INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The 49ers are back to playing with the kind
of efficiency they had in their Super Bowl seasons. The Colts are
just back in the pack.
San Francisco turned five turnovers into 23 points, and Garrison
Hearst ran for two touchdowns as the 49ers beat Indianapolis 40-21 on Sunday for their fourth straight victory.
Should the 49ers be considered a serious threat to the Rams in the NFC West?
Until the 49ers beat the Rams, they won't be a real threat to the Rams. The 49ers lost in San Francisco and must play in St. Louis on Dec. 9, which will be difficult.
But the Niners are coming on fast. They have lots of young guys who are playing with lots of confidence. Quarterback Jeff Garcia, wide receiver J.J. Stokes, running back Garrison Hearst -- all are playing well. And the young defense is gaining confidence (four picks today). The D will continue to improve.
With two big road wins in the past two weeks, the 49ers are gaining momentum.
ESPN.com's Vinny Cerrato was director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.
"A couple of years ago, when we were building this, we didn't
know where we would be today," said wide receiver Terrell Owens,
who had six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. "It's just a
process. It was frustrating at times, but now you can see how far
Hearst gained 106 yards on just 12 carries -- an 8.8-yard average
-- and scored his first rushing TDs since Dec. 1, 1998, against
Detroit. He missed the past two seasons after breaking his leg in a
playoff game in January 1999.
Jeff Garcia completed 14 of 22 passes for 179 yards and two
touchdowns for the 49ers (8-2).
The Colts (4-6), on the other hand, made mistake after mistake
in letting a 21-20 lead slip away.
"That was a disgraceful performance," Indianapolis coach Jim
Mora said. "We threw that game away. We gave them the game. It was
pitiful, absolutely pitiful."
His team has lost three straight games and four in a row at home
-- and this defeat was of the Colts' own making.
Peyton Manning threw three second-half interceptions, and the
49ers turned each of those gifts into a touchdown. He was 31-of-51
for 370 yards and one touchdown but threw a career-high four
interceptions and was pulled in the final two minutes.
Mora struggled for an explanation and didn't want to discuss
what the future might hold.
"Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs," Mora said. "Are you
kidding me. Playoffs? I'm just hoping we can win a game, another
The Colts' woes began when Manning missed Trevor Insley with a
pass, and Zack Bronson ran the interception back 48 yards for a
touchdown. It was the fifth time this season Manning had an
interception returned for a TD.
Six plays after that, Manning's pass bounced out of Insley's
hands and to Rashad Holman for another interception. Two plays
later, Garcia connected with Owens on a 35-yard TD pass that made
it 33-21 seven seconds into the fourth quarter.
Then Ahmed Plummer intercepted another pass by Manning, and the
49ers got a 43-yard TD run from Hearst to seal the victory.
"We have not been real good on takeaways this year," 49ers
coach Steve Mariucci said. "Taking the ball away and giving our
offense a short field is a must. Today we accomplished that."
Manning's misfires weren't the Colts' only problems.
Colts rookie safety Jason Doering -- who replaced the injured
Idrees Bashir in the starting lineup -- was called for personal
fouls twice in the first half. San Francisco scored both times,
getting a 30-yard field goal from Jose Cortez and a 5-yard TD pass
from Garcia to J.J. Stokes to erase a 7-0 deficit.
After the Colts went up 14-10 on Manning's touchdown pass to
Marvin Harrison, Hearst rumbled 28 yards for a go-ahead touchdown
with 57 seconds left in the half.
On the Colts next series, Manning threw his first interception.
The 49ers converted that into Cortez's 46-yard field goal and a
20-14 halftime lead.
The Colts' regained the lead early in the third quarter when
Dominic Rhodes, playing in place of the injured Edgerrin James, ran
for a 1-yard TD.
That was about the last play that went Indianapolis' way.
"That's what we strive for," Mariucci said. "We're paid to do
a job, to put a plan together to try and win every game. I told our
guys at the beginning of the year there were no limitations on the
amount of games we can win."
Harrison had eight receptions for 128 yards, his 25th
100-yard game. That breaks Raymond Berry's franchise record of 24.
... Mora's third-quarter challenge of a pass originally ruled
incomplete marked only the second time he's won a challenge in 17
tries. His .063 percentage was the worst in the NFL entering the
game. Indianapolis took the lead by scoring a touchdown on the
drive. ... San Francisco RB Kevan Barlow dislocated his left
shoulder. His status for next week wasn't immediately known. ...
Garcia has at least one TD pass in 14 straight games.