Manning, Colts defense stellar in rout of Bengals

INDIANAPOLIS -- Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden had a perfect read on the Cincinnati Bengals.

Peyton Manning apparently was doing his homework, too.

Manning threw for three scores Sunday and Hayden returned an interception for a touchdown, leading the Colts to their most lopsided win of the season, 35-3.

Four downs



» The Colts have won four straight at home and six straight overall.

» The Colts scored a season-high 35 points. The 32-point win is their largest margin of victory since defeating the Titans 35-3 on Dec. 4, 2005.

» Cincinnati is 0-7 on the road this season.

» Bengals WR Chad Johnson recorded a season-high 79 yards.

"We did a great job game planning, and we knew their quarterback would get rattled if we got some pressure," Hayden said. "I just tried to take advantage of it."

Did he ever.

Hayden picked off two passes, setting up one Indy touchdown and returning the second 85 yards for another.

Manning also exploited the big holes in Cincinnati's defense. His uncanny mixture of methodical drives and quick-hitting plays were too much for the beleaguered Bengals, and after failing to score an offensive touchdown last week at Cleveland, Manning led the Colts on three TD drives of 69 yards or longer.

It was a stark contrast from what Indy (9-4) had done in its previous five games -- winning those by a combined 20 points. No. 6 looked like old-fashioned Colts football.

While Sunday's victory kept the Colts in position for the top wild-card spot in the AFC, their reign atop the AFC South officially ended with Tennessee's 28-9 victory over Cleveland. It's the first time since 2002 Indy hasn't won the division crown.

"The first thing is you have to get in the playoffs," coach Tony Dungy said. "The year we won it, we played three on the road. So if we get in, I think we'll have as good a shot as anyone."

If they keep playing this way, they could.

Then again, Sunday's rout didn't give the Colts much of a test.

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For the second straight week, the only Bengals points came on Shayne Graham's lone field goal, and they have gone 11 consecutive quarters without scoring a touchdown.

The formula looked awfully familiar, too.

Manning, who is 6-0 against Cincinnati, was 26 of 32 for 277 yards, matched his season high for touchdown passes and topped 20 TD passes for the 11th straight season. Brett Favre holds the NFL record with 12.

The Bengals (1-11-1) lost four turnovers and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who again started in place of Carson Palmer, was sacked four times. Cincinnati has been outscored 96-16 in its latest three-game losing streak.

"There's really not much to say. I don't know what it is," Chad Johnson said. "I'm done analyzing. You just work and give it all you've got."

The Colts wasted no time in setting the tone.

On their second possession, Manning repeatedly struck for big yardage before handing off to Dominic Rhodes, who broke a tackle and nearly walked into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

Graham's 19-yard field goal made it 7-3, but things unraveled quickly for Cincinnati.

Hayden jumped Jerome Simpson's route late in the first half, picked off Fitzpatrick's pass and ran it back to the Bengals 15 with 1:01 to go. Chris Henry's penalty for unnecessary roughness moved the ball to the Cincinnati 7, and two plays later Manning connected with Marvin Harrison on a 5-yard TD pass to make it 14-3.

Manning opened the second half with a drive that lasted 8:45 and culminated in Anthony Gonzalez's 2-yard TD catch for a 21-3 lead. The next time Indy got the ball, Manning found Harrison for a 67-yard catch-and-run that set up Manning's third TD pass, a 4-yarder to Dallas Clark to make it 28-3.

"It didn't feel easy out there," Manning said. "We look at teams, we don't look at their record. They have good players, they have good schemes. We still have to go out there and make plays."

Hayden made the last one by undercutting Henry's route and sprinting 85 yards for the score.

"We moved the ball OK today," Fitzpatrick said. "It's just a matter of finding points. This is one of those teams you have to take advantage of when you have the ball. We didn't get enough points today."

Notes: Manning passed Drew Bledsoe for seventh place on the NFL's career list for yards passing. Manning has 44,851; Bledsoe had 44,611. ... Colts tight end Gijon Robinson caught six passes for 79 yards, both career highs, after making only seven catches in Indy's first 12 games. ... Fitzpatrick was 18-of-26 for 170 yards, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught eight passes for 75 yards. ... Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he opted not to start Palmer to "play the other guys a little bit."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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