Manning threw three touchdown passes Sunday to lift the Indianapolis Colts to a 28-25 victory over their new division rivals.
"Peyton is Peyton, and there's not much else to say," Jaguars cornerback Fernando Bryant said.
|The Jaguars' Eric Westmoreland commits a no-no, grabbing Colts RB Edgerrin James by the facemask. (AP)|
New Indy coach Tony Dungy got off to a successful start, even though the defense he was hired to revamp wasn't the greatest. The Colts surrendered 343 yards, including 104 receiving to Jimmy Smith.
Just as important, Manning avoided interceptions. He threw 23 picks last year to offset his 26 TD throws over a disappointing 6-10 season.
"He's fabulous," Dungy said. "He and Marvin and Qadry, they have great chemistry. They work at it. We took it right down the field, really three times. That was real impressive."
The Jaguars also went 6-10 last year, although expectations for Tom Coughlin's team are much lower than for the Colts in 2002.
Fred Taylor, returning from a groin injury, ran for 83 yards and a touchdown. Smith showed he didn't need training camp, after all. The 10th-year receiver, who got a big raise after a 38-day holdout, caught eight passes.
"I felt a little nervous, a little shaky, a little rusty," Smith said. "I didn't make my cuts as well as I usually do, but that will come."
The Jaguars, forced to rebuild after an offseason salary cap purge, finally showed they can move the ball. Like so many times in the past two years, they played hard but came up short, and their six-season string of winning openers ended.
"I came in here like this was the championship game," Taylor said, recalling his disappointment after Jacksonville lost in the AFC title game in 2000. "A couple of tears came into my eyes."
The difference in this tough loss, as Coughlin saw it, was a pair of turnovers that resulted in 14 Colts points.
The first came late in the second quarter, when Mark Brunell threw an interception into Marcus Washington's hands, and Washington returned it 40 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
The second came when returner Damon Gibson made a foolish decision to field a bouncing punt. He muffed it, and Indy's Clifton Crosby recovered. Three plays later, Manning hit Ismail for a 12-yard touchdown and the Colts took a 21-17 lead they never relinquished.
Coughlin berated Gibson at length after the crucial mistake, but Gibson didn't need the extra lecture.
"I heard him, but I really wasn't paying attention," Gibson said. "I know what I have to do, and I didn't get the job done."
Trailing 28-17, Brunell led the Jaguars on a 75-yard touchdown drive, and a 2-point conversion pulled them within three with 4:11 left.
Three minutes later, Jacksonville got the ball back and moved to the Colts' 46. But Brunell's Hail Mary attempt went out of bounds, and the clock ran out.
Indy also committed two turnovers deep in its own territory, but the Jaguars got 10 points out of them, not 14, and that proved to be the difference in the game.
"It's real easy to analyze, and understand how the game was lost," Coughlin said.
Manning played a big role in Jacksonville's problems, too. With three touchdowns Sunday, he now has 114 for his career. He threw for three TDs for the 14th time in his four-year career.
"I feel like he's the best quarterback in the game," Bryant said. "It's always like a chess match with him."
Harrison, who leads the league in catches and receiving yards over the last three seasons, got off to a slow start, catching just four passes for 34 yards.
James was solid, although the two-time NFL rushing champ never had a chance to make a game-breaking play.
"I think Edgerrin and our coaching staff probably feel he'll get sharper as we go," Dungy said. "We kept telling people all along that he was right on schedule. He sure looked like it today."
- Colts tight end Marcus Pollard took a shot to the ribs and will be evaluated Monday. Colts defensive lineman James Cannida sprained his knee in the first half and did not return.
- The Colts defense scored a touchdown for the fourth consecutive time on opening day.
- Jaguars left tackle Zach Wiegert had a tough day, getting called twice for holding, once for false start and allowing Chad Bratzke to sack Brunell and force a fumble.
- This was Jacksonville's fourth consecutive home loss dating to last season -- the longest home losing streak in team history.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2002, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved