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Manning, Harrison lead the Colts

From the Associated Press

Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, the most prolific passing duo in NFL history, tore apart the Cincinnati Bengals, combining for three touchdowns in a 34-16 victory for the Indianapolis Colts Monday night.

“When your backs are against the wall, you go to that old blanket,” Manning said. “I’m thankful for those guys every day. Without those two, Marvin and Reggie [Wayne].... I watch other quarterbacks in the league and none of them have two guys like that. One great receiver, but not two great receivers. It makes my job easier.”

So did the Colts’ maligned defense, which woke up after Indianapolis lost three of its last four games and yielded 375 yards rushing a week ago to Jacksonville. Cincinnati gained 278 yards overall, but much of it after the outcome was decided.

“The defense felt really challenged to stop the run and get the offense back on the field,” Manning said. “We did a good job of staying on the field tonight and getting into a groove.”

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It was vintage Manning, throwing to Harrison and dominating for the AFC South champion Colts (11-3), while the Bengals (8-6) slipped back in the wild-card race with their first loss in five weeks.

Manning, 5-0 against Cincinnati, had one of the sharpest outings of his career, although he never looked deep because the Bengals couldn’t cover anyone on quick-hitting routes. He completed 29 of 36 passes for 282 yards, a 136.3 rating, and his 15th career four-touchdown outing. In addition to bringing his total touchdown throws to Harrison to 103, he found Wayne on an 18-yarder and passed Vinny Testaverde for eighth place with 270 touchdown passes.

“We have so much talent offensively, we know that at any time we can make things happen, no matter who has the ball,” Wayne said. “So whenever you give him time to throw the ball, we know he’ll light it up.”

Manning was helped greatly by Cincinnati’s inability to rush him or handle receivers coming off the line. More than half his completions came on short patterns where a Colt was wide open.

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“That’s just him,” Bengals cornerback Tory James said of Manning. “He did what he could do. He did his job, which is what he does every time.”

And the Colts never let the Bengals’ fourth-ranked passing attack hit stride. Dwight Freeney led the defense with three sacks and Carson Palmer was 14 for 28 for 176 yards.

The victory kept Indianapolis even with Baltimore and one game behind San Diego in the AFC.

“Sometimes things get escalated,” Manning said. “We lost two in a row, so we must have all these problems. We knew what was at stake.”

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