Thursday, December 30, 2004

Legend in the Making

Not to take anything away from Dan Marino, I feel Dan is an all time great. Dan is a football icon or legend, either or works.

But the pedigree is strong in Peyton. Manning broke Marino's record of 48 touchdown passes this past Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. Throwing for 49 TD'S with one game left to go in the season.

It wasn't like Coach Dungy or Peyton wanted to intentionally break the record or cared to break the record.

In the team effort Manning has three of his receivers over 1,000 yards. WOW! That would be a first I believe.

In breaking the record Manning did it with style and the only one should break the record. In a dramatic come back to send the game into over time. I'm sure Dan couldn't really be upset with that.

Manning still has many years and records left to break. But he is there yet. Though he is a lengend in the Making. Just like my father used to say, "There is always room for improvment."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Heading to Hawaii

By John Oehser -
The Triplets are doing Honolulu as a group. Again.

And one year after making one kind of Pro Bowl history for the Colts, a defensive end made a different kind Wednesday.

Wide receiver Marvin Harrison.

Quarterback Peyton Manning.

Running back Edgerrin James.

Defensive end Dwight Freeney.

That’s the 2005 Pro Bowl roster for the Indianapolis Colts, a roster that includes three players who made the NFL’s prestigious post-season all-star game last year — Harrison, Manning and Freeney — and another, James, who is returning after a difficult four-year absence.

“I certainly appreciate it,” said Manning, the NFL’s co-Most Valuable Player last year who made the game for the fifth time in his seven-year career and he received a record 1,075,089 votes in fan voting.

“I know it’s voted on by your peers, other coaches and the fans. I’m proud to represent the Colts there and I’m real happy for Marvin, Edgerrin and Dwight. I’m appreciative of the fans and their votes. I’ve never taken for granted being able to play quarterback in the NFL.

“I’m enjoying doing that, and I do appreciate that.”

Harrison, James and Manning — known as the Triplets — made the game together in 1999 and 2000, their first two seasons together, but had not gone as a group since.

The rosters for the game were announced Wednesday, and the starters for the game will be announced January 8 during a wild-card playoff game on ABC-TV.

The Pro Bowl will be played February 13, 2005, in Honolulu, Hawaii, and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

“You want to make it a consistent thing,” Freeney said. “I think that’s a big honor. You can say, ‘Well, you did it once — that’s a fluke year.’ If you make it with consistency, that kind of says what kind of guy you are.”

Manning, the first player to receive more than one million votes in the NFL Pro Bowl fan balloting, was voted to the game for the fifth time in six seasons. He has made the game three consecutive seasons after making it in 1999 and 2000.

Manning, who is one touchdown shy of the NFL single-season record for touchdown passes, has completed 308 of 451 passes this season for 4,168 yards and 47 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

The NFL record for touchdown passes in a season is 48, set by Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino in 1984. The league record for single-season passer rating is 112.8, set by Steve Young of the San Francisco 49ers in 1994.

Harrison, the AFC’s leading vote-getter at receiver among fans with 722,477 votes, made his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl.

Harrison, who leads the Colts with 75 receptions through 14 games, has 969 yards receiving this season and has 14 touchdown receptions.

James made the game for the first time since sustaining a serious knee injury midway through the 2001 season.

James, who led the NFL in rushing in 1999 and 2000 — his first two NFL seasons — made the Pro Bowl in each of those seasons, and was leading the NFL in rushing in 2001 when he sustained his knee injury in late October. He returned the following season to rush for 989 yards and rushed for more than 1,200 yards last season.

This season, James is 37 yards off the NFL lead with 1,464 yards and nine touchdowns on 311 carries.

He is second in the AFC and NFL behind Curtis Martin of the New York Jets.

“He’s had an outstanding year,” Manning said of James. “Some people have said he’s been somewhat unnoticed, but not around here.”

Freeney, who last year became the first Colts defensive player since 1987 to make the Pro Bowl, made the game for a second consecutive season. He leads the NFL with 15 sacks, and has eight sacks in the last three games.

Freeney, who had 13 sacks as a rookie and 11 last season in his second season, had three sacks in back-to-back victories over Tennessee and Houston and this past Sunday night, he had two against Baltimore Ravens All-Pro tackle Jonathan Ogden.

Freeney, the first defensive player in the Colts’ 21 seasons in Indianapolis to make two or more Pro Bowls, is the first Colts defensive player since defensive end John Dutton (1976-1977) to make the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons.

The Colts, despite ranking among the top 10 teams in the NFL in total offense every year since 1999, have not had Pro Bowl offensive lineman during that span. The Colts this season have allowed just nine sacks and rank 12th in the NFL in rushing.

