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Manning, Colts look more like themselves in 31-13 rout of hapless Falcons

Friday, November 23, 2007

ATLANTA (AP) -- This was supposed to be Peyton Manning vs. Michael Vick.

But Vick was sitting in a jail cell, so Manning had the Thanksgiving night spotlight all to himself.

Manning went past a couple of Hall of Famers on the career passing lists, throwing for 272 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Indianapolis Colts over the Vick-less Atlanta Falcons 31-13 on Thursday.

The Falcons (3-8) stunned the Colts with 10 quick points, but Indianapolis (9-2) seized control when Manning tossed all three of his TD passes in the second quarter.

He broke a tie with Warren Moon for fifth place on the career touchdown list, having reached 294. Manning also moved past another Colts star, Johnny Unitas, for the 10th spot in career yards passing with 40,407.

"I'm a big fan of quarterbacks," Manning said. "I have great respect for Warren Moon. I never got to see Unitas, but my dad (former pro QB Archie Manning) told me what an impact he had on him."

When the NFL scheduled this prime-time matchup, they were expecting to get Manning and Vick. But the Falcons quarterback has been suspended all season; in fact, he turned himself in Monday to begin serving his expected prison sentence for dogfighting.

Indianapolis had struggled the past three weeks, losing twice and pulling out a lackluster home win over Kansas City. The Colts' malaise carried over the first quarter at the Georgia Dome, with the Falcons striking for Morten Andersen's 34-yard field goal and Joey Harrington's 48-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White.

But any thoughts the Falcons had of pulling off a huge upset were quickly wiped out by Manning in the second period. He had touchdown throws of 23 yards to Reggie Wayne, 8 yards to Dallas Clark and 5 yards to Ben Utecht.

"It was frustrating because we came out so strong," Falcons quarterback Joey Harrington said. "We were firing. But you know the defending Super Bowl champs are not going to roll over and die."

Anthony Gonzalez didn't get to the end zone, but he was Manning's favorite receiver. He hauled in six passes for 105 yards, including a 35-yarder that set up Wayne's TD and a 32-yarder that led to Clark's score.

After missing the past two games with a broken thumb, Gonzalez's return was a boost for a Colts' offense still plagued by injuries. Perennial Pro Bowl receiver Marvin Harrison missed his fifth straight game with an ailing left knee. Indy also had to go without two starting linemen, Tony Ugoh and Ryan Diem.

Manning was sacked a season-high four times and threw an ugly pass near the Atlanta goal line that was easily intercepted by DeAngelo Hall. Linebacker Michael Boley had three of the sacks for the Falcons.

The Colts have 10 days off before their big AFC South matchup against second-place Jacksonville. They hope to use that time to get healed.

"It was still not the type of game we are used to, but we got the win and that is the important thing," coach Tony Dungy said. "We get some rest and time off now, and that is something our team needs. We will get some guys back in December."

The Colts led 21-13 by halftime and Atlanta just faded away over the final two quarters, managing 92 yards after the break. The Falcons wrapped up a stretch of two home games in five days in which they lost twice by a cumulative score of 62-20.

The only highlight for the home team was Warrick Dunn becoming the 22nd rusher in NFL history to reach 10,000 yards. He made it on a 2-yard run early in the second quarter, earning a standing ovation from the Georgia Dome crowd.

"I've just been consistent over the years," said Dunn, who finished the night with 10,044 yards. "I've been able to get into a groove and play at a high level. I just kept fighting hard, training hard, practicing hard, and let my skills take over."

The Colts took advantage of a big break when Atlanta's Demorrio Williams was called for running into punter Hunter Smith in the second quarter. Williams barely touched Smith, but the punter went down like he'd been punched and the flag came flying.

"That's so bad!" Falcons special teams coach Jerry Rosburg screamed.

Manning drove the Colts quickly for the go-ahead touchdown, and they never looked back.

Harrington, starting again with Byron Leftwich sidelined by a tailbone injury, completed only 14 of 30 for 155 yards with two interceptions. White had his third 100-yard receiving day of the season, with six receptions for 104 yards.


Boley (elbow) and Colts RB Joseph Addai (neck) both left with injuries that looked potentially serious, but returned to the game. Addai scored Indy's other TD on a 4-yard run. ... The Colts improved to 13-1 in their history against the Falcons, the best record for any head-to-head matchup of at least 10 games. ... Next up for Manning on the yardage list: Joe Montana at No. 9 with 40,551. As for the touchdown list, John Elway is fourth with an even 300.

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