Sanders saved one touchdown by catching the Indianapolis rookie from behind at the 3-yard line, but a rare mistake in pass coverage let Marvin Harrison get behind him for a 40-yard TD reception as the Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-24 Sunday.
"They had been running the ball successfully," Sanders said. "I was looking right into the backfield. The guy just ran past me. It's my fault. I'm not blaming anyone else.
Harrison caught six passes from Peyton Manning for 85 yards. James, who rushed for 113 yards, also had seven receptions for 92 yards. He also scored one touchdown, and received some encouragement from Sanders.
"Deion is fast, I know that," James said, smiling and shaking his head. "Throughout the game, he was laughing and joking with me. He was pointing at me and telling me that I had the moves and everything. He said I was playing well, and that's the type of thing you want a top caliber player to say about you. That means a lot to me."
Dallas (4-3) led 17-3 in the second quarter before the young trio of Harrison, Manning and James started making the plays for the Colts (5-2), who scored on all but one possession of the second half.
Emmitt Smith's second touchdown run put the Cowboys up 24-21 late in the third quarter before Manning completed passes to Terrence Wilkins, Harrison and Marcus Pollard, taking Indianapolis to the Dallas 40 as the period ended. On the next play Harrison blew past Sanders and was untouched as he ran to the end zone for the go-ahead score.
"I just ran my route," Harrison said. "It may have been that Deion thought somebody else was going to pick me up. I don't know what defense they were in. I just knew I was wide open."
On the next series, Troy Aikman was sacked hard by Jeff Burris and went to the bench to clear his head as the Cowboys had to punt. A holding penalty against Dallas, then a face-mask penalty on Sanders brought Indianapolis to the Cowboys' 17, and four plays later Mike Vanderjagt's 33-yard field goal put Indianapolis up 31-24.
Jason Garrett relieved Aikman on the next Dallas possession, just his second appearance of the season, and the Colts got the ball back on another punt a minute later. Manning, who passed for 312 yards, hit James on a 54-yarder to the Dallas 25, and six plays later Vanderjagt kicked a 27-yard field goal for a 34-24 lead.
Aikman returned for the final two Dallas possessions, but couldn't engineer a comeback.
"We weren't able to get the safety out of the middle of the field. We weren't able to move the ball up the field as much as we would like," said Aikman, who was 19-for-24 for 159 yards but was sacked four times. "We couldn't get open downfield, and as a result there were more sacks."
Colts defensive end Mark Thomas was injured late in the final period and was taken off the field on a stretcher after a delay of about 10 minutes. He was hospitalized with an apparent concussion.
|Colts defensive end Mark Thomas was hospitalized with an apparent concussion Sunday.|
On the first play after the following kickoff, Aikman was sacked by Chad Bratzke and fumbled. Bratzke batted the ball toward the end zone, but the Cowboys' Erik Williams batted it back into Bratzke's hands. Before Bratzke could score, however, he fumbled, and the ball was recovered at the 1 by Michael Barber.
James scored on the next play for the Colts' first lead.
CBS reported earlier that Colts owner Jim Irsay and president Bill Polian were called to the NFL office in New York last week and fined $10,000 for Polian's comments critical of officiating in a recent game.
"I can't comment on anything like that, because the league prohibits it," Polian said after the game. "All I can tell you is there was a meeting in New York. We requested the meeting."
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