"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."
- 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.
The Associated Press News Service
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