KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Only players as talented as Edgerrin James and Peyton Manning can afford to show up late for work.
Indianapolis' star quarterback and All-Pro running back combined for just 34 yards in a miserable first quarter against Kansas City on Thursday night. But they were their old selves the rest of the way, leading the Colts to a 35-28 victory in a game that packed most of its excitement into the final 18 minutes.
''We were just trying to be real patient, trying to protect the ball against a good defense,'' said Manning, who started 3-of-9 for 15 yards but finished 19-of-30 for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
James had just 21 yards to show for his first 10 carries, then exploded for 81 in his next 17 as the Colts (3-3) snapped a three-game losing skid. He went to the sideline with a strained knee with 4:24 left and didn't return.
''I felt some pain. I knew something wasn't right,'' said James, adding that he would have an MRI on Friday.
''But the pain started going away so I knew it couldn't be too bad and I was able to walk it off.''
The Chiefs (1-6) have lost four in a row and are 0-4 at home for the first time in 25 years.
''It's frustrating,'' defensive end Eric Hicks said. ''I'm sad because we're letting the fans down. They show up and pay a lot of money to come to these games.''
Dominic Rhodes had an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter. Then, with 1:02 left and the Colts trying to run out the clock, Rhodes broke loose on a 77-yard touchdown run for a 35-21 lead with 4:45 to go.
''I wasn't even thinking about falling down,'' said the undrafted rookie. ''All I was thinking about was end zone, end zone.''
Said Colts coach Jim Mora, ''As soon as he came to minicamp and off-season stuff, we thought we had a good football player. We thought we had somebody special for a guy that wasn't even drafted.''
Manning's 47-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison put the Colts on top 28-14 with 8:21 left. The Chiefs got within 28-21 on Larry Parker's 11-yard touchdown reception and moved downfield for a third-and-10 from the 11. But Idrees Bashir made the third interception of a Trent Green pass.
Mike Vanderjagt kicked two field goals for the Colts, who beat the Chiefs for the sixth straight time.
Until Manning went 6-for-6 on a 63-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes of the lackluster first half, the Colts' offense had produced two first downs and 41 total yards in five possessions.
''Thank God we won,'' Mora said. ''It doesn't matter how. Just get more points than the other guy. We had a little trouble offensively in the first half.''
After hitting Marcus Pollard on a 6-yard TD strike, Manning had the Colts on the move again when Hicks recovered Manning's fumble and helped set up Todd Peterson's 48-yard field goal as time expired.
It was 10-6 in the third when Rhodes took the kickoff on the 12 and sped through a huge hole up the middle. Only the kicker was able to even get a hand on him as he went 88 yards for a 17-6 lead.
Two minutes later, nobody picked up tight end Tony Gonzalez coming off the line and Green hit him for an uncontested 35-yard touchdown. Green's run for the 2-point conversion brought the Chiefs within 17-14.
The Colts appeared to have the game wrapped up when Manning hit Marvin Harrison for a 47-yard touchdown and a 28-14 lead after Eric Warfield bit on a pump fake.
But Parker's 11-yard touchdown catch made it 28-21 with 4:45 left, then Green drove the Chiefs to a first-and-10 with 2:17 to go.
The Chiefs' last TD came on Green's 5-yard pass to Parker with 1:02 remaining.
Originally scheduled for Sunday, the game was moved up so the NFL could avoid a possible conflict with the World Series on a Sunday night game.
Notes: James has 24 career 100-yard rushing games, tying the club record set by Eric Dickerson. ... Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended Thursday night's game with his family. His presence was not announced during the game for national security reasons. ... Earlier Thursday, the Chiefs placed defensive tackle John Browning on the injured reserve list and claimed defensive tackle Tyrone Williams off waivers from Washington. Browning injured his right knee in Sunday's 24-16 loss at Arizona. ... Kansas City does not have another home game until Nov. 25, when the Chiefs play Seattle.
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