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James romps for 120 yards and a TD

9/14/2003

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indianapolis Colts tried something
different against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, and showed that
the AFC South is more than just a one-team division.

Question on the Titans: How much trouble will this offense be in if McNair can't stay healthy?

It's not so much if he can stay healthy, because McNair will play injured. He needs to get some help from his running game for this offense to function as well as it should.

Question on the Colts: Based on the first two weeks, can the Colts expect solid play from the defense all year?
I think we can expect better play as the year goes on from this defense. Coach Tony Dungy still needs to get some different personnel to make this scheme work though.

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

The Colts won with defense and ball control as Edgerrin James
rushed for 120 yards and scored a touchdown and the Titans managed
just 236 total yards in a 33-7 victory. Indianapolis also made a
clear statement by finally protecting their home field against
Tennessee.

"The game showed this team is ready to play football with the
best of them this year," receiver Marvin Harrison said.

Indianapolis (2-0) knew it needed a victory Sunday to change the
division's dynamics, and this one came almost by design.

"We held serve, to put it in Wimbledon terms," coach Tony
Dungy said. "Last year, we had this opportunity and we didn't get
it done and we were behind the 8-ball all year."

James ran with power and looked like his old self, Peyton
Manning threw with precision and Tennessee (1-1) never really got
started. The Colts even knocked out Steve McNair for two series
with a dislocated ring finger on his throwing hand.

By beating a second straight playoff team, the Colts snapped a
three-game losing streak -- two of those in Indianapolis -- against
the defending AFC South champs. They also grabbed an early lead in
the head-to-head battle for what most expect to be a two-team race.

Sunday's early season contest even had the feel of a playoff
game.

Towels waved, fans chanted and when the crowd noise increased,
Tennessee struggled.

On the field, the Colts also took a playoff approach,
demonstrating they could win with power football.

James carried 30 times and produced his first 100-yard rushing
game since going for 106 against Dallas on Nov. 17, 2002. It was
his highest rushing total since gaining 138 yards against Miami on
Sept. 15, 2002.

Manning didn't have to be overly productive, but he was
efficient. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 173 yards with one
touchdown -- a 35-yarder to Harrison, who tiptoed the sideline in
the end zone for a 17-7 lead.

James' presence was the biggest difference.

When the teams met in Indianapolis last year, James didn't play.
This year, he looked dominant.

He ran through tackles and gained first downs in short-yardage
situations, things he struggled with last season after returning
from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

"He did a nice job keeping us off balance," Titans coach Jeff
Fisher said.

The Colts' defense, maligned in recent years, proved it could
play well in a big game, too.

Tennessee's Pro Bowl running back Eddie George was limited to 46
yards on 15 carries, and McNair was 15-of-24 for 138 yards and one
touchdown. McNair said the injury didn't affect his throwing.

Nick Harper's 75-yard interception return, in which he jogged
from one sideline to the other to chew up time in the final minute,
was the Colts' first defensive TD in more than a year.

"We just couldn't answer," Fisher said. "We felt we were
going to be in a dogfight today and we just couldn't answer."

The tone was set early.

Tennessee got only one first down in the first quarter -- that
coming on a fake punt. Meanwhile, the Colts played ball control.
James carried eight times on Indianapolis' first series, setting up
Mike Vanderjagt's 29-yard field goal.

After Tennessee took a 7-3 lead midway through the second
quarter on McNair's 7-yard TD pass to rookie Tyrone Calico, Manning
hooked up with rookie Dallas Clark for a 42-yard pass play -- the
Colts' longest play of the season.

The Colts regained the lead three plays later, when James ran in
from 2 yards for Indianapolis' first TD this year, and Tennessee
never really threatened again.

"The big thing was for us to play our game," Dungy said. "We
hadn't really played our game in the past against them."

Game notes
James trimmed his dreadlocks this week after getting yanked
down by his hair in Cleveland last week. ... Harper picked off his
third pass of the season Sunday -- matching the total of all Colts
cornerbacks from last season. ... Defensive end Albert Haynesworth
sprained his left elbow early, and starting guard Benji Olson
sprained his right knee in the second quarter. Neither returned.
... Vanderjagt has made all six of his field goals this season
after going 0-for-3 in the preseason. ... The Colts had a pregame
tribute to Gov. Frank O'Bannon, who died Saturday after having a
massive stroke last week.