Colts center Jeff Saturday is widely considered one of the NFL’s top players at his position, as is left tackle Tarik Glenn. Offensive guard Rick DeMulling also has emerged as one of the best players in the conference at his position, as has fourth-year tackle Ryan Diem.

“We’re a star-type team, because we’ve got some guys who are great skill position players,” Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. “Because of that, I don’t think our offensive line necessarily gets the credit they deserve. When you can possibly have the leading rusher in the NFL and possibly give up the least amount of sacks in the NFL, you have to be doing something real well. We have a few guys who are doing it really, really well. They’re not household words, but from their standpoint, I think they’d like to keep it that way.

“Those guys (the Colts’ skill-position players) are good at what they do, but our offensive line is really good at what they do also. I think the guys that play against them realize that, but really not many other people.

“I don’t think it bothers them. They like to get recognized as a group.”

Said Saturday, “All we can do is do what we do. We have a great rusher and great sack totals. That’s really all we can control and go out and keep doing our jobs. There’s not much you can do to control things like that.

“You just go and keep playing each week. Whenever it’s our time, it will be our time.”

With the Colts leading the NFL in scoring and second in total offense, Manning said he didn’t understand how any Colts linemen or more Colts receivers were not included.

“It’s hard for me to pick (only) one of those (linemen), because my locker sits among all those guys and I appreciate every single one of them,” Manning said. “One guy who has had a true Pro Bowl year is (wide receiver) Reggie Wayne. What he’s done for this offense and for me is significant.

“It hasn’t been common for two receivers to go, but I think Reggie has really had a Pro Bowl year. I know how people on this team feel about him and I’m disappointed about him.

“That kind of jumped out to me.”

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Another Kicker Signed

By John Oehser -
The Colts have spent much of the season looking for a way to improve their kickoffs.

On Wednesday, they tried again.

This time, they did it with a well-known NFL name.

And one very familiar to Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy.

Martin Gramatica, a six-year NFL veteran who was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, signed with the Colts Wednesday. He will handle kickoff duties, an area the Colts have focused on improving through much of the season.

“I’m just thankful for the opportunity,” Gramatica, who played for Dungy in Tampa Bay from 1999-2001. “There’s no other place I’d rather be than with Coach Dungy. It means a lot for him to give me an opportunity.

“I was going to take the rest of the year off. There’s five weeks left in the season and nowhere to go, but I’m really thankful to get the opportunity to come kick off here.”

Mike Vanderjagt, the Colts’ kicker since 1998 and the NFL’s all-time field goal accuracy leader, will continue to handle field goals and extra points, Dungy said.

The Colts released kickoff specialist Jason Baker, who had kicked off the last four games.

“I called Martin after he got released, just to tell him to hang in there and know that he’s going to kick somewhere in the league,” Dungy said. (Colts President) Bill (Polian) approached me the other day and said, ‘We’ve already committed to the kickoff spot. Is this guy a better kickoff man than Jason Baker?’ I said, ‘He probably is.’

“It’s just a move to make your team a little bit better.”

Gramatica, a 1999 third-round draft selection from Kansas State, made 137 of 179 field goals in nearly six seasons with the Buccaneers, but over the last two seasons he went 27-of-45 and was released after missing all three field-goal attempts – all from under 40 yards – in a 21-14 loss to Carolina on November 28.

Gramatica made 11 of 19 field goals this season, a career-low 57.9 percent.

On kickoffs, he has been far more consistent.

“When you’re doing both, you focus on making every kick,” Gramatica said. “You don’t put the kickoffs aside, but you make sure you make the kicks. I won’t be doing that here, so I’m just going to focus on kicking that ball as deep as I can.”

In 89 career games, he had 44 touchbacks in 411 kickoffs and the average return on his kickoffs is 21.5 yards. This season, he had six touchbacks on 46 kickoffs and opponents averaged 21.5 yards per return.

“Jason kicked well for us,” Dungy said. “The thing Martin can do, when we get to situations and outdoors, if you want to finesse kick and put the balls in the corner – Jason was not going to be that skilled, as a power kicker. Where we do want to do different things with the ball, Martin can do those things a little bit better.”

The Colts drafted Penn State kicker David Kimball last April to compete for the kickoff role, but released him before the season. They have had four players handle kickoffs this season – Vanderjagt for six games, kicker Matt Bryant for one when Vanderjagt was injured, punter Hunter Smith for one and Baker the last four games.

The Colts rank last in the AFC and 31st in the NFL in kickoff coverage, with opponents averaging starting at their 31.5-yard line. The Colts have three touchbacks this season. The Buccaneers rank seventh in the NFL with an average opponents’ starting point of the 28-yard line.