The 49ers probably didn't need a lot of help Sunday. The Colts gave them
San Francisco scored 23 points off
turnovers, Garrison Hearst ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns, and Jeff
Garcia threw for two scores to lead San Francisco past Indianapolis 40-21.
It was the third consecutive loss
for the Colts (4-6) their fourth straight at home - and this one was of
their 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.
When Mark Rypien was announced as
Manning's replacement, the fans that were left cheered.
The turnovers weren't the Colts'
only miscues - Indianapolis was called for two personal fouls in the first
half and both led to scores for San Francisco.
Indianapolis missed tackles, broke
down in coverage, and the 49ers (8-2) took advantage repeatedly to turn
a 21-20 deficit into a rout. San Francisco's offense proved particularly
efficient: At one juncture, it had run 35 plays and scored 27 points.
Garcia completed 14 of 22 passes
for 179 yards and the two touchdowns, Terrell Owens caught six passes for
103 yards and TD, and Hearst averaged 8.8 yards on his 12 carries.
The Colts' woes began when Manning
missed Trevor Insley with a pass, and Zack Bronson ran an 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
Running back Dominic Rhodes, playing
in place of the injured Edgerrin James, gained 102 yards but lost a fumble
at San Francisco's 27 when Indianapolis could have regained the lead early
in the fourth quarter.
The Colts actually looked good at
the outset, consuming more than half of the first quarter with a 14-play,
85-yard drive capped by Rhodes' 1-yard touchdown run.
But then Colts rookie safety Jason
Doering, starting for the injured Idrees Bashir, was called for the first-half
personal fouls that led to scores: Jose Cortez's 30-yard field goal and
Garcia's 5-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Stokes that put the 49ers up 10-7.
The Colts regained the lead at 14-10
on Manning's touchdown toss to Marvin Harrison 1:57 before halftime.
Then the 49ers went back on top with
a 28-yard touchdown run from Hearst - his first rushing score since Dec.
1, 1998 against Detroit. Hearst missed the past two seasons after breaking
his leg in a playoff game in January 1999.
Manning followed with an interception,
which led to Cortez's 46-yard field goal and a 20-14 halftime lead for
Rhodes pounded the ball into the
end zone from a yard out early in the third quarter to give Indianapolis
a 21-20 lead. That was the last thing that went right for the Colts.