The Indianapolis Colts opened their regular season looking better than ever, mauling a highly-respected New Orleans Saints team in the second half to register a 41-10 victory in front of a national audience Thursday night.
In the process, the defending World Champions put the rest of the league on notice that they shouldn't expect to see a post-Super Bowl slump from this team.
During the offseason, prognosticators predicted that Indianapolis wouldn't repeat their 2007 feat, citing the loss of three key starters on defense to free agency (cornerbacks Nick Harper, Jason David and linebacker Cato June), running back Dominic Rhodes and the training camp loss of starting defensive tackle Anthony McFarland to injury. Others said that Indy's defensive prowess in the playoffs was a fluke and that their special teams coverage units were likely to be a problem area for the team.
On Thursday night the Colts battled the Saints to a 10-10 tie at halftime with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison and an Adam Vinatieri 33-yard field goal. New Orleans countered with a heads-up play by former Colt Jason David who stripped a catch out of the hands of Reggie Wayne, scooped up the loose football and sprinted 55 yards for a score. Kicker Olindo Mare tacked on a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter.
|Reggie Wayne celebrates after catching a touchdown pass|
The touchdown by David would be the only one of the night for Saints as the Colts defense used their speed to their advantage throughout the evening, swarming New Orleans' running backs like a pack of hungry wolves. Both Reggie Bush and Deuce McAlister were held to less than 4-yards per carry, with each only managing 38 yards total of rushing. Meanwhile, the Colts stifled and harassed Saints quarterback Drew Brees throughout the game as he completed 28 of 41 passes for 192 yards.
Brees' stats were somewhat misleading because he racked up 80 yards and completed 10 of 13 passes during the Saints final two possessions of the game with the game out of reach. But even during those two possessions, the Indy defense refused to yield a touchdown as defensive end Robert Mathis sacked Brees, forced a fumble and recovered it to end one drive and defensive back Matt Giordano intercepted a pass and ran it back up the sidelines 83 yards for the team's final touchdown of the night. Earlier in the contest, Freddy Keiaho, the Colts' new starter at the weak side linebacker position, picked off a Brees pass to set up a third-quarter 33-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
The Colts offense hit it's stride in the second half, posting 24 points as the team used a balanced mix of Joseph Addai runs and Manning passes to keep the Saints guessing. Addai finished his debut as the team's undisputed feature back with 118 yards on the ground (5.1 yards per carry) and a touchdown run from two yards out during the Colts' first possession of the third quarter.
Manning, who finished the night by completing 18 of 30 passes for 288 yards and a quarterback rating of 125.4, hooked up with Reggie Wayne for a third-quarter touchdown from 28 yards out and then again in the fourth quarter for a 45-yard scoring strike.
Wayne finished the night as the Colts' leading receiver with seven catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns while Marvin Harrison pulled in four catches for 83 yards and a score.
The Saints will head to Tampa Bay to play the Buccaneers in Week 2. The Colts will travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Ed Thompson's NFL and college football player interviews and features have been published across the Scout.com network and syndicated through FoxSports.com's NFL team pages.