Manning unmoved by return of Colts NFL: The No. 1 pick knows his team is a hated foe of many Ravens fans, but he's too young to fully grasp why.

November 26, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Peyton Manning was just 8 years old when the moving vans carried the Baltimore Colts franchise off to Indianapolis in the dead of night back in 1984.

"I was freezing my tail off up there in Minnesota because my dad was with the Vikings. That's what I remember about 1984," Manning said yesterday. "Being a football fan, I'm aware of the situation. To tell you in '84, I knew what was going on in Baltimore, no, I can't tell you that."

Manning will get a closer look Sunday at what happened in Baltimore.

It's his misfortune to be the rookie quarterback for the Colts when they make their first visit to Baltimore since the move.

Since the Colts are 2-9 and 29th in the league against the run, their only hope would be to catch the Ravens taking them lightly.

That's not likely to happen because they're the Colts and the Baltimore fans figure to be into this game. A victory over the Colts would take some of the sting out of the Ravens' losing season.

Manning, though, doesn't seem to understand the Baltimore mind-set toward the move.

"I'm sure you have a combination of both, some people who still have a passion for the Colts football team, some people who are probably bitter toward the Colts. You probably get a mix there. We're expecting a hostile crowd," he said.

It's likely to be hostile, but he's not likely to find many fans in Baltimore who have a passion for the Colts -- except to see them lose.

Coach Jim Mora, who won a USFL title in 1985 with a team called the Baltimore Stars even though they practiced in Philadelphia and played at College Park, seems to have a better sense of the situation.

"I'm going to talk to the team about all of this," he said. "I hope it doesn't become a distraction for us. Do I think they [players] really understand [what this game means in Baltimore]. No. I don't at this point."

Baltimore fans will recognize the Colts by more than just the horseshoes on their helmets. They had losing seasons their last six years in Baltimore and they're losing once again.

They pretty much have a two-man gang in Manning and running back Marshall Faulk, but they have no defense to back them up.

"We need help. We're bad against the run," Mora said. "Those stats [29th against the run] don't lie. It scares me to death coming in against those guys."

Priest Holmes got 227 yards against the 30th defense against the run (Cincinnati) last week and figures to have a big game against the Colts.

Despite the 2-9 record, Manning has lived up to every expectation for the Colts. His problem is that they fall behind because of their lack of defense and then he has to throw too much to try to catch up.

Mora admits he was worried about how Manning would react to the pressure of being thrown into the fray from the first practice as the first pick in the draft, but he has passed every test.

"You worry about if he fails, how would he handle things, would it hurt him down the road, would it destroy his confidence, how he's going to react to adversity? Well, none of that happened. He's handled things above and beyond what I ever anticipated," he said.

The son of former NFL standout Archie Manning, Peyton has kept his poise. He has had none of the off-the-field problems that have hampered the No. 2 pick, San Diego quarterback Ryan Leaf.

Manning has had the typical troubles of a rookie quarterback, especially one playing on a losing team. He has 22 interceptions compared to 16 touchdown passes. By contrast, the Colts' defense has given up 16 touchdown passes and intercepted only six passes.

But Manning has passed for 2,453 yards and showed flashes of the potential that made him the top pick.

When Mora was asked if Manning was too good to be true, he said, "I don't want to say that about him only because of the way it sounds. To me, it sounds like he's a savior or something. I don't want to put anybody in that category. All I can tell you is he's everything we thought he would be."

He added, "I believe to be really successful, you've got to have a quarterback and a great defense. I know we've got the quarterback."

Manning returns the compliment. "I know he's [Mora] going to be a winner for the Colts. I'm glad to be playing for him," Manning said.

If Mora doesn't improve the rest of the team, Manning could suffer the same fate as his father, who played on all those losing teams in New Orleans. After all, the Colts have won just two playoff games since the late Bob Irsay bought the team in 1972.

Manning, though, remains upbeat. "It's just a matter of playing consistently at a high level every Sunday. I think we'll get to that point soon," he said.

Baltimore fans could tell Manning he may be in for a long wait.

Colts at a glance

Last game: Lost at Buffalo, 34-11.

Last meeting with Ravens: Won, 26-21, on Oct. 13, 1996, in Indianapolis.

Who's hot: Marshall Faulk, on pace to rush and catch for 1,000 yards, has been more of a threat receiving than rushing. He caught eight passes for 102 yards against Buffalo last week and leads the NFL with 62 receptions. The last time a running back finished first in receiving was 1985, when Roger Craig led the NFL and Lionel James led the AFC.

Who's not: The defense. It ranks next to last in the NFL, giving up 367.5 yards per game, including 159.4 on the ground.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Indianapolis Colts

Site: Ravens stadium

When: Sunday, 1: 01 p.m. TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Tickets: Sold out

Line: Ravens by 5 1/2

Pub Date: 11/26/98

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