Texans 3

(3-9, 1-5 away)

Colts 19

(8-4, 4-2 home)

Coverage: CBS

4:05 PM ET, December 1, 2002


1 2 3 4 T
HOU 0 0 0 33
IND 10 3 0 619

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 them.''

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 costly.

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 conversions.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Scoring Summary

Drive info: 1 plays, 16 yds, 0:00
Drive info: 1 plays, 16 yds, 0:00
indFG10:00Mike Vanderjagt 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 4 plays, 3 yds, 1:56
indFG12:30Mike Vanderjagt 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 5 plays, 29 yds, 0:50
houFG3:55Kris Brown 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 6 plays, 4 yds, 0:53
indTD8:38James Mungro, 1 yd run
Drive info: 9 plays, 55 yds, 3:51