INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts are just happy they don't have to face Tony Eason every week.
For the second straight year, Eason came into the Hooiser Dome and shot holes in the Indianapolis defense Sunday to lead the New England Patriots to a 38-31 victory.
The victory moved the Patriots (9-4) back into a first place tie with the New York Jets in the AFC East. The Colts (3-10) lost their fifth straight game.
Eason, starting for the first time since suffering a shoulder separation on Sept. 22 against Buffalo, hit 20 of 28 for 293 yards and 3 touchdowns--completing 10 of 11 passes in the second half. His only incomplete pass in the second half was intercepted by the Colts' Don Anderson.
"Eason's performance was really solid," Patriot Coach Raymond Berry said. "But his execution doesn't surprise me."
"I think this confirms he has all the tools to be a great quarterback. I think the next three games, he probably will play the best he has in his career."
In two games at the Hoosier Dome, Eason has hit 49 of 70 passes for 584 yards and 7 touchdowns. He completed 29 of 42 passes for 291 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 50-17 victory against the Colts a year ago.
Eason, who regained a starting spot when Steve Grogan was injured last week, connected on his last seven passes after Anderson's interception--including a 25-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan early in the fourth quarter and a 44-yard completion to Tony Collins that set up the Patriots' clinching touchdown on a one-yard run by Mosi Tatupu with 5:21 to play.
The Colts' Rohn Stark, who averaged 46 yards on four punts, became the all-time NFL career leader. The four punts gave him the necessary 300 kicks to qualify for the record, and he raised his career average to 45.17, ahead of the 45.10 mark by Sammy Baugh.
The Colts got three touchdowns from fullback Randy McMillan on runs of one, six and six yards, but Eason's passing kept the Colts in trouble most of the game.