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Peyton Manning Back In Groove

Peyton Manning played much more like an NFL quarterback in his second preseason game.

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  • Manning led the Indianapolis Colts to 23 points in the first half and looked much sharper than in his pro debut, setting up a 30-27 victory over the Bengals.

    Manning completed 5 of 11 passes for 112 yards in the half and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison on a perfectly executed slant pattern. Overall, he was much smoother than a week earlier in a 24-21 loss to Seattle.

    "Peyton played a much better game tonight than he did last week," coach Jim Mora said. "I felt it in warmups, that he just seemed more relaxed, more poised, more confident, more in control as to what he was going to do."

    He led the Colts to two touchdowns and three field goals in his seven first-half series against Cincinnati's unpredictable zone blitz defense.

    "I expect to be more comfortable after the first game," Manning said. "I made some mistakes, but I felt better overall. I was more relaxed."

    While Manning showed progress, Neil O'Donnell showed he's ready to take Jeff Blake's job with the Bengals (0-2).

    O'Donnell, signed as a free agent on July 7, played the first two series, completed all of his five passes for 58 yards and led two touchdown drives. Corey Dillon ran 1 yard for a score and O'Donnell threw a 7-yard pass to Darnay Scott for his first TD pass as a Bengal.

    "I felt a lot better than the previous week," said O'Donnell, who was 6-of-15 for 49 yards in a 24-21 loss to the New York Giants last week. "I thought the offensive line did a good job of protecting me. It helps a lot when (Dillon) is running hard behind you. The timing with Darnay felt better out there. Those are the litte things."

    When Blake took the field along with the starting offensive line and backup receivers, a murmur rolled through the crowd of 41.076. Loud boos rang out as Blake went 0-for-7 in the first half, repeatedly throwing balls too high or behind receivers. He also forced a ball into double coverage while scrambling, resulting in his third interception of the preseason.

    The Colts put in their defensive backups in the second half and Blake did a little better, finishing 4-of-13 for 59 yards. In his two preseason games, Blake is 7-of-19 for 82 yards with three interceptions and a quarterback rating of 11.18.

    Blake didn't stay around to talk to reporters after the game. Coach Bruce Coslet praised O'Donnell but said there was no clear leader in the quarterback competition at this point.

    "He is getting better and better," said Coslet of O'Donnell, who is still learning the offense. "This is a new team and it's gong to take him a lot longer. He still doesn't know all the little things. He gets a little fouled up now and then."

    Manning threw a 25-yard pass on the game's opening series -- he saw a broken coverage and found Torrance Small open along the right sideline. He threw a 39-yard pass to Harrison on the second possession, and found Jerome Pathon open cutting across the middle for a 20-yard completion the next time the Colts got the ball.

    The kicking situation for both teams got a little more muddled.

    The Colts' Cary Blanchard kicked a 43-yard field goal, but challenger Mike Vanderjagt hit on attempts from 49 and 48 yards. Neither one attempted a field goal in the preseason opener.

    Thirteen-year veteran Lee Johnson had three poor punts for Cincinnati -- 27, 30 and 30 yards. Brad Costello, a rookie out of Boston, had a 15-yard punt that he downed as it rolled back towards him.

    The Colts once again had major problems with their special teams, which gave up a punt return for a touchdown against Seattle and two sizable kickoff returns. Indianapolis was offside on two kickoffs Monday and let Tremain Mack return kickoffs 60 and 59 yards.

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