INDIANAPOLIS -- Yes, those were deep passes being completed. And that was an aggressive attacking defense that was able to play with the lead. That was also Peyton Manning standing tall in the pocket.
So this is what the Indianapolis Colts were supposed to look like this season?
In their first four games, the Colts fought through myriad injuries and juggling lineups and looked more like a team trying to survive than a team that had Super visions. They were 2-2 and easily could have been 0-4, which is why what took place Sunday here at Lucas Oil Stadium has to change a lot of the early thinking about this team.
Colts 31, Baltimore Ravens 3. That's more than a just blowout. It's also a message to the rest of the AFC that the Colts are back.
"We have been just a little off on things," Colts coach Tony Dungy said.
Off? They were like Sinatra late in his career: big talent, but the music wasn't the same. The Colts, now 3-2, had not come close to resembling the team that many, including me, picked to win the AFC.
That changed with 60 minutes of dominant football against the Ravens. Manning threw three touchdown passes, two to Marvin Harrison, and the defense limited the Ravens to 260 yards, with only 49 of that coming in the first half.
"It's cool," Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. "They can shovel all the dirt they want on us. We know what kind of team we are. We know what we're capable of doing. The first four games we haven't played our type of ball."
It took a half to prove that. The Colts led 24-0 at the half, put it in cruise control in the second half and punched a supposedly more physical team in the mouth. They had 222 yards at halftime to the 49 for the Ravens.
|Peyton Manning is back in his groove so everyone should watch out. (AP)|
"Practice makes perfect," receiver Reggie Wayne said.
The Colts came into the Ravens game struggling to make throws down the field. Injuries on the offensive line made it tough for Manning to set his feet. There was no continuity, no comfort.
Manning came into the game with a passer rating of 79.2, five touchdowns and five interceptions. He was sacked seven times in the first four games. His longest completion was 58 yards, but the longest touchdown pass was 40 yards.
With the Ravens being an attack-style defense, one that creates problems with all of its multiple looks, there was a lot of pregame thinking that Manning would take a beating.
The Ravens hit him a couple of times, sacked him twice, but for the most part he was able to set his feet.
He opened the game hitting Harrison for a 67-yard touchdown throw and then followed that with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Wayne. The throw to Wayne came one play after Manning overthrew a wide-open Harrison. The next play he dropped in a perfect throw to Wayne, a throw that only few can make, and it was 14-0.
The last score was a 5-yard throw to Harrison that made it 24-0 at the half and had the Ravens thinking about next week.
"When we get Marvin and Reggie open we take it for granted," Dungy said. "We think they're all going to be completions. In the last couple of weeks we've had some that weren't. It's good to see us get a couple. Hopefully that's a sign of things to come."
For Manning, it's a matter of getting back into the groove. He missed all of training camp with an infection in his knee and then had to stare down brutal pass rushes in his first four games.
"In some ways you can really say this is like the first week of the season for me because I had four weeks of preseason games and training camp these past four games," Manning said. "All I have ever known is taking every rep and going through every single practice and playing every preseason game. This year it was frustrating not to be in those situations. Today's game was more like what we expect around here."
With the health improving, the Colts are again one of the better teams in the AFC. They have a tough three-game stretch coming up. They go to Green Bay next week, play a Monday night game at division-leading Tennessee and then have a Sunday night home game against the New England Patriots.
They also finally won a game in their new stadium. They lost their first two here to Chicago and Jacksonville.
"We haven't been playing our type of ball," Bethea said. "Our focus was to play like we did last week for the final five minutes."
That last five minutes of that game could make the rest of the AFC send hate mail in the direction of one Sage Rosenfels. The Colts were staring 1-3 in the face until Rosenfels had a late-game meltdown that allowed the Colts to rally from down 27-10 to steal a victory.
Is it as simple as saying the final five minutes of that game might have turned their season around?
"That is kind of funny," tight end Dallas Clark said. "We hope it has."
If it has those cries coming from the rest of the AFC should be easy to hear.
Why, Sage, why?