Colts Remain Unbeaten after 34-17 Victory over Seattle at Lucas Oil Stadium
INDIANAPOLIS – He stood at a podium in the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium, a record-setting quarterback of an unbeaten team yet again.
Peyton Manning, in his 12th season as the Colts' starting quarterback, on Sunday afternoon discussed what he likes about the 2009 season – a hot start, an efficient offense, what so far has been a smooth transition period – but he mostly discussed what he believed was needed in the wake of a convincing 34-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in front of a crowd of 66,112.
What was needed? Perspective.
Because yes, Manning said, the Colts are unbeaten.
Yes, they have played well.
But there is a very, very long way to go.
"I feel it's a good start," Manning said after not only leading the Colts to their franchise-record tying 13th consecutive regular-season victory, but also setting a franchise-record for consecutive 300-yard passing performances.
"It is an excellent first 'quarter.' That's the proper word. To be 4-0 after the first quarter – I think that's what all teams want. It's certainly what we want. There has been change this offseason, but it's still a long season."
The Colts (4-0), in Head Coach Jim Caldwell's first season since succeeding Tony Dungy in January, are unbeaten after four games for a fifth time in seven seasons. They started 5-0 in 2003, 13-0 in 2005, 9-0 in 2006 and 7-0 in 2007. They won the AFC South in each of those seasons, leading the division wire-to-wire each season.
"We've got to just try to keep it going," said Colts Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis, who helped the Colts parlay an early lead into a double-digit victory by recording three sacks and forcing two fumbles.
Through four games, the Colts now lead the AFC South by two games over Jacksonville (2-2) and Houston (2-2), and they hold a four-game lead over Tennessee (0-4).
The Jaguars beat Tennessee, 37-17, in Jacksonville Sunday.
"All it does is guarantee we won't go 3-13," Caldwell said with a smile. "Other than that, there aren't a whole lot of guarantees in this league. Every game is tough, and it's a long season."
The Colts, who trailed in the first half of each of their first three victories, led throughout Sunday, scoring a touchdown on the game's first drive for the second time in as many weeks.
The early drive set the tone for a convincing offensive and defensive performance.
"All across the board, I thought we played well," Caldwell said.
Manning, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player three of the last six seasons, completed 31 of 41 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns with an interception for a passer rating of 107.1.
Manning's fourth consecutive 300-yard game broke the record he had shared with himself (2006) and Hall of Fame quarterback John Unitas (1963). It was the 51st 300-yard game of his career. He also tied Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton for third in the NFL's all-time list with 342 touchdown passes.
Manning completed 14 of 23 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in a Week 2 victory over Miami. He had a 133.9 passer rating in that game, and had a 130.5 rating a week ago when he completed 24 of 35 passes for 379 yards and four touchdowns with an interception in a Week 3 victory over Arizona.
"He's had some pretty good stretches," Caldwell, who served as the team's quarterbacks coach from 2002-08, said of Manning. "This is certainly a testament to his work ethic and how well he prepares. He certainly doesn't surprise us with the things he does, but I'll also say that we don't take it for granted either. He certainly has performed extremely well throughout the years."
The Colts led 7-0 after the first quarter Sunday, a lead they extended to 21-3 by halftime with Manning throwing two touchdown passes and running back Donald Brown running for another.
"I really wanted to get off to a good start," Manning said. "That was imant."
The Colts' defense held Seattle to 279 total yards, 109 of which came in the fourth quarter after the Colts led, 28-3. In addition to Mathis' three sacks, defensive end Dwight Freeney – who did not practice this past week because of a quadriceps injury – had a sack while playing mostly in passing situations and middle linebacker Freddy Keiaho also had a sack.
"I thought our offense and defense fed off each other," Manning said.
Brown's one-yard run gave the Colts a 7-0 lead and capped an 80-yard drive on Indianapolis' first possession. With 5:29 remaining in the second quarter, a five-yard touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Reggie Wayne ended a nine-play, 90-yard drive and made it 14-0, Indianapolis.
After Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare's 38-yard field goal cut into the Colts lead, Manning drove Indianapolis 78 yards on nine plays. Rookie wide receiver Austin Collie made a diving catch in the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown – the first of his career – and a 21-3 Colts lead three seconds before halftime.
"That was pretty good situational football," Manning said. "It's something we've worked on this year. . . . It was a great play for the team, and I'm really happy for him catching his first touchdown. It's always kind of exciting to be a part of that, and I thought that was really critical to get that last drive before the half."
Said Caldwell, "You may not try that with a more inexperienced quarterback, but this guy has been around a long time. He knows how to take care of the ball. He certainly gave us a great opportunity to do well in that situation."
Manning, who had 220 yards passing at halftime, then directed an 80-yard drive early in the third quarter, with running back Joseph Addai's 12-yard run up the middle making it 28-3, Indianapolis.
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri added field goals of 37 and 19 yards in the fourth quarter before Seahawks quarterback Seneca Wallace – playing for injured starter Matt Hasselbeck – ran seven yards for a late fourth-quarter touchdown. After a successful onside kick, Wallace passed one yard to fullback Owen Schmitt for the final Seattle points of what Manning called a good victory, but not one that guarantees the Colts much.
The Colts will visit Tennessee Sunday, a game Manning on Sunday called the most important of the season.
"I'm really hesitant to get into a summary of the year after just four games," Manning said. "It is a good start, and there are some good things, but I do feel like the teeth of our schedule is approaching us starting this week with one of our biggest rivals.
"We have a lot of football left to play and have a lot of tough teams left to play."
Said Caldwell, "Obviously next week is a big challenge for us."