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Empty feeling

Sparse crowd sees great defensive effort in Indianapolis

Posted: Friday August 15, 2003 11:21 PM
Updated: Saturday August 16, 2003 12:14 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Tony Dungy saw the Indianapolis Colts play defense his way Friday night.

Few others noticed.

In front of the smallest crowd to watch a game in Indianapolis, the Colts' defense forced five turnovers, had four sacks, scored one touchdown and set up another in a 21-7 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

"This was a little better performance than last week," Dungy said. "It was especially nice to see us get the ball back for the offense a few times."

The few fans who did show up -- only 26,741 attended the game -- saw a defense that appeared to be in midseason form just six days after blowing a lead in the final two minutes against Chicago.

This was not the same team, and certainly not the crowd, the Colts expected.

More than 37,000 tickets were sold, but with about 10,000 no-shows and the crowd thinning throughout, the atmosphere seemed more like that of a training camp workout -- dull and quiet.

It was the Colts' first home game since a summer full of speculation about whether the team would move to Los Angeles. The smallest previous crowd in Indianapolis was 34,927 when the Colts played the New York Jets in the strike-shortened season of 1987.

"I didn't know what to expect," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "Certainly, there were a lot of empty seats up there. Hopefully, they'll be here during the regular season. I expect they will."

Those who came watched the Colts dominate.

Manning connected on 10 of 15 passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns, and wide receiver Marvin Harrison caught five passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. Two-time NFL rushing champ Edgerrin James, a loud critic of preseason games, sat out with a sore hamstring, but Brian Allen ran 20 times for 62 yards.

That much is expected from one of the league's highest-scoring offense.

The twist Friday was the defense, which made life miserable for Seattle (1-1).

Indianapolis pressured quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace repeatedly, forcing constant mistakes.

Hasselbeck was just 3-of-9 for 25 yards, was sacked once and fumbled on the first series.

Wallace's night was even worse. He finished 10-of-18 for 84 yards with one interception and one fumble that the Colts (1-1) recovered for a touchdown. Wallace also was sacked three times.

The defense has forced eight turnovers in its first two preseason games, exceeding Dungy's goal of three per game.

"Anytime you can get three or more turnovers, you're almost guaranteed to win," starting cornerback Nick Harper said.

The Colts made Seattle pay for its miscues, too.

When Hasselbeck held onto the ball too long in the first quarter, Dwight Freeney chopped it out of his hands and Brad Scioli recovered at the Seattle 28.

Manning needed five plays to find Marcus Pollard for a 3-yard touchdown pass, the starting offense's first score of the preseason, and a 7-0 lead five minutes in.

"Any time you start with a fumble like we did on the first drive, it doesn't set a good tone for the offense," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said.

On Manning's final drive, he twice exploited a mismatch -- rookie cornerback Marcus Trufant on Harrison, the NFL's single-season record holder for receptions. The first result was a 48-yard pass play that put the Colts at Seattle's 21. The second was a 6-yard TD pass to make it 14-0 with 4:37 left in the half.

Trufant, the Seahawks' first-round pick, called it a learning experience.

"I'm not going to dwell on it," he said.

Things got worse for Seattle (1-1) in the third quarter.

When the ball slipped out of Wallace's hand as he tried to throw, four players -- two Colts and two Seahawks, including Wallace -- each had a chance to recover as it bounced nearly 40 yards into the end zone. Finally, David Macklin, the fifth player with a shot at it, recovered the ball to make it 21-0.

"We worked on it all week, we knew they were going to come with it," Wallace said of the Colts' blitzes. "We just didn't play well."

About the only thing that went right for the Seahawks was a 10-play, 64-yard drive that ended with Kerry Carter scoring on a 3-yard run early in the fourth. Carter finished with 32 yards on nine carries. Starter Shaun Alexander had 32 yards on seven carries.

Carter's touchdown run prevented the Colts from producing their first preseason shutout in Indianapolis since 1989.

Dungy didn't seem care about the shutout, just the performance.

"Some of the new blitzes we put in last week, they were things we wanted to take a look at and get ironed out," he said. "This is our style of play."

 
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