INDIANAPOLIS – Washington knocked Peyton Manning around for a half. Then Manning knocked out the Redskins.

After being bent over awkwardly twice in the first half and once appearing hurt, the two-time MVP responded with three third-quarter touchdown passes, leading Indianapolis to a 36-22 victory Sunday.

In the previous three games, Manning needed late drives to secure victories. Against Washington, Manning made it easier on himself by opening the second half with three straight TD drives. Indy remained the AFC’s only unbeaten team and became the ninth team in league history to start 6-0 in back-to-back seasons.

Washington (2-5) lost its third straight and saw its playoff hopes take a big hit.

They can blame Manning. He dominated the second half with his quick drives and shrewd moves in a game that had nearly as many oddities as a Washington political scandal.

Colts defensive tackle Montae Reagor was involved in an automobile accident en route to the game, leaving him hospitalized with a head wound.

The teams’ biggest stars, Manning and Washington running back Clinton Portis, also were hurt in the first half. While Manning didn’t miss a play, Portis left briefly after being hit with a helmet near his groin. He returned on the next series.

Then there was the game. Washington took its only lead on Antwaan Randle El’s 87-yard punt return, which came in the midst four personal fouls by the Redskins in about a two-minute span. The last two forced Washington to kick off from its 5.

Manning, battered but not shaken, looked like himself aside from the face full of rubber chips from the turf and the neck rub he needed after the first big hit.

He finished 25-of-35 with four touchdowns and continued climbing the NFL’s career charts. The last TD pass, No. 256, sent him past Dan Fouts (254) and Sonny Jurgensen (255) into 10th in NFL history. Manning also passed Jim Hart for 14th on the career yardage list with a 342-yard day, giving him 34,809 career yards. Hart had 34,665.

Marvin Harrison followed suit. He had seven catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns, moving past Irving Fryar and into eighth on the league’s career yardage list. He also tied Lenny Moore’s franchise record for TDs (113). Harrison has 12,846 yards receiving; Fryar had 12,785.

But this was what the Colts had been waiting for.

Newcomer Anthony McFarland, who replaced Reagor in the starting lineup, stuffed the Redskins’ first two runs and negated Washington’s ground game as Portis managed only 43 yards on 12 carries. Ladell Betts ran 10 times for 52 yards.

Meanwhile, the Colts hardly looked like a team coming off a bye.

Manning threw a 1-yard TD pass to Dallas Clark on Indy’s opening possession, and Mark Brunell answered with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Chris Cooley early in the second quarter.

After Adam Vinatieri’s 30-yard field goal made it 10-7, Randle El caught a punt at his own 13 found a huge seam up the middle and buckled the knees of punter Hunter Smith, the only player who had a shot to tackle him, with a nifty fake to give Washington a 14-10 lead.

Then it was all Manning.

A two-minute drive at the end of the half led to another Vinatieri field goal, and Manning followed that with three quick TDs in the second half – a 4-yard pass to Harrison, a 51-yarder to Reggie Wayne and a 1-yard pass to Harrison to make it 33-14 late in the third quarter.

Washington’s final score came Brunell’s second TD pass, a 5-yarder to James Thrash in the final minute.

Brunell was 27-of-37 for 226 yards.

Joseph Addai carried 11 times for 85 yards and Wayne had seven catches for 122 yards for Indy.

AP-ES-10-22-06 1944EDT


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