No Harrison, Addai, Sanders? No Problem

With six starters sidelined along with two key reserves to boot, the Indianapolis Colts showed how World Champions handle adversity during a 33-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And their defense came close to setting a franchise record in the process.

One look at the Indianapolis Colts' inactive list prior to the start of their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and you couldn't help but think that Halloween had come early.

The horror of the situation was that wide receiver Marvin Harrison (knee), running back Joseph Addai (shoulder), safety Bob Sanders (chest), cornerback/return specialist T.J. Rushing (hamstring) and weakside linebacker Freddy Keiaho (concussion) -- all starters for the defending World Champions -- were listed on the inactives report. Earlier in the week, starting strongside linebacker Rob Morris was placed on injured reserve.

Another prominent member of the offense, tight end Ben Utecht, who is called upon not only in traditional two-tight end situations but often when the Colts put Dallas Clark out in the slot as well, was out with a concussion. Wide receiver Aaron Moorehead, who would have likely stepped in for Harrison, was also on the list due to back spasms.

But the World Champions didn't flinch. No moaning, no angst. The next in line simply stepped up to do their jobs and the Colts dominated a Buccaneers team that had entered the RCA Dome with a three-game winning streak.

The Indianapolis offense was methodical. Sixteen points in the first half, seventeen points in the second half. They put together two drives of at least 12 plays each in the first half and three drives of at least 11 plays in the second half.


Colts RB Kenton Keith
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Running back Kenton Keith, a first-year player who got his first NFL start, carried the ball in Addai-like fashion for 121 yards on 28 carries and scored two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 37 more yards.

Quarterback Peyton Manning was precise and patient -- except for on one throw intended for Reggie Wayne that was picked off. It was only the second time Manning had been intercepted this season. He finished the day completing 29 passes out of 37 attempts for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

None of Manning's three healthy main targets could complain as Indy's offensive leader hit Reggie Wayne, rookie Anthony Gonzalez and tight end Dallas Clark for seven completions each. Gonzalez had the most receiving yards with 71 by the end of the contest, but Clark and Wayne each caught touchdown passes.

Return specialist Craphonso Thorpe, who was promoted from the practice squad to fill in for T.J. Rushing, helped keep the Colts in good field position throughout the day. In his first NFL start, Thorpe averaged 9.0 yards per punt return -- including an exciting 29-yard jaunt -- and 19.3 yards on three kickoff returns.

From the start, the Colts defense played at a high pitch, even with three starters out. By halftime, Indianapolis had limited Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia and his offense to just 69 net yards, five first downs and seven points.

The Bucs' hopes of keeping up offensively with the Colts dissipated early in the game when running back Michael Pittman had to be carted off the field with an ankle injury. He was supposed to be the team's primary running back after Tampa Bay had lost Carnell Williams for the season due to injury before making their trip to Indianapolis.

Including Pittman's five runs for minus-one yard prior to his injury, Tampa Bay posted just 17 net yards rushing on 12 carries. That rushing yardage is the third-lowest rushing total allowed in franchise history, and the lowest by any Indianapolis Colts team. The 1957 Baltimore Colts held the Steelers to 15 yards and the 1971 team holds the all-time record after allowing the Bills to run for just 4 yards.

Tampa Bay scored once in each half, both times on short passes from Jeff Garcia to tight end Alex Smith.

The Buccaneers quarterback completed 18 out of 23 passes but had to settle for screens and quick, short passes throughout the day due to the Colts' pressure. He finished up with just 143 yards, two touchdowns and was sacked once.

Garcia was relieved late in the fourth quarter -- with the game out of hand -- by Bruce Gradkowski who threw an interception to Colts safety Antoine Bethea on his fourth play from scrimmage. Bethea tied middle linebacker Gary Brackett and weakside linebacker Tyjuan Hagler -- who had stepped in for usual starter Freddy Keiaho -- for the lead in team tackles with seven for the day.

The Colts head into their bye week at 5-0 and return for a Monday night football game against the division-rival Jaguars in Jacksonville on October 22. Tampa Bay (3-2) heads back home to host the 3-1 Tennessee Titans on Sunday.


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