FOXBORO, Mass. — Three passers were better than one for New England.
Veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe, second-year backup Michael Bishop and punter Lee Johnson made the big throws for the Patriots in their 24-16 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
Peyton Manning, who went into the game as the AFC's top-rated quarterback, had a career-high 31 completions but that wasn't enough.
"Let it be known," Johnson said with a laugh, "there's a full-blown quarterback controversy on the Patriots."
Bledsoe has a lock on the job, especially after throwing six touchdown passes with no interceptions in the Patriots' two victories after their 0-4 start.
Bishop, meanwhile, connected with Tony Simmons with his first pass in the NFL: a desperation throw that resulted in a 44-yard touchdown play and tied the game at 10-10 on the last play of the first half.
Johnson, on his sixth pass in 16 NFL seasons, connected with Eric Bjornson for an 18-yard gain to the Indianapolis four on a fake field-goal play in the fourth quarter. Bledsoe then threw his second touchdown pass, a four-yard play to Terry Glenn for a 24-13 lead with 7:26 left.
"It seemed like I waited a lifetime for the ball to get to me," said Bjornson, who wasn't spotted by the Colts as he lined up near the right sideline. "The real key the last two weeks is we got points on the board on our first drives. That automatically puts the other team in a defensive mode."
The Patriots scored on their first two possessions in beating Denver 28-19 last week and scored on their first series Sunday on Adam Vinatieri's 21-yard field goal.
The Colts (3-2) took the lead on Manning's 17-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison in the second quarter. But a 14-play drive on their last series of the first half and a 22-play drive on their first series of the second half ended only in 33-yard field goals by Mike Vanderjagt.
The loss was the third in as many games at Foxboro for Manning, who passed for 334 yards but also had three interceptions.