Make it 10-0 for Colts

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

CINCINNATI -- Who knows, maybe Peyton Manning doesn't brush his teeth or take out the trash.

Nobody's perfect, after all.

But on the football field, anyway, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback has days when he's pretty darn close.

In a performance like those that have come to define his brilliant career thus far, yesterday Manning led the Colts to a 45-37 win over the game Cincinnati Bengals.

With touchdowns on each of their first five possessions, the Colts made their latest statement and made it loud.

"We can still make plays in the passing game if teams want to play us that way," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "(Manning) was hot and when he is, that's just the way the game is going to go."

The headline in yesterday's Cincinnati Enquirer tipped off the Bengals strategy: "Make Peyton Do It."

He did and then some in the highest-scoring game of this NFL season. It also guaranteed we'll hear much more of the "P" word as the Colts steamroll closer to a perfect season.

Quieting a crowd of 65,995 at Paul Brown Stadium, the Colts became just the ninth team in NFL history to open a season with 10 consecutive wins.

With Pittsburgh, Seattle, Jacksonville and San Diego still on the schedule, an unbeaten season won't come easy. But after a show like yesterday, it's hard to imagine any opponent reining the Colts in enough to slow them.

"We've just got to keep it going," Manning said. "They just get bigger and bigger."

That was subtle acknowledgement that the Colts are starting to think of joining the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the NFL's only undefeated team. So too was the 10-finger salute tackle Dwight Freeney gave while walking off the field.

Manning was masterful in picking apart a Bengals defence anxious to blitz and slow the run. Bad move.

In completing 24 of 40 attempts, three of them for touchdowns, he amassed a season-high 365 yards.

None were more crucial than the five third down conversions of 11 yards or longer. Afterward, Manning admitted the Colts running attack of recent weeks helped set a trap for the Bengals, who fell to 7-3 with the loss.

"We were thinking they were thinking we might be running the ball," said Manning, who ensured the Colts didn't have to punt until the fourth quarter. "With all the running we've done, that kind of set up what we were doing (yesterday)."

Give the Bengals credit too, they weren't about to buckle from the slugfest. A 68-yard Chad Johnson touchdown was a tit-for-tat answer to the 66-yarder the Colts Reggie Wayne had scored a minute earlier in the first quarter.

The 62 points the teams put up in the first half were the most in an NFL game in 20 years. Twice on solid drives the Bengals had to settle for field goals, though.

Still, until a fourth quarter Carson Palmer interception, they were within eight points of tying it.

"We hung in there toe-to-toe," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "We're getting closer. One day we're going to have that breakthrough."

As is his way when given the green light, Manning spread the ball around to seven different receivers. The go-to guy was tight end Dallas Clark, who exploited the middle of the Bengals defence, catching six for 125 yards and a touchdown.

Clark had a feeling he was in for a big day because Manning had tipped him off. And if Clark has learned anything in his three years with the Colts, it is that it pays to be ready when No. 18 includes you in his plans.

"He's such a student of the game," Clark said in awe. "He prepares like no one else and it shows."

Yesterday, it took him one stop closer to perfection.


Videos

Photos