9:00 PM ET, August 28, 2004
Mike Doss recovered a fumbled punt and blocked another punt that went for a touchdown, and Dominic Rhodes had an 84-yard kickoff return to set up another score, leading the Colts to a 30-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
"I felt I had my quickness when I got on the field," Rhodes said. "It was just a matter of getting out there on the field and putting it into action."
Rhodes was one of the few who excelled in the Colts' third straight sloppy game. He carried 15 times for 58 yards with one touchdown.
Otherwise, misery abounded.
Manning was picked off twice, the Colts (2-1) fumbled the ball three times, losing it twice, and committed seven penalties, including three on the game's first series. The starting offense, which played until midway through the third quarter, managed only one legitimate scoring drive.
Although coach Tony Dungy liked the outcome, he was again displeased with the performance.
"We can't fumble the ball, have penalties and turnovers and protection problems," Dungy said. "We're just not clicking on all cylinders."
The Bills (1-2) weren't any better. They fumbled seven times, losing three. Bills quarterbacks also threw two interceptions and were sacked three times.
Running back Willis McGahee made his first start since sustaining a severe left knee injury in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, and looked tentative -- at lead at the beginning. He carried six times for eight yards in the first quarter before warming up and finishing with 16 carries for 58 yards. He also botched a flea-flicker with a bad pitch to Drew Bledsoe.
"It was a lot faster than I'm used to," he said. "There are certain things I need to do to get better. I could have done a lot more than I did."
Buffalo lost more than just its second straight game, though.
The postgame injury list started with safety Lawyer Milloy, who broke his right forearm in the third quarter after getting his hand stuck in the turf when he jarred the ball loose from Colts receiver Brandon Stokley. Milloy is scheduled to have surgery Sunday, but Buffalo officials did not say how much time he would miss.
The Bills also lost another quarterback -- Travis Brown, the projected backup to Bledsoe. He was carted off the field late in the third quarter after taking a hit in his left knee. It was the second major blow to the Bills' quarterback corps this week. In Tuesday's practice, first-round pick J.P. Losman broke his left leg.
"We'll take a step back and evaluate what we have there," first-year coach Mike Mularkey said. "Obviously, we have to do something."
The difference Saturday was special teams.
The Colts held the ball for the game's first six minutes, thanks to Doss' recovery of Nate Clements' fumble deep inside Bills territory. The Colts turned that turnover into Mike Vanderjagt's 23-yard field goal.
After a three-and-out on the Bills' next series, Doss delivered again. He blasted around the left side, blocking Brian Moorman's punt. Neither Moorman nor Indianapolis' Keyon Whiteside could handle the bouncing ball, which rolled into the end zone. Bryan Fletcher fell on it for his third TD of the preseason to make it 10-0.
"They only had 10 guys lined up," Doss said. "So I stood up just to make sure there wasn't nothing tricky going on ... and from then on, I said, 'If no one's going to block me, I'd better not miss this block.'"
Buffalo then got a 41-yard field goal from Rian Lindell, but Rhodes negated it with his darting 84-yard return on the ensuing kickoff. The Colts settled for another Vanderjagt field goal.
Buffalo closed to 13-10 when Kevin Thomas returned one of Manning's interceptions for a touchdown, but Rhodes' 1-yard TD run with 2:31 left in the half gave the Colts control.
They closed it out with a 1-yard TD run from Daniel Davis and Vanderjagt's third field goal, a 43-yarder early in the fourth quarter.
"Special teams gave us a boost early and that was something we stressed this week," Dungy said. "We just have to be a lot sharper."
James, who detests preseason games, sat out with what Dungy called "one of those mysterious preseason injuries that happens about five minutes before gametime." ... Bledsoe was 11-of-19 for 117 yards. ... Saturday's game was the Colts' first preseason sellout since 1986. ... Manning received his co-MVP award during halftime ceremonies. ... It was only the third preseason meeting between the former AFC East rivals. The Colts won both previous meetings, 20-7 at Buffalo in 1969 and 19-7 in Indianapolis in 2002. ... Three Colts players were knocked out of the game with injuries. Wide receiver Brad Pyatt left with a bruised thigh, running back James Mungro left with an injured wrist, and cornerback Nick Harper went out with a bruised shoulder.
Team Stat Comparison
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||4.8||5.5|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|FG||6:00||MIKE VANDERJAGT 23 YD||0||3|
|TD||8:17||BRYAN FLETCHER RECOVERED BLOCKED PUNT IN END ZONE (MIKE VANDERJAGT KICK)||0||10|
|FG||2:42||RIAN LINDELL 41 YD||3||10|
|FG||4:26||MIKE VANDERJAGT 22 YD||3||13|
|TD||8:57||KEVIN THOMAS 15 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN (RIAN LINDELL KICK)||10||13|
|TD||12:29||DOMINIC RHODES 1 YD RUN (MIKE VANDERJAGT KICK)||10||20|
|TD||11:45||DANIEL DAVIS 1 YD RUN (MIKE VANDERJAGT KICK)||10||27|
|FG||2:56||MIKE VANDERJAGT 43 YD||10||30|
|TD||12:15||JONATHAN SMITH 25 YD PASS FROM GREG ZOLMAN (RIAN LINDELL KICK)||17||30|