INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts looked just as formidable on offense as they did when they won the Super Bowl last season.
And even better on defense.
Shaking off a sluggish first half, the Colts outscored New Orleans 31-0 after intermission in Thursday night's NFL opener to beat the Saints 41-10. At the same time, they served notice to New England, San Diego and other highly touted teams that losing six players who started the Super Bowl last season hasn't slowed them down a bit.
Four of them were on a defense that didn't allow a touchdown Thursday night.
"All offseason, that's what everyone talked about, that the defense has lost all these guys," said Peyton Manning, who threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns. "A lot of young guys played good tonight. It's only one game and there's a long way to go, but we played really well tonight."
Playing against his hometown team, Manning threw two TD passes to Reggie Wayne and another to Marvin Harrison. Joseph Addai ran for 118 yards on 23 carries and that super-quick defense 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 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 pass 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.
"We don't do that," Manning said when asked if he deliberately went at David. "We had the right calls at the right time. With Marvin and Reggie, you're always going to throw it to those guys. If you have a good day, they say you're picking on one guy. We really don't do that."
David said he had to get used to a new scheme in New Orleans but didn't have any excuses.
"Anytime you come back and play a team you used to play for, you want to play your best game," he said. "I didn't play my best game tonight. All the plays you saw tonight ... that's on me. There's nobody else to blame but me."
Wayne finished with seven catches for 115 yards.
"The joke in the locker room is that I scored on both sides of the ball," Wayne said of his run-ins with his former teammate. "I gave him a free touchdown, so I guess that was the appreciation we gave him."
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 tight end 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.
"I thought at halftime, being on the road and with all that went on we were in good shape," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. "But we had some miscues. Our inability to convert third downs and keep the ball hurt us."
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. That unit included undrafted rookie Ed Johnson at defensive tackle in place of Anthony McFarland, out for the season with a knee injury.
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.
"It just felt like we never got in synch," Brees said. "We felt we hadn't accomplished much in the first half so we were chomping at the bit to get out there and sustain some drives. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe we needed to get our butts kicked tonight to get a little fire going."
The only score by the New Orleans offense was a 34-yard field goal by Olindo Mare in the second quarter after a nine-play, 36-yard drive. From the middle of that quarter until the middle of the fourth, the Saints ran just one play in Indianapolis territory and that was for a 2-yard loss.
Indy linebacker Freddy Keiaho, replacing departed free agent Cato June, was outstanding.
In the second quarter, he drove through a blocker, carrying him into Bush and dropping the runner for a 5-yard loss. In the third quarter, he picked off a pass that led to a 33-yard field goal by Vinatieri that made it 27-10 in the first minute of the final quarter.
The Colts took a 7-0 lead on the Manning-to-Harrison TD in the first quarter. David's play tied the game, and Mare's field goal put the Saints up 10-7. That lasted until the late drive keyed by the Manning-Clark hookup.
Then the Colts took over completely in the second half.
The Manning-Wayne 45-yarder made it 34-10 five minutes into the fourth quarter and Matt Giordano's 83-yard interception return closed the scoring.
Notes: Harrison's 83 yards gave him 13,780 for his career, moving him past Henry Ellard for fifth place in NFL career yardage. ... Manning is 8-2 in season openers in his career and the Colts are an NFL-best 15-2 in September under Dungy, the best early record in the NFL since 2002. ... The Saints scored as few as 10 points only once last season, in a 16-10 loss in Washington on Dec. 17. ... McAllister had 38 or fewer yards only twice last season despite alternating at running back with Bush. ... Manning has a career-best 164 passes without an interception going back to last season.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved