Sunday, November 28, 2004

Colts over Lions wire reports

DETROIT (Nov. 25, 2004) -- Peyton Manning barks and gestures at the line of scrimmage, adjusting to defenses and changing play calls.

It might seem like chaos, but he's in complete control. Blitzing linebackers or disguised coverages don't faze him. Manning truly seems flustered only when he's far from the field, standing in a locker room to talk about his remarkable performances.

In his latest brilliant display, Manning threw for six touchdowns in less than three quarters and raised his season total to 41 TD passes, leading the Indianapolis Colts past the Detroit Lions 41-9.

He set an NFL record with at least four TD passes in a fifth consecutive game -- and he did it by halftime. Dan Marino had a four-game streak with at least four TDs in 1984, when he also set a league mark with 48 TD passes in a season.

"I feel uncomfortable talking about anything individual," said Manning, almost pleading to change the subject. "I just want to keep winning."

Connecting with Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley three times each for TDs, Manning finished 23-for-28 for 236 yards and zero interceptions for the AFC South-leading Colts (8-3).

Look at the performance this way: Manning had more TDs than incompletions.

"He's the best that's ever played this game as far as quarterbacks are concerned," Stokley said. "When he's retired, they'll compare everybody to Peyton Manning, without a doubt."

The reeling Lions (4-7) didn't help themselves by fumbling four times in their territory, missing a field goal and stalling repeatedly in the red zone.

Fittingly, backup quarterback Mike McMahon fumbled on the final play before scooping up the football and throwing an interception in the end zone to cap what's now a five-game losing streak.

"This is the pinnacle of those five losses," cornerback Fernando Bryant said.

The Colts replaced Manning with Jim Sorgi late in the third quarter. Otherwise, the QB would have had a shot at tying the NFL record of seven touchdown passes in a game, shared by five players: Sid Luckman, Adrian Burk, George Blanda, Y.A. Tittle and Joe Kapp.

Manning matched the Colts record he set in September 2003 against New Orleans, his father's old team. Before that performance, no one had thrown for six TDs in an NFL game in a dozen years.

With five regular-season games left, Manning already has matched Kurt Warner for third-most TD passes in a season. Marino threw 44 TDs in 1986.

No matter where Peyton Manning looked, he saw open receivers.

"Whatever record they want to break, they have a chance," Lions coach Steve Mariucci said.

Marino, now a CBS analyst, was asked at halftime how teams should deal with Manning.

"Blitz him!" Marino said.

The Lions tried that at times, but they were no match for Manning's quick release and sound decision-making.

All the offense is helping the Colts overcome their less-than-stellar defense. Indianapolis has won four straight, scoring at least 40 points in each of their past three games.

Detroit and its quarterback are headed in the opposite direction.

A month ago, the Lions were being praised for their turnaround after winning an NFL-low 10 games over the past three years. They have reverted to their old ways.

Joey Harrington was 14-for-23 for 156 yards before he was benched in favor of McMahon late in the third quarter.

No such problems for the Colts. Harrison caught 12 passes for 127 yards, and Stokley had five receptions for 57 yards. Edgerrin James had 23 carries for 105 yards.

Stokley caught his three TDs in the first half, and Harrison had one of his to help the Colts take a 27-9 lead at the break.

Lions returner Eddie Drummond, who has scored on four punt and kickoff returns this season, left at the start of the second half with a shoulder injury that could end his season. Things got so bad for the Lions that Drummond's replacement, Reggie Swinton, fumbled on a punt return and the football was recovered by Colts punter Hunter Smith.

Detroit's subdued fans came to life when McMahon replaced Harrington late in the third quarter. But McMahon couldn't help the offense much, going 11-for-15 for 105 yards and the game-ending interception.

Mariucci said despite the change, Harrington has not lost his job.

"I thought Joey did OK, but the score got away from us, so I saw an opportunity to get Mike some much-deserved playing time," Mariucci said.

Kevin Jones ran for 99 yards on 12 carries for the Lions, who fell to 33-30-2 in their traditional Thanksgiving Day home games. The Colts handed Detroit its most lopsided loss on the holiday

Monday, November 08, 2004

Colts/Vikings = Top Offenses

By John Oehser,

INDIANAPOLIS — The pre-game theme is obvious. The numbers make it so, and the numbers are . . . the numbers are . . .

Well, they’re stunning.

The first-ranked offense in the NFL. The second-ranked offense in the NFL.

A quarterback on one team who has thrown for five touchdowns in a game twice this season.

A quarterback on the other team who has done it three times.

It’s the Minnesota Vikings versus the Colts, two teams that have set the NFL standard this season for offensive numbers, two teams that have at times scored points in mind-boggling fashion.

It’s Monday Night Football. Michaels and Madden.

Big-time offenses in a prime-time time slot.

So, the theme is obvious, right? A shootout in the dome?

Maybe, but that’s not the way players and coaches necessarily see it, and if they do see it that way, they’re not saying.

