Colts 23, Bengals 17

The Indianapolis Colts don’t need Peyton Manning playing at an

MVP level to win every game.

On Sunday, they found an old-fashioned formula – defense and

turnovers – works just fine.

The Colts overcame Manning’s season-low 185 yards by scoring 17

points off five Cincinnati turnovers and stopped the Bengals twice

in the final 2 minutes, 40 seconds to preserve a 23-17 victory

Sunday.

”That’s the way it has been with this team over the years,”

defensive end Dwight Freeney said. ”We find ways to win games like

this. We needed to do that today, and we did.”

The injury-depleted Colts (6-3) retook sole possession of the

AFC South lead thanks to Tennessee’s loss at Miami.

But it certainly wasn’t pretty.

The four-time league MVP completed 20 of 36 yet had the lowest

yardage total of any game he’s finished since Nov. 30, 2008 at

Cleveland. His quarterback rating of 69.8 marked the first time

he’s had sub-70 ratings in successive weeks since November 2007 and

for the second time this season, Manning didn’t throw a

touchdown.

The explanation: He’s working with some new parts.

Indy played again without All-Pro tight end Dallas Clark,

running back Joseph Addai, short-yardage specialist Mike Hart and

receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie.

And all those absences finally caught up to the Colts, whose

only offensive touchdown came on a 3-yard run from undrafted rookie

Javarris James.

”We had chances to put the game possibly out of reach and we

did not do that,” Manning said, referring to the offensive

struggles. ”Fortunately our defense was able to hang on there at

the end.”

The defense played well all day.

Cornerback Kelvin Hayden scored on a 31-yard interception

return. Backup linebacker Tyjuan Hagler nearly scored on another

pick and Antonio Johnson’s fumble recovery set up Adam Vinatieri

for a short field goal late in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, nothing went right for the Bengals (2-7).

Carson Palmer was 31 of 42 for 287 yards with two TD passes,

three interceptions and three sacks. Cedric Benson ran 14 times for

24 yards and lost a fumble that led to one field goal.

Chad Ochocinco caught seven passes for 86 yards and one score

but finished the game with a sore left shoulder.

”I just hit the floor; it just popped out,” he said. ”It does

the same thing every year. Nothing new.”

Even rookie Jermaine Gresham’s best NFL game, nine catches for

85 yards and the TD catch that got the Bengals within 23-17 with

2:35 was tarnished. He lost the fumble that cost Cincinnati its

best chance to win, at the Colts’ 34, with 2:33 to go after the

Bengals had recovered an onside kick.

Manning improved to 7-0 against the Bengals, who found

themselves following a familiar script during this six-game losing

streak.

”Everybody needs to be on the same page, like an old married

couple,” Ochocinco said. ”Like a man being able to say a sentence

and your wife being able to finish it off. The more we’re on the

same page, the easier it is.”

It wasn’t easy for Palmer & Co. on Sunday.

When Palmer and Terrell Owens had a first-quarter

miscommunication, Hayden jumped the route, grabbed the ball and

sprinted 31 yards for a 10-0 lead.

Benson lost a fumble on the Bengals next offensive play, and

James capped the seven-play drive with his scoring run to make it

17-0.

Finally, the Bengals started correcting things.

Mike Nugent booted a short field goal, and a beautiful double

toe-tap from Ochocinco for a 5-yard score got Cincinnati within

17-10 with 1:06 left in the first half.

It was too much time for Manning, who set up Vinatieri for a

47-yard field goal as time expired.

”That was huge,” Indy coach Jim Caldwell said.

Indy nearly sealed the win when officials ruled Hagler scored on

a 45-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter, but

Lewis contended Hagler was down by contact at the Bengals 10 and

won the challenge.

So the Colts settled for another field goal to make it

23-10.

Cincinnati answered with the 19-yard score from Palmer to

Gresham and got the ball twice in the final 2:40, but fumbled it

away the first time. Palmer was sacked twice the second time and

Ochocinco dropped the final pass of the day – a fitting end to an

ugly game.

”We just have to keep working and find a way to score more

points and keep our defense out of those pressure situations,”

Manning said. ”They came up big all day and we have to try and do

our part.”

Notes: Vinatieri’s first field goal Sunday gave him 1,600 career

points. … Ochocinco’s first-half TD catch gave him 65 career

scores, breaking a tie with James Brooks (64) for second in

franchise history. Only Pete Johnson (70) has more. … Reggie

Wayne caught three passes for 34 yards, joining former teammate

Marvin Harrison as the only players in league history to top the

10,000-yard receiving mark with one quarterback. … Nugent was

carried off the field by his teammates after hurting his knee on

the onside kick. Lewis did not have details about the injury but

said it did not look good.