INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Two-time MVP Peyton Manning has thrown one more touchdown pass than San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson. It has taken Marvin Harrison three games to produce numbers he sometimes records in one, and only seven teams have scored fewer points than the Colts.

In Indianapolis, where fans are accustomed to high-scoring games, everyone is asking one question: What’s wrong with the Colts’ offense?

“Most of our problems are little things that are correctable,” coach Tony Dungy said Monday. “Yesterday we stopped ourselves, but I think our offense played a little better than our defense, so it’s not always what it appears.”

The early season schedule has created a role reversal in Indianapolis.

After three weeks, a team known for winning shootouts has suddenly been relegated to relying on a surprisingly stingy defense to win games. The Colts (3-0) have allowed a league-low 16 points.

The offense, which scored 61 touchdowns – an average of almost four per game – in 2004, has produced only four TDs in three weeks and scored 43 combined points. Last year, the Colts topped 43 points three times and scored 40 or more points in four straight games.

This year, however, they have appeared out of sync.

Manning, who threw an NFL record 49 touchdown passes and had a league record passer rating of 121.1 in 2004 in his second straight MVP season, has gone two straight games without throwing a TD pass. It’s the first time he’s had that long a drought since the last two games of 1999.

There’s more to this funk than mere numbers, though.

• Manning has missed open receivers, endured several drops and been forced to dink and dunk rather than throw deep.

• Harrison managed six catches for 53 yards Sunday and still hasn’t had a 100-yard receiving game this year.

• Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley, the Colts other two 1,000-yard receivers last year, seem almost forgotten.

• The Colts’ tight ends, once a major component in the offense, have been limited to six receptions for 70 yards.

But with Indianapolis still unbeaten, nobody is panicking.

“For our offense to be the problem, you know we’re going to get it together, things are definitely looking up for the year,” tight end Bryan Fletcher said. “We’re definitely capable of putting up numbers like last year.”

Dungy attributes the scoring decline to two things – Colts’ miscues and opposing defenses.

Besides drops, the Colts have struggled in short yardage situations, which have created more field goals and punts. Penalties and missed opportunities also have hurt.

Plus, defenses are playing Indianapolis differently this year.

Baltimore blitzed more than usual in the season-opener, while Jacksonville and Cleveland both dropped extra defenders into coverage and dared the Colts to run.

Manning followed the Colts’ script – handing off more frequently to Edgerrin James, who has averaged nearly 110 yards and is on pace to carry more than 400 times this season. That has shortened games, and taken away some of the Colts’ scoring potential.

“That’s the whole thing this offense is predicated on – taking what the defense gives you,” wide receiver Troy Walters said. “Edgerrin and the offensive line have done a good job, and if they bring those guys up, we’ll throw it.”

There are indications the Colts could break out soon.

Because the more run-oriented Colts are still winning behind their battering ram, James, a two-time rushing champ, opponents may need to adopt a different tactic to beat the Colts.

Manning is also beginning to look more for Fletcher and tight end Ben Utecht, who have both made key plays in scoring drives this year, and Harrison caught four passes in a quick second-half Sunday. And the offensive line still hasn’t allowed a sack.

And with their next three games against Tennessee, San Francisco and St. Louis, all teams that have yielded more than 22 points per game this year, the Colts hope to get their passing game back in form.

“It’s going to take off, you know, so that’s not even a concern,” James said. “We’re going to be putting up some points, no problem.”


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