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Colts Start Fast, Then Brace for Inevitable Rally

November 13, 2000|From Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts made all the plays early--and that turned out to be enough to withstand the New York Jets' customary comeback.

The Jets, who had rallied four times in the final four minutes this season, failed to complete another remarkable finish Sunday night as the Colts hung on for a 23-15 victory.

"We knew it would be a tough game, a close game, a hard-fought game," Colt Coach Jim Mora said. "And it turned out to be that way. It went down to the final play."

As it always seems to for the Jets (6-4).

Only on this night, the Jets simply dug themselves too big a hole.

"We keep saying you can't let it slip away, you can't let it slip away. Then before you know it, it has slipped away," said running back Curtis Martin, who carried 21 times for 93 yards.

The Jets let this one slide during the first three quarters.

The Colts (7-3) emptied the playbook, opening the game with a flee-flicker, succeeding on a fake field goal in the second quarter and employing an end-around in the third quarter.

"It was very important to try and get points on them early because we knew the Jets were a good second-half team," Manning said. "We wanted to jump on them early."

The Colts did exactly that.

They strung together their most time-consuming touchdown drive of the season, 6:35, and took a 7-0 lead when Manning hooked up with Marvin Harrison on a six-yard touchdown pass.

Then Jeff Burris intercepted a pass by Vinny Testaverde at the Colts' six, and Indianapolis proceeded to march 83 yards, capped by Edgerrin James' two-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.

James finished with 131 yards in 31 carries and became the fastest Colt player to reach 1,000 yards--in 220 carries, one fewer than Eric Dickerson in 1987 and 1988.

But after the Colts built a 17-0 halftime lead and made it 20-0 midway through the third quarter, courtesy of two Mike Vanderjagt field goals, the Jets started another improbable comeback.

Dedric Ward caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Testaverde with five seconds to play in the third quarter. That got the Jets within 20-7.

Indianapolis countered with a 35-yard field goal 4:03 into the fourth quarter, and the Jets answered that with a nine-yard touchdown run from Martin. Then Testaverde connected with Marcus Coleman on a two-point conversion pass that cut the lead to 23-15 with 5:11 to play.

After punting to the Jets with 2:23 to play, Testaverde moved the Jets to the Colts' 28, then missed on four consecutive passes--and left with a third consecutive loss.

"After the first few weeks, we felt we were using up these fourth-quarter comebacks. The last three weeks have proven that," he said.

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