“You have to be prepared to do whatever the game dictates,” Colts wide receiver Brandon Stokley said as the defending AFC South-champion Colts (4-3) prepared to play the NFC North-leading Vikings (5-2) Monday at 9 p.m. in the RCA Dome.

“If we have to score 60, then 60’s what we have to do. If it’s a low-scoring game, then we’ve just got to score one more point than them. That’s our goal every game.

“It’s hard to say. Each game takes up its own little game of itself.”

Neither the Colts nor Vikings have scored 60 points this season, but both teams have done things offensively that few teams in the NFL can match.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us against a very good offensive team that’s playing better on defense,” Colts tight end Marcus Pollard said. “It’s our turn for us to win at home, and that’s the key for us — to show the rest of the country what kind of team we can be.”

The Colts have scored at least 31 points in a game four times this season, and for the season, they are averaging 31 points per game. The Vikings have scored at least 34 points in a game three times this season, and for the season, they are averaging 26 points a game.

The numbers of the quarterbacks are even more overwhelming.

Daunte Culpepper, the Vikings’ quarterback and the NFC’s starting quarterback in the Pro Bowl last season, has completed 183 of 259 passes this season for 2,180 yards and 20 touchdowns with five interceptions. Culpepper threw five touchdown passes in the season opener against Dallas, then did it twice on back-to-back weeks against Houston and New Orleans.

His 113.7 passer rating is on pace to break the NFL record of 112.4 set by Steve Young of the San Francisco 49ers.

“They throw some balls that no one in the league throws, and they have a quarterback who — other than (Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb) and (Falcons quarterback) Michael Vick, — you don’t see quarterbacks make as many plays outside the framework and structure of the offense as this guy does,” Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. “They have a lot of weaponry.

“When everybody is healthy, they’re one of the best offenses in the league.”

Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss, a five-time Pro Bowl selection who has eight touchdown receptions this season, has been limited the last two games with a hamstring injury. He is questionable for Monday’s game.

Peyton Manning, the Colts’ quarterback and the NFL’s co-Most Valuable Player last season, has completed 156 of 240 passes for 2,161 yards and 22 touchdowns with four interceptions. He threw five touchdown passes in a victory over Green Bay, and did it again in a loss to Kansas City last Sunday.

Manning’s passer rating through seven games: 117.4.

The Colts enter the game ranked 32nd defensively in the NFL overall and 32nd against the pass. Last week against the Chiefs, they allowed 590 yards and six touchdowns.

“It’s a perfect opportunity because it’s Monday Night Football, and you’re playing against a high-caliber offense,” Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said.

The Vikings’ defense is ranked 25th in the NFL, 27th against the pass.

“We’re hoping they don’t score 45 points on us,” Tice said. “You have to prepare yourself to stop the other offense. Does it always work out that way? Not usually.

“I don’t think we can stop them. I’m sure they’re trying to do the same thing with their defense.”

The Colts, after winning four consecutive games after a season-opening loss to New England, lost 27-24 to the Jacksonville Jaguars two weeks ago, then lost, 45-35, to the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City.

“This is an important game,” Manning said. “We’d like to make a little bit of a run here if we can. We’ve lost two in a row. That’s disappointing and it’s a little bit of uncharted territory. Hopefully, with the veterans we have, we can rebound and we can bounce back.

“We have two games at home here, and obviously, it starts with Minnesota Monday night.

“Obviously, it’d be nice to win this one and get on a little bit of a roll here.”

The Colts, who hadn’t lost back-to-back games since November of 2002, enter Monday’s game tied with the Houston Texans (4-3) for second in the AFC South, a half-game behind Jacksonville (5-3).

Jacksonville is idle this weekend and the Texans visit Denver (5-3). The Colts will play host to the Texans next Sunday at the RCA Dome.

“Coach Dungy always points out where we are as compared to other teams in the AFC,” Manning said. “Were kind of in the middle right now, so we’d like to get on a little winning streak and move ourselves toward the top of the AFC if we can.

“We’re 4-3 and we’d like to be 5-3 after Monday. Certainly, that’s what we’re playing for — the AFC South. We can’t control what everybody else is doing and who else wins and who loses. We can control our team and we’re going to try to take care of our business.”

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

From DE to LB


The Colts are searching for other ways to involve DE Robert Mathis, who leads the team with five sacks. Mathis is too light to play the DLE spot every down, but he’s been tried at weak-side linebacker. WLB Cato June is among the team leaders in tackles, but he’s been mistake-prone in his first season as a starter. Mathis is an option, but he isn’t likely to play linebacker much this season. “It’s possible,” Mathis told PFW, adding that there are many obstacles in the move from the line to linebacker. “Just getting the instincts of a linebacker. I’ve been a defensive lineman all my career. I know what the D-line is doing. Once I get the (LB) instincts, I’ll be all right.” Mathis has very good speed and athleticism, but the coaching staff won’t expose him at linebacker until he’s 100 percent comfortable.