Colts Turn In Complete Performance, Down Cardinals 31-10
A short, travel-filled week could not slow down the Indianapolis Colts.
Nor could the Arizona Cardinals, as the Colts defeated the Cardinals on the road, 31-10, just six days after downing the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.
With all three "cylinders" – offense, defense and special teams – firing Sunday night, the Colts looked more like a well-oiled machine than a team playing its second road game on primetime in less than a week.
The Colts totaled 505 yards on offense-led by quarterback Peyton Manning's 379 passing yards and four touchdown passes-and held the Cardinals to only 10 points, improving to 3-0 and proving they were not a team running out of gas.
"We had a lot left," defensive end Raheem Brock said. "(Head) Coach (Jim Caldwell) took care of us. He gave us a lot of rest, shortened practice a bit…and we went out there and performed for him."
After scoring 21 points in the second quarter, the Colts' run defense turned Arizona's offense into an aerial-only attack. Arizona attempted 54 passes Sunday, while rushing the ball only 12 times.
In all, the Colts held the Cardinals to just 24 yards on the ground and allowed zero rushing first downs. A week after allowing the Dolphins' Wildcat formation to control the clock on the way to 239 rushing yards, the Colts defense held starting running back Tim Hightower to nine carries for 22 yards.
"We did a nice job," Caldwell said. "I think (the defense) accepted the challenge. In this league you have to keep getting better. The opposition is going to look at the weaknesses and try and exploit them. That's what Arizona was looking to do this evening. They came after us with the run and I think our guys did a pretty decent job in that area."
With the Colts' defense stuffing the run early and Arizona dropping back to pass on almost every down thereafter, the pass rush was consistently able to put pressure on Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner.
"We collectively played great," defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "The defensive line, the linebackers, the secondary, everybody was on the same page. When that happens, you get this type of outcome."
Freeney finished with two of the Colts' four sacks on Warner and said the defense enjoyed the opportunity to tee off on a passer.
"This is the type of thing, especially for a (defensive) lineman, we lick our chops at. This is what we want," he said.
The Colts' pressure also forced Warner into two interceptions. Safety Antoine Bethea and cornerback Marlin Jackson each finished with an interception, Bethea's coming in the end zone just before halftime to preserve a 21-3 Colts lead.
"Everybody knew what we had to do in order to win, and that was put pressure on (Warner) and get him out of his comfort zone," said defense end Robert Mathis, who finished with four tackles and one sack.
The Colts had three takeaways and forced Arizona to punt six times, overall, three of which came on three-and-outs. The defensive success helped set up a Colts offense that gained 126 yards on the ground and 379 through the air.
"They were awesome," Manning said of the team's defense. "They felt challenged and motivated. NFL players have a lot of pride, and some of them were disappointed in their performance last week. But they really came out and answered the bell, no question.
"I thought the offense and the defense fed off one another, which I thought was really important," the Colts quarterback said.
Running backs Joseph Addai and Donald Brown also combined for 183 all-purpose yards.
"They were a real big reason we hit some of those (touchdown) plays on play-action," Manning said. "Because when Donald and Joe are popping off big runs, and the line is getting some push, we are at our best."
• Brown broke two long plays in the third quarter that also helped break open the game. The rookie turned a backfield pass from Manning into a 72-yard gain towards the end of the period, marking the longest play from scrimmage Sunday. Earlier in the quarter, his 23-yard rush set up an Adam Vinatieri field goal.
• Leading the Colts' defense Sunday was Bethea, who finished with eight tackles (one for a loss), an interception and a fumble recovery. "This game is really how we think we should have been playing all year," he said. "So hopefully we can build on this and keep improving the rest of the year."
• For the second straight game, wide receiver Pierre Garcon scored a touchdown on a long play, this time a 53-yard catch in the second quarter. "We hope to get (Anthony Gonzalez) back real soon, but when there is an injured player you do get some more repetitions with a guy, and I have gotten more with Pierre, and I have a pretty good feel for where he is going to be," Manning said after the game. "His speed is a weapon. He can get down field, and when you have guys start backing up, you can get him with the short passes."