The Indianapolis Colts didn't need Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James or Marvin Harrison to be at their best Saturday night. Special teams made sure of
Mike Doss recovered a fumbled punt and blocked another punt that went for a touchdown, and Dominic Rhodes had an 84-yard kickoff return to set up
another score, leading the Colts to a 30-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
"I felt I had my quickness when I got on the field," Rhodes said. "It was just a matter of getting out there on the field and putting it into
Rhodes was one of the few who excelled in the Colts' third straight sloppy game. He carried 15 times for 58 yards with one touchdown.
Otherwise, misery abounded.
Manning was picked off twice, the Colts (2-1) fumbled the ball three times, losing it twice, and committed seven penalties, including three on the
game's first series. The starting offense, which played until midway through the third quarter, managed only one legitimate scoring drive.
Although coach Tony Dungy liked the outcome, he was again displeased with the performance.
"We can't fumble the ball, have penalties and turnovers and protection problems," Dungy said. "We're just not clicking on all cylinders."
The Bills (1-2) weren't any better. They fumbled seven times, losing three. Bills quarterbacks also threw two interceptions and were sacked three
Running back Willis McGahee made his first start since sustaining a severe left knee injury in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, and looked tentative - at lead at
the beginning. He carried six times for eight yards in the first quarter before warming up and finishing with 16 carries for 58 yards. He also botched
a flea-flicker with a bad pitch to Drew Bledsoe.
"It was a lot faster than I'm used to," he said. "There are certain things I need to do to get better. I could have done a lot more than I did."
Buffalo lost more than just its second straight game, though.
The postgame injury list started with safety Lawyer Milloy, who broke his right forearm in the third quarter after getting his hand stuck in the turf
when he jarred the ball loose from Colts receiver Brandon Stokley. Milloy is scheduled to have surgery Sunday, but Buffalo officials did not say how
much time he would miss.
The Bills also lost another quarterback - Travis Brown, the projected backup to Bledsoe. He was carted off the field late in the third quarter after
taking a hit in his left knee. It was the second major blow to the Bills' quarterback corps this week. In Tuesday's practice, first-round pick J.P.
Losman broke his left leg.
"We'll take a step back and evaluate what we have there," first-year coach Mike Mularkey said. "Obviously, we have to do something."
The difference Saturday was special teams.
The Colts held the ball for the game's first six minutes, thanks to Doss' recovery of Nate Clements' fumble deep inside Bills territory. The Colts
turned that turnover into Mike Vanderjagt's 23-yard field goal.
After a three-and-out on the Bills' next series, Doss delivered again. He blasted around the left side, blocking Brian Moorman's punt. Neither Moorman
nor Indianapolis' Keyon Whiteside could handle the bouncing ball, which rolled into the end zone. Bryan Fletcher fell on it for his third TD of the
preseason to make it 10-0.
"They only had 10 guys lined up," Doss said. "So I stood up just to make sure there wasn't nothing tricky going on ... and from then on, I said, 'If
no one's going to block me, I'd better not miss this block.' "
Buffalo then got a 41-yard field goal from Rian Lindell, but Rhodes negated it with his darting 84-yard return on the ensuing kickoff. The Colts
settled for another Vanderjagt field goal.
Buffalo closed to 13-10 when Kevin Thomas returned one of Manning's interceptions for a touchdown, but Rhodes' 1-yard TD run with 2:31 left in the
half gave the Colts control.
They closed it out with a 1-yard TD run from Daniel Davis and Vanderjagt's third field goal, a 43-yarder early in the fourth quarter.
"Special teams gave us a boost early and that was something we stressed this week," Dungy said. "We just have to be a lot sharper."