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Manning, Vinatieri, defense down Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Nov. 5, 2006) -- Peyton Manning didn't have to be perfect for the Colts to remain the only team with a perfect record.

He had plenty of help from a defense that had been far from perfect all season. With four interceptions -- the last ending the Patriots' final chance with 1:18 left -- Indianapolis beat New England 27-20 to improve to 8-0.

With the loss by Chicago and coach Lovie Smith to Miami earlier in the day, the Colts are the NFL's only unbeaten team.

"Lovie let me down," Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said. "I was hoping they'd win so they would get all the focus."

This victory capped an impressive two-game road stretch against two of the best teams in the AFC. Manning threw for 328 yards and tossed two touchdown passes to Marvin Harrison one week after throwing for 345 yards and three scores in a 34-31 triumph at Denver.

"Those are two very tough places to play," Dungy said. "We're finding a lot of different ways to win. We still aren't playing our best."

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady certainly didn't.

Two of his interceptions came on tipped balls against a defense that had only five picks in its first seven games. The Patriots' running game did gain 148 yards against the NFL's worst rush defense.

"We ran successfully and made some passes," Brady said, "but it all gets negated when you turn the ball over."

His 201 yards passing were only 56 more than Harrison had on his eight catches.

The Patriots (6-2) ended a four-game winning streak and dropped a second straight to Indianapolis after winning six in a row.

They also were victimized for the first time by Adam Vinatieri, who signed as a free agent after kicking two Super Bowl winning field goals for New England in the final seconds. But he also missed twice in the second half as his once-adoring fans booed.

"They are trying to get loud and make it hard on the opposing team and that totally makes sense," he said. "I wish I had played a little bit better."

The Colts defense also recovered a fumble and allowed no touchdown passes, only two scoring runs by Corey Dillon and two field goals by rookie Stephen Gostkowski.

The Colts became the only team to start back-to-back seasons at 8-0 since the Green Bay Packers did it three consecutive years from 1929-31. And for the first time in his brilliant career, Manning has thrown for 300 yards in three consecutive games.

"All anybody wants to talk about with this team is, 'What are you guys going to do in the playoffs?' " said Manning, who has taken the team to the AFC title game only once while reaching the postseason the past four years. "I will enjoy this one for a little while."

Manning won his second straight against the Patriots and is 4-10 against them.

The Patriots had one last chance after Vinatieri missed from 37 yards with 1:55 left. But on the Patriots' second play, Brady was intercepted by Cato June.

"That was a tough night all the way around," Brady said. "The defense really kept us in there with as many turnovers as there were."

The Colts never trailed. Manning threw the first of his two touchdown passes to Harrison, a 5-yarder, on their opening possession.

Patriots safety Rodney Harrison didn't return after hurting his arm in the first quarter.

"We had to adjust," cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "The ship gets rocked a little bit and you make it steady."

The Patriots defense did that better than the offense.

The Colts began the day tied for 21st in points allowed. But the first sign the defense would be a positive factor came when Antoine Bethea ended the Patriots' first drive with an interception in the end zone. Manning then drove the Colts 68 yards to his first scoring pass to Marvin Harrison.

The Patriots tied the game on Dillon's 1-yard run on the second play of the second quarter. Indianapolis countered with an 82-yard drive capped by Joseph Addai's 2-yard touchdown run, before New England tied it again on Dillon's 4-yard run.

Then Terrence Wilkins returned the kickoff 70 yards to the Patriots 29 and Vinatieri put the Colts ahead for good 17-14 with a 33-yard field goal with 1:46 left in the half. New England's final possession before intermission ended on Bob Sanders' interception at the Indianapolis 3.

"We're not going to win many games that way, giving up big plays on special teams, defense," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.

Vinatieri's miss on a 37-yarder early in the third quarter was his first failure in 16 attempts this season and ended a string of 12 possessions in which the Colts scored 10 times. The only two times they failed in that stretch were at the end of their last two first halves, when Manning knelt down with the ball.

Harrison's 4-yard scoring catch made it 24-14 midway through the third quarter. Gostkowski then kicked a 49-yard field goal, Vinatieri connected from 31 and Gostkowski was good again from 26. Harrison's TD was a twisting, diving one-handed catch in the right edge of the end zone on which he barely dragged both feet in bounds.

"Peyton and Marvin have that connection," Hobbs said. "Peyton put it right there."


Troy Brown broke Stanley Morgan's team record for career receptions with the Patriots with 538 after making five catches. Morgan caught 534.
Harrison broke a tie with Lenny Moore for most touchdowns by a Colt. He has 115, two more than Moore, who played when the team was in Baltimore.

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