longest home losing streak since dropping eight in a row from 1983-84.

More disturbing, the Bills have been outscored 162-75 during their current home losing stretch.

"I feel bad for the fans," said Rob Johnson, who finished 17-for-33 for 172 yards passing. "It's tough for them to keep coming out and cheering. We played terrible. That was awful. It's very frustrating."

Buffalo's scores came on Nate Clements' 66-yard punt return and Johnson's 27-yard pass to Jay Riemersma with 3:39 remaining.

After two promising performances, Johnson was back to his old self -- the quarterback who holds on to the ball too long.

His troubles were compounded by a banged-up line missing John Fina (knee) and Jonas Jennings (foot). Except for guard Ruben Brown, the other four Buffalo linemen entered the game with a combined 16 starts.

"I hope those guys will be back. They make us a better team," said Johnson. "But we've got to go with the guys we've got."

The Colts exploited the Bills' deficiencies

Bratzke got things rolling late in the first quarter, forcing Johnson's fumble that led to Manning's 15-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Pollard.

Ahead 14-7, Bratzke and Brad Scioli combined to force Johnson's second fumble that set up Mike Vanderjagt's 34-yard field goal.

The Colts put the game away when Scioli blocked Jake Arians' 48-yard field goal attempt, ending the Bills' opening drive of the second half.

The offense took care of the rest. Rhodes, in his first NFL start, capped a 56-yard drive with a 1-yard run.

It was a welcome performance from Rhodes, an undrafted free agent who never expected much playing time. James, one of the NFL's most durable running backs, missed his first game with a bruised left knee.

"I felt like it was a coming out game for me," said Rhodes, only the fifth Colt to gain 100 or more yards in his first start.

Manning almost stole Rhodes' limelight in the running game.

Not known for his mobility, Manning fooled everyone when, on a third-and-1, he faked a handoff and broke to his left, scoring on a naked bootleg from 33 yards.

"I didn't call it until the last minute," said Manning, who saw Buffalo's defense cheating the other way. "I'm 4-for-4 on those things: three times in college and my first one here."

It was the second-longest touchdown run by a Colts quarterback, 10 yards short of George Taliaferro's run in 1953.

Game notes
Vanderjagt finished with three field goals, one from 47 yards. ... Clements, a cornerback, has two touchdowns against the Colts. He ran back an interception in Buffalo's loss earlier this season. His punt return score was the first for the Bills since Russell Copeland in 1993. ... The 63,786 paid attendance was more than 10,000 short of a sellout. The Bills sold out seven of eight games in each of their last two seasons ... Bills S Keion Carpenter cracked a rib in the first quarter.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Scoring Summary

Drive info: 0 plays, 0 yds, 0:00
Drive info: 2 plays, 27 yds, 0:00
Drive info: 2 plays, 27 yds, 0:00
Drive info: 3 plays, 1 yds, 0:45
indTD9:41Peyton Manning, 33 yd run
Drive info: 4 plays, 63 yds, 1:47
indFG2:27Mike Vanderjagt 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 4 plays, 6 yds, 0:42
Drive info: 4 plays, 63 yds, 1:47
indTD7:16Dominic Rhodes, 1 yd run
Drive info: 7 plays, 56 yds, 2:19
Drive info: 7 plays, 56 yds, 2:19
Drive info: 6 plays, 44 yds, 13:30
Drive info: 6 plays, 44 yds, 13:30
indFG2:00Mike Vanderjagt 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 7 plays, 15 yds, 0:49
indFG10:00Mike Vanderjagt 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 10 plays, 24 yds, 5:24