INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Holding Peyton Manning and the Colts’ high-scoring offense in check isn’t enough to beat Indianapolis any more.

On Sunday, the Colts again relied on a strong running game, a fierce pass rush, a grinding, late drive and a defense that kept the Cleveland Browns from scoring a touchdown for a 13-6 victory.

The Colts (3-0) won their seventh straight home game – their longest streak since moving to Indianapolis in 1984 – and it followed this season’s winning formula.

Edgerrin James ran 27 times for 108 yards and scored on a 2-yard run, while Mike Vanderjagt made two short field goals. The Colts have now allowed only 16 points in three games, their lowest total in the first three games in franchise history. The previous best was 17 points in 1971.

While Manning was busy setting records, the Colts’ defense took care of the dirty work.

The Browns (1-2) and Colts entered the game as the league’s only teams that had not allowed a sack. But Indianapolis sacked Dilfer four times, including three by last year’s sacks champion Dwight Freeney, in the first half. Dilfer had to shake off a couple of more big hits in the third quarter, including one that appeared to be low – a tactic opponents have complained about recently.

But Dilfer was every bit as good as Manning. One week after outplaying three-time MVP Brett Favre, Dilfer finished 22-of-29 for 208 yards.

Manning, the two-time MVP, was 19-of-23 for 228 yards and topped the 30,000-yard mark in his 115th game, becoming the second fastest to that plateau against an old nemesis, Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel. Miami’s Dan Marino did it in 114 games.

Manning also hooked up with Marvin Harrison six times for 53 yards to break the NFL record for most yards by a quarterback-receiver duo. Buffalo’s Jim Kelly and Andre Reed owned the previous record with 9,538 yards. The Colts duo has now combined for 717 completions and 9,568 yards.

But it was Manning’s supporting cast that provided the difference.

James topped 100 yards for the second straight week, and Reggie Wayne’s 51-yard catch-and-run set up one of Vanderjagt’s field goals. And after taking over late, the Colts ran out the final seven minutes.

The Browns dared Manning to throw deep early. Instead, he softened up the defense with James’ running game, then found Bryan Fletcher for a 23-yard completion to set up James’ 2-yard TD run.

The teams then traded field goals. Cleveland got a 40-yarder from Phil Dawson and the Colts countered with Vanderjagt’s 20-yarder to make it 10-3 at halftime.

Indianapolis opened the second half with an 8:53 drive that ended with a 23-yarder from Vanderjagt, and Cleveland used up 7:28 before Dawson hit a 22-yarder to make it 13-6 early in the fourth quarter.

But the Colts never allowed the Browns to threaten again.

AP-ES-09-25-05 1604EDT


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