From Florida to Arizona, prime time is Peyton time.
Peyton Manning was a Sunday night sensation against the Arizona Cardinals, six nights after his marvelous Monday night against the Dolphins in Miami.
The 50th 300-yard passing performance of Manning’s career led the Indianapolis Colts past the Arizona Cardinals 31-10 on Sunday night.
Manning threw four touchdown passes in a game for the 18th time. Only Dan Marino (21) and Brett Favre (20) have done it more often.
“The thing is that we constantly have to make certain that we don’t take it for granted,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell said.
After a slow start, Manning dissected the Cardinals defense with precision for three second-quarter touchdowns.
The Colts quarterback finished the night 24 of 35 for 379 yards with one interception.
“He knew what plays to call at the right time,” Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said, “and we couldn’t stop them.”
Two turnovers haunted the Cardinals.
Arizona had a chance to go up 10-0 early but Tim Hightower fumbled at the Indianapolis 5-yard line. Antoine Bethea recovered for the Colts, who went 95 yards in 11 plays to take the lead for good.
At the end of the first half, the Cardinals drove to the Indianapolis 1, but Kurt Warner’s deflected pass was intercepted by Bethea to end the threat.
“Against a team like that, you’ve got to take everything you get a chance to take,” Warner said, “and we didn’t do that today.”
Manning had high praise for the Colts defense, which had been on the field for 84 plays and surrendered 403 yards Monday night in Miami, 239 of them on the ground.
“They were awesome,” Manning said. “I know they certainly felt challenged and felt motivated. NFL players have a lot of pride. They were disappointed in their performance last week, and they really came out and answered the bell. It was impressive.”
The game featured two of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history in Manning and Warner. But while Manning’s line gave him time to carve up the Cardinals’ defense, the 38-year-old Warner was under a fierce pass rush all night long.
“I think that was the key to the game, personally,” said Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, who was in Warner’s face throughout before leaving with a quadriceps injury late in the third quarter. “Our offensive line did a great job protecting Peyton, giving him time to find his receivers. And then I think collectively as a defense we put pressure on Warner and had him uncomfortable all game.”
Warner was 30 of 52 for 332 yards and one score but was picked off twice.
Manning threw 20 yards to Reggie Wayne for the first score, 10 yards to Dallas Clark for the second and a nifty 53 yards to Pierre Garcon as Indianapolis took a 21-3 halftime lead.
Manning added a 3-yard TD toss to Joseph Addai in the third quarter to make it 28-10.
“We stayed patient,” Manning said. “The main thing, as you’re kind of getting into a rhythm, is not turning it over and not having a bunch of negative plays and putting your defense in a tough situation. We were kind of figuring things out as we went along. Once we got into a comfort zone, we really executed from there.”
Wayne made a one-handed grab of Manning’s pass at the pylon on a 20-yard play that put the Colts up 7-3 with 9:04 left in the half.
“Can’t draw that up,” Manning said. “You know he’s capable of making those plays. … Those are the plays we expect him to make.”
After Indianapolis stuffed Arizona’s offense, the Colts went 57 yards in six plays, Manning throwing 10 yards to Clark to make it 14-3 with 5:49 to go in the half.
The prettiest score came when Manning lofted a pass down the sideline into the outstretched arms of Garcon on a 53-yard scoring play that made it 21-3 with 1:52 to go in the half.
Arizona, 8-2 at home last season, fell to 0-2 there this season, with boos echoing from the remains of a once raucous crowd as Warner was sacked for a 28-yard loss on fourth down with about 6 1/2 minutes to play.
“We haven’t lived up to our end of the bargain for our fans,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “All I can tell you is we’re going to do that. … We will get that fixed.”
© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.