Indianapolis survives winless Bengals, 28-21

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 7, 2002

Indianapolis survives winless Bengals, 28-21

By The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Even with a recharged offense, the Indianapolis Colts were happy to come away with a victory against the winless Bengals.

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Peyton Manning threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, while Marvin Harrison caught nine passes for 145 yards, but the Colts still needed a late interception to hold off Cincinnati 28-21 Sunday.

''The Bengals are a good football team; they're going to win some games,'' Manning said. ''We feel fortunate to win today.''

Indy (3-1) won its second straight game, thanks primarily to Manning and Harrison, who again proved a potent combination. Manning completed 21 of 34 passes for 224 yards, and Harrison, his favorite target, caught one TD pass.

Edgerrin James, the NFL rushing champion in 1999 and 2000, had a 3-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, ending a 34-quarter scoreless drought that dated to Sept. 23, 2001. He gained 60 yards on 22 carries, the first time in 11 home games that James had failed to crack the 100-yard mark.

The Colts' defense also played well, producing four turnovers. But the game proved much more competitive than the team expected.

The Bengals are 0-5 for the second time in three years, but they were thrilled just to keep a game close after getting outscored 119-23 in their first four games.

Jon Kitna, the team's starting quarterback in as many weeks, completed 31 of 43 passes for 244 yards and guided Cincinnati to three touchdown drives -- two more than it had produced all season.

Corey Dillon also got untracked, running for 164 yards and two touchdowns -- easily his most productive day in five weeks.

''I just hope today gave some guys a little bit of hope,'' Kitna said. ''We got our best player going today; that's going to help us the rest of the season.''

Peter Warrick muffed a punt that led to one Colts touchdown, and Kitna threw three interceptions, the last of which deflected off Chad Johnson's hands on a drive that could have tied the score in the closing seconds.

That turnover finally allowed the Colts to breath easier.

''Everybody looked at Cincinnati as a team that hadn't gotten a win, but they're a team that is explosive, and they've got some big-play players,'' said Colts coach Tony Dungy. ''We kind of let that out of the bag today.''

Initially, the Bengals appeared headed toward another embarrassing loss. Manning ran 11 yards for the game's first touchdown, then hooked up with Marcus Pollard and Harrison on 3-yard TD passes to give the Colts a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

But the Bengals fought back, closing the half with a 70-yard drive that ended with Dillon's 2-yard TD run.

Dillon needed only one third-quarter run, a 67-yard sprint down the right sideline, to surpass his per-game average of 60.8 yards entering the game. His long run got the Bengals to 21-14.

''They gave me the opportunity to get out there and run a little bit,'' Dillon said. ''Am I disappointed? Yes. But this game gives us something to build on.''

The Colts countered with James' 3-yard TD run to open the fourth quarter, but the Bengals again pulled within a touchdown when Kitna hooked up with Warrick on a 30-yard TD pass with 53 seconds left.

Bengals rookie Marquand Manuel then recovered an onside kick, and Kitna moved Cincinnati to the Indianapolis 35 before Johnson's deflection wound up in the hands of Idrees Bashir.

''We've got to learn how to play when we're ahead,'' Dungy said. ''We didn't do a good job of that today, but I think we'll learn from this.''

Notes: Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt extended his consecutive-game scoring streak to 59, breaking the team record. Lou Michaels scored in 58 straight games from 1965-69. … The Bengals' first-half touchdown was their first from inside the opponent's 20 this season. Cincinnati is now 1-for-7 this season. … Dillon's 67-yard run was easily the Bengals' longest of the season. Their previous long run was 14 yards. … Manning's TD run was the Colts' first rushing touchdown of the season.