Colts gun down Packers, 45-31

For the second straight week, the Green Bay Packers were haunted by a costly turnover. Wide receiver Javon Walker's fumble late in the game and Peyton Manning's hot hand early on was enough to send the Packers to their second straight loss.<p>

In an anticipated shootout, Manning passed for five touchdowns in the first half as the Colts took a 35-17 lead, then capitalized on Walker's fumble late in the fourth quarter to hold off the Packers, 45-31, at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis on Sunday.

Trailing 38-31, the Packers were on the move midway through the fourth quarter. Brett Favre, who passed for four touchdowns, completed three straight passes to move Green Bay from its own 21 to the 43. Favre followed by completing a pass to Walker who was hit and stripped of the ball by defensive back Jason David near midfield. Cornerback Nick Harper picked up the loose ball and raced to the Packers' 36.

Manning, who completed 28 of 40 passes for 393 yards, tossed a pair of passes to wide receiver Reggie Wayne, moving the Colts (2-1) to the Packers' 9. Running back Edgerrin James, who has been bothered by a sore hamstring, ran three straight times to pound the ball to the 1 before plunging into the end zone with 1:52 remaining to seal the game.

Walker's turnover overshadowed his best day as a receiver. The third-year pro caught 11 catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns. It was the first time a Packers receiver had three touchdown catches since Antonio Freeman did it against the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 28, 1998.

But the fumble, like Ahman Green's a week earlier near the goal line that allowed the Chicago Bears to score a touchdown and go on to 21-10 upset victory, was the turning point of this shootout.

"He had a great day, and I know how he felt after that play," said Favre. "I know he will really feel bad about that play. That's the kind of guy he is, and that's what counts."

In addition to the turnover, the Packers were penalized 11 times for 84 yards compared to nine penalties for 70 yards against the Colts.

Like Manning, Favre was on fire for most of the afternoon. The veteran completed 30 of 44 passes for 358 yards. Besides his three touchdown passes to Walker, he completed a 27-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Donald Driver as the Packers closed to 38-31 early in the fourth quarter. The touchdown was set up by Robert Ferguson's 71-yard kickoff return after the Colts extended their lead to 38-24 on Mike Vanderjagt's 45-yard field goal.

The Packers played without cornerback Mike McKenzie (hamstring) and Ahmad Carroll (groin). Both were injured during practice on Thursday, along with starting cornerback Michael Hawthorne (ankle). Jason Horton and James Whitley, who both signed as free agents with the Packers this off-season, filled in for Carroll and McKenzie, but could not keep up with the Colts' explosive receiving trio of Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley. Hawthorne played but the Colts threw his way early and often, most of the time to Wayne, who caught 11 passes for 184 yards and scored the first touchdown of the game. It didn't help that Hawthorne had to leave the game with 5:03 left in the second quarter after falling hard to the turf while breaking up a pass. Hawthorne returned one series later, but seemed bothered by his ankle injury and the blow to the head that he took on the Astroturf.

The Colts passed on their first 22 plays and scored touchdowns on their first four possessions. They took a 28-14 lead on Stokley's 27-yard touchdown reception.

"All the soft spots we had, he (Manning) found," said safety Darren Sharper.

The Packers scored on three of their first four possessions. Ryan Longwell's 38-yard field goal with 9:34 left in the second quarter made it 28-17.

Green Bay managed to force the Colts to punt on the next possession. Green Bay again responded by maneuvering to the Indianapolis 35, but Longwell's 52-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar, giving the Colts possession on the Packers' 43. Manning proceeded to move Indianapolis into Green Bay's red zone on three straight completions. Horton was penalized for pass interference in the end zone, a 27-yard penalty that gave Indianapolis the ball at the Packers' 1. Manning then threw his fifth touchdown of the half to running back James Mungro, who broke free on the right side of the end zone on a play-action fake to stretch the Colts lead to 35-24.

"We knew we'd have to score some points against the Green Bay Packers," said Manning, who was 23-of-31 for 320 yards and five TDs at the half. "We had an aggressive game plan of throwing the football to set up the run, but it took us a while to set up the run."


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