Work in Sports
INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Edgerrin James burst on the scene with 112 yards and a touchdown on the ground and Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison took care of the aerial attack in the Indianapolis Colts' 31-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
James, picked fourth overall in the draft and one spot ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams, had an impressive debut, carrying 26 times and adding 14 yards on four receptions.
Manning, coming off a tremendous rookie season, was stellar, completing 21-of-33 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns, both to Harrison. Harrison caught eight passes for 121 yards and E.G. Green had five grabs for 124.
It was just the third time in team history that the Colts had a 100-yard rusher and two 100-yard receivers in the same game.
They had not done it since October 27, 1985 against Green Bay.
Buffalo's Doug Flutie had none of the magic he showed last season when he began his career revival at the RCA Dome. Flutie put up respectable numbers, going 22-of-42 for 300 yards with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions and was the Bills' leading rusher with 24 yards on four carries.
"From an offensive standpoint, we had to throw the ball too much and we can't make a living throwing the ball every down," Flutie said.
But Buffalo was undone by a pathetic running game, putting up only 47 yards on 15 attempts. Antowain Smith had just seven yards on six carries and Thurman Thomas injured his ribs in the first quarter and did not return.
"We were going to start Thurman in the game and a lot of our running game involved Thurman," Bills coach Wade Phillips said.
"Unfortunately, he gets hurt on the first play, which threw us off a little bit."
Three of Smith's four career 100-yard games have come against the Colts, who were 29th against the run last season. But the turnaround helped Indianapolis defeat the Bills for the second time in nine meetings and win an AFC East opener for the first time in eight tries.
"I told the team after this game -- and I don't use this word very often -- but that was a magnificent win for us," Colts coach Jim Mora said.
The Colts equalled their divisional win total from last season, when they were 3-13. They visit New England next weekend, trying to go 2-0 within the division for the first time since 1996.
Eric Moulds caught 10 passes for 147 yards but could not find the end zone for Buffalo.
James opened the scoring on a one-yard run with 3:35 left in the first quarter after Manning hit Green with a 50-yard pass to the 1. Green was injured for the balance of the 1998 season.
"It was a long wait for a day like this," Green said. "My injury last year kind of slowed down things, but I think in the long run, I'm going to look back on it and say I'm glad that it happened to me. I was able to see the NFL from a bird's eye view instead of actually being in the fire."
Buffalo sliced the deficit 1:25 into the second quarter when Steve Christie kicked a 36-yard field goal, but Manning hooked up with Harrison for a five-yard score just over 10 minutes later to make it 14-3. The touchdown was set up by an interception of Flutie by former Bill Jeff Burris, who returned the ball 28 yards to the Colts 35.
Manning has at least one touchdown pass in 14 straight games.
"I approached this game with a lot more confidence," Manning said. "Last year, I was like Edgerrin, feeling my way during the games. I had a good idea about what Buffalo was going to do. It's certainly a better feeling as a quarterback when you have the confidence."
Christie tacked on a 29-yard field goal 18 seconds before the half to pull Buffalo within 14-6.
Manning found Harrison on a 24-yard scoring strike midway through the third quarter as the Colts jumped to a 21-6 lead.
James started the three-play, 90-yard drive with a 40-yard run.
"I didn't do much in the first half," James said. "But I told the guys at halftime that I was real close to popping a big run.
They stayed with me and we got the win. This is what I expected to do. You have to expect it. They have to guard our receivers and it opens up the running game. I just have to be patient and know that a big run is coming."
"He was asking me before the game if it is faster out there during the regular season," Manning said of James. "You could tell he was still feeling out the waters a little bit. In the second half, he saw the holes a little better and was hitting them harder."
A 42-yard pass from Manning to Harrison set up Mike Vanderjagt's 35-yard field goal 2:22 into the fourth quarter, pushing the lead to 24-14. Flutie was driving the Bills closer when nickel back Tony Blevins intercepted a pass at the Colts 26 and brought it all the way back for the clinching score.
"They were hitching up all game," said Blevins, who registered his first career interception. "When they finally went my way, I broke on the ball and was lucky enough to come up with a pick."