INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — It took the Indianapolis Colts one half to shake off their post-Super Bowl hangover.
Then Peyton Manning and friends came alive to beat New Orleans 41-10 Thursday night in the NFL’s opener, running away in the final 30 minutes with a championship caliber performance.
Playing against his hometown team, Manning had three TD passes, two to Reggie Wayne and another to Marvin Harrison. Joseph Addai ran for 118 yards on 23 carries and a super-quick defense with four new starters shut down Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and the explosive New Orleans offense.
The game was tied 10-10 after a sloppy first half.
But Manning, who finished 18-of-30 for 288 yards, led two quick TD drives in the first 8:49 of the second half as the Colts put up 24 points in 20 minutes after intermission. On the first drive, Manning hit Harrison for 42 yards to set up a 2-yard TD run by Addai. Then the Super Bowl MVP came right back to throw a 28-yard TD to Wayne.
“NFL games are 60 minutes long. We were a little out of synch in the first half,” coach Tony Dungy said. “They played us defensively a little different than we thought. We knew we had to run the ball a little more.”
Another major player — for both sides — was New Orleans cornerback Jason David, who started for the Colts in their Super Bowl win over Chicago, then left as a free agent. He was victimized by Harrison on a 27-yard TD pass in the first half and again by Wayne on both his scores, the second a 45-yarder in the fourth quarter.
But David also produced the Saints’ only TD, stripping Wayne after a second-quarter completion, picking up the ball and returning it 55 yards for the score.
Wayne finished with seven catches for 115 yards.
The game finally put the focus back on football after an offseason dominated by player discipline problems and long suspensions, most notably involving Michael Vick and Adam “Pacman” Jones. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was at the game, said beforehand, “I think we’re ready now to get the focus back on football.”
It took a little while before Manning got the Colts’ offense focused.
Manning was just 8-of-17 for 101 yards in the first half, 66 of those yards on two completions: the 27-yard TD to Harrison, plus 39 on a throw to Dallas Clark that set up Adam Vinatieri’s 33-yard field goal that tied the game at 10.
But the Saints, who reached the NFC title game last season before losing to Chicago, never could get their potent offense going.
They had just 112 total yards in the first half, and Bush and Deuce McAllister each had just 21 yards rushing before intermission against a made-over Indianapolis defense.
Both finished with just 38 yards, Bush on 12 carries and McAllister on 10. Brees was 27-of-40 for 183 yards and two interceptions.
The only score by the Saints offense was a 34-yard Olindo Mare field goal.