Peyton Manning was perfect when he needed to be against Jacksonville's vaunted defense.
Manning was 14 for 14 for 149 yards on three touchdown drives to lead the Indianapolis Colts to a 24-17 victory yesterday against the previously unbeaten Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla.
Jacksonville (3-1) played a fourth consecutive close game -- they won the first three by a combined 7 points -- but couldn't pull this one out. After Edgerrin James's 3-yard touchdown run gave the Colts a 24-17 lead, Jacksonville drove into Indy territory with less than two minutes to play. But Fred Taylor came up short on fourth and 1, and the Colts (3-1) ran out the clock from there to pull even with the Jaguars atop the AFC South.
Trailing, 17-9, early in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars' Byron Leftwich connected with Jimmy Smith for a 40-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 1. Then Leftwich threw a sharp pass to Brian Jones for the 2-point conversion. Jones bobbled it twice before securing it in a crowd of defenders.
But Manning had plenty of time left. He was 4 for 4 for 26 yards on the ensuing drive, setting up James's go-ahead score. Manning finished 20 of 29 for 220 yards with two TD passes and an interception.
"We definitely had some opportunities that we left on the field," Taylor said. "We beat ourselves in certain situations. They certainly didn't stop us. They just did enough to win."
Falcons 27, Panthers 10 -- Warrick Dunn had a 38-yard touchdown run and Kevin Mathis returned an interception 35 yards for another score as visiting Atlanta beat Carolina to match the best start in franchise history. The Falcons, who last opened the season 4-0 in 1986, won without the typical one-man show Michael Vick usually puts on against the Panthers (1-2).
Normally unable to stop Vick from racking up astronomical numbers, the Panthers held him to 148 yards passing and 35 yards rushing in this meeting. But the defending NFC champions twice turned over the ball to end drives.
Muhsin Muhammad fumbled on the opening drive at the Atlanta 21, and the Falcons converted it into Dunn's touchdown run. Jake Delhomme was intercepted at the Falcons' 3 to end another Carolina opportunity on its first possession of the second half. The most costly error came with 12 minutes left and Atlanta clinging to a 13-10 lead. Delhomme threw into heavy coverage and Mathis grabbed the ball and marched untouched into the end zone for the game-sealing score.
Cardinals 34, Saints 10 -- NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith earned another league record with his 77th 100-yard rushing game and threw the first pass of his 15-year pro career (it went for a touchdown) as host Arizona (1-3) stunned New Orleans (2-2). Smith had his best game since leaving Dallas two years ago, gaining 127 yards in 21 carries to help give Dennis Green his first victory as Cardinals coach.
Smith, six months past his 35th birthday, tied Walter Payton's record for most 100-yard games in an NFL career. It was his first 100-yard game since Thanksgiving 2002, when he did it for Dallas against Washington. Smith passed the 100-yard mark with a 29-yard touchdown burst up the middle to seal the victory with 5:02 to play.
Eagles 19, Bears 9 -- David Akers kicked four field goals, Donovan McNabb threw for 237 yards and a touchdown, and visiting Philadelphia picked apart injury-riddled Chicago. Terrell Owens caught eight passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, which he celebrated with sit-ups in the end zone. Brian Westbrook ran for 115 yards and caught nine passes for 63 yards as the Eagles improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1993.
Journeyman backup Jonathan Quinn made his first start in almost three years for the Bears (1-3). Though he finished 26 of 43 for 215 yards, all but 76 came in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided.
Giants 14, Packers 7 -- Tiki Barber ran for 182 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown scamper, and Kurt Warner threw a touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey for the Giants, who knocked Brett Favre out of the game in their victory at Lambeau Field. The Giants improved to 3-1 despite a series of missed opportunities, including three errant field goal attempts by Steve Christie. The Packers fell to 1-3 for the first time since 1993 and have their first three-game losing streak under fifth-year coach Mike Sherman.
Favre sustained a concussion when defensive lineman William Joseph knocked him to the ground in the third quarter and missed the next two plays. But he ran back on the field on fourth and 5 and waved backup Doug Pederson to the sideline before floating a 28-yard touchdown pass to Javon Walker for a 7-0 lead. Despite his lobbying on the sideline, however, Favre was done for the day.
Chargers 38, Titans 17 -- Drew Brees threw for three touchdowns, including a 58-yarder to Reche Caldwell midway through the fourth quarter, and LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 147 yards and one touchdown to lead host San Diego (2-2) over Tennessee. The Titans (1-3) played without Steve McNair, who was reduced to being the emergency third quarterback after bruising his sternum in a loss to Jacksonville last week. Billy Volek threw for 278 yards and two TDs, but it wasn't enough to keep the Titans from losing their third straight.
Tennessee's Chris Brown, who came in leading the NFL in rushing with 353 yards, was held to just 55 yards on 15 carries.
Texans 30, Raiders 17 -- Host Houston has its first winning streak in team history after the Texans defense forced Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins into five turnovers, including one on each of Oakland's final four drives. The game was tied at the start of Collins's mistake spree, but Houston (2-2) turned the first three into 13 points -- two field goals by Kris Brown, with a 15-yard touchdown pass from David Carr to Andre Johnson in between. The Texans used the last one to run out the clock.
Oakland (2-2) came in on a two-game winning streak. The Raiders tied it at 17 before halftime behind TD runs of 55 and 17 yards by Amos Zereoue, who became the featured back after Tyrone Wheatley dinged his left shoulder in the second quarter. Zereoue, who had just 65 yards coming in, finished with 117.
Rams 24, 49ers 14 -- Marc Bulger passed for 186 yards, Marshall Faulk rushed for 121 more, and St. Louis built a 24-0 halftime lead over host San Francisco, which is off to its first 0-4 start in 25 years. Shaun McDonald caught a touchdown pass and Joey Goodspeed and Steven Jackson had 2-yard scoring runs for the Rams (2-2), winners of nine of the last 11 meetings.
Broncos 16, Bucs 13 -- Jake Plummer threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Hape and Jason Elam kicked three field goals to give visiting Denver a victory over winless Tampa Bay. Plummer completed 13 of 31 passes for 138 yards for Denver (3-1), saving his best for the fourth quarter when he took advantage of a 37-yard pass interference penalty to set up Elam's 23-yard field goal that snapped a 13-13 tie with 9:03 to go.
Browns 17, Redskins 13 -- Lee Suggs, who missed the first three games with a neck injury, rushed for 82 yards and scored on a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to lead host Cleveland (2-2). Jeff Garcia went 14 of 21 for 195 yards and a TD for the Browns, who didn't secure the win until Washington's Laveranues Coles fumbled with two minutes left. The Redskins (1-3) were just 1 for 11 on third downs.
Steelers 28, Bengals 17 -- Rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice rallied host Pittsburgh (3-1) and Duce Staley ran for 123 yards in a win over Cincinnati. Roethlisberger finished 17 of 25 for 174 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions to easily better Carson Palmer in their head-to-head QB duel. Palmer drove Cincinnati (1-3) to touchdowns on its opening drives of each half, but ended the game with consecutive interceptions, giving him seven in four starts. Steelers safety Troy Polamalu returned the final pick 26 yards for the clinching score.