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Colts Could Run the Table

November 13, 2005|Bob Oates | Special to The Times

Fans who were stunned Monday night when the Indianapolis Colts routed defending champion New England, 40-21, haven't seen anything yet. With Peyton Manning at quarterback, the 8-0 Colts seem en route to 19-0, as the second pro club ever to win them all.

Happily for the Colts, they've been sneaking up on the NFL, beating mostly outmanned opponents -- including the Houston Texans, with whom the Colts have a rematch today -- but that's about to end.

Next Sunday the Colts are at Cincinnati, and from then on there will be ever-increasing pressure on Manning with countdown questions about 10-0 and even 19-0 as stadium crowds shout out the numbers.

Both offensively and defensively, the Colts are much more powerful than the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who won all 17 games in a shorter NFL season.

And they've been blessed with the same kind of winnable schedule that Miami had 33 years ago.

The only remaining regular-season opponent with the resources to put up a fight is Pittsburgh, whose quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, has been in and out of the lineup with injuries.

After knee surgery, Roethlisberger will miss today's breather against Cleveland.

The Colt-Steeler game is set for Indianapolis on Monday night, Nov. 28, after which the Colts have only Tennessee, Jacksonville, San Diego, Seattle and Arizona.

Dillon Turns It

In New England Monday night, the turning-point play was Patriot tailback Corey Dillon's second-quarter fumble at the Indianapolis 18-yard line.

That was shortly before halftime, when Patriot quarterback Tom Brady was driving toward a possible tying touchdown.

Instead, Manning, taking advantage of the break, drove the other way, taking the fast-moving, no-huddle Colts 73 quick yards to a halftime lead of 21-7.

And Brady never came close to catching up -- in large part because New England's patched-together defense couldn't slow the Colts and get him the ball.

The Patriots played with recently promoted second- and third-stringers in key pass-defense positions and without their two great defensive leaders, safety Rodney Harrison and 310-pound defensive lineman Richard Seymour

Over the years, the good club with the fewest major injuries has usually won the Super Bowl, and so far in 2005, that's the Colts.

Owens Plays Hard

The Philadelphia Eagles, the NFC's best team whenever quarterback Donovan McNabb is comparatively free of injuries, made two wrong moves the other day, suspending their second-best player, receiver Terrell Owens, and then banishing him for the rest of the year.

These are actions that make sense only if the Eagles are giving up on the season and hope to save a few million dollars.

Their problem isn't Owens but McNabb, whose several internal injuries have crippled him and them, leaving a 4-4 start for Philadelphia this year after last year's Super Bowl season with the same young players.

If the Eagles have decided that McNabb isn't physically able to contend again -- and clearly they can't win without the real McNabb -- anything they do is pardonable.

Otherwise, firing Owens is a gross error.

Though he says and does crazy things, nothing Owens has said or done has slowed him down at game time. Nobody plays harder or with more devotion and nobody trains harder.

Coach Andy Reid said his decision was based on a "large number of [harmful] situations," but the timing of his announcement suggests that he was stung into action by Owens' public criticism.

In a free country, you can criticize the president -- but not a football team?

Who cares what Owens says? He's been criticizing McNabb for six months, but when the whistle blows, he's a joy to be around -- particularly if they throw to him.

And McNabb selflessly does that.

The Eagles knew exactly what they were getting when they hired Owens. He's the same guy he was in San Francisco.

And now you don't like what he says? Well, then as a secretary of defense once said, don't listen to what he says, watch what he does.

Bears Wait for Breaks

The Chicago Bears (5-3), the NFC North's best team with rookie Kyle Orton as their quarterback, plan to win their fifth consecutive game today when San Francisco comes in.

After that, their schedule gets tougher, but so far, the Bears, under Coach Lovie Smith, have been beating teams they should beat and some they shouldn't.

Orton made the big play again last weekend, a third-down pass for 22 yards setting up the winning field goal as the Bears beat the discouraged New Orleans Saints, 20-17.

"The Bears are kind of boring to watch, but it's still NFL football," a Bear fan said afterward. "What they do is wait for the breaks. Once in a while, they get one, and then they hit with the play they've been saving."

Pack in Trouble

The Green Bay Packers (1-7) are four games behind the Bears in the NFC North going into Atlanta today after a 20-10 loss to a Pittsburgh team that was playing without Roethlisberger.

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