Colts 24, Steelers 23
Aug. 20, 2000
MEXICO CITY (AP) _ The Indianapolis Colts' Triple Threat is definitely ready for the regular season.
Peyton Manning threw two perfect touchdown passes, including a 77-yarder to Marvin Harrison, and Edgerrin James had a 2-yard touchdown run, all within the first 7:26 of the Colts' 24-23 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night.
Indianapolis (2-2) managed to win over an incredibly pro-Steelers crowd of 87,145 in Mexico's Azteca Stadium, turning pregame boos into cheers while scoring on three straight drives in the opening minutes.
Pittsburgh (3-1) gave the fans plenty to scream about in the final minutes as third-string quarterback Tee Martin capped a long scoring drive with a diving 1-yard run with 10 seconds left. Running back Pepe Pearson was stopped on the 2-point conversion.
Steelers starter Kordell Stewart showed some improvement, but not enough. He failed to get a first down on four of six drives and had to convert fourth downs on the other two series, which ended in a field goal and a 1-yard touchdown run by Jon Witman.
Stewart was 8-of-18 for 82 yards with an interception in the end zone and a sack. Still, that's better than the 1-of-13 and 6-of-22 marks he brought into the game. Best of all, he actually got some cheers when his name was announced before kickoff, something that hasn't happened much at Three Rivers Stadium.
Azteca, though, is far different from most NFL venues starting with the capacity of 102,000. Primarily a soccer stadium, the grass field turned muddy quickly because of an hourlong pregame rain that also dropped temperatures into the 60s.
The vast majority of fans wore black and yellow and seemed to all be waving Terrible Towels. Flashbulbs illuminated the field at kickoff and on the Steelers' first offensive snap. Cheers of ``Defense'' were common before big plays for Pittsburgh's defense and flags against the Steelers were booed. A bee-like buzz hummed all game from plastic horns popular among the locals.
Things were so loud on the field that both offenses were using hand and foot signals most of the first half. Manning often walked up and down the line barking out signals. Stewart unsuccessfully tried quieting them a few times.
Pittsburgh's Hank Poteat couldn't blame the noise for fumbling a punt deep in his own territory following Indianapolis' first possession. The Colts recovered at the 11 and the rout was on.
On second down, Manning tricked the entire Pittsburgh (1-3) defense on a fake handoff left, then rolled right and softly tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Ken Dilger.
The next series, which began at the Steelers' 29 following a 54-yard punt return by Payton Williams, was all James.
A 9-yard run was followed by a 3-yard gain that had another 8 yards tacked on for facemasking. James got 6 yards on the next play, then bounced off two blocks for the touchdown.
Just 1:20 later, Indianapolis took over again its 23. On first down, Manning heaved a pass down the right sideline that Harrison caught practically in stride just past midfield.
Cornerback Chad Scott dove at Harrison from behind and safety Scott Shields gave chase for a few yards, but there was no catching him _ or the Colts, who led 21-0 four seconds shy of the halfway point of the first quarter against a defense that had allowed 20 points all preseason.
Pittsburgh answered with a 72-yard, 13-play drive that ended with a 23-yard field goal from Kris Brown. Stewart was 4 of 5 for 51 yards on the series and Amos Zereoue, starting in place of the injured Jerome Bettis, had 23 yards, including 3 when he dove over the line on fourth-and-1.
The Steelers made it 21-10 on Witman's touchdown and were driving for another score in the final minute of the first half when Stewart threw an interception in the end zone. The Colts were able to set up kicker Mike Vanderjagt for a 52-yard field goal try, but he missed wide left.
Kent Graham replaced Stewart to open the third quarter and he threw a nice touchdown pass to Malcom Johnson while being thrown down by Josh Williams. From his back, Graham shook his arms and feet with joy after realizing Johnson scored.
Indianapolis went back up by a touchdown when Danny Kight kicked a field goal early in the fourth quarter.