Manning would pass on records

Quarterback: More major numbers are possible for the Colts' star, but the only ones he cares about have wins attached.

September 11, 2005|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Where does Peyton Manning go from 49?

To a gaudy 5,085? A precise .710? Or perhaps an otherworldly eight?

We're talking NFL passing records here. Manning, the quintessential quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, would prefer the Super Bowl, but his single-season record of 49 touchdown throws didn't do it last year.

Now, he and the Colts are back in pursuit of an ostentatious, diamond-studded championship ring, and if a couple of NFL records happen to fall out of the passing tree along the way, so be it.

Manning had one of last season's story lines by chasing - and ultimately bettering - Dan Marino's record 48 touchdown passes in 1984.

Can he topple another record? And if so, which one?

Marino's single-season record of 5,084 passing yards, set in 1984?

Ken Anderson's single-season record for completion percentage of .7055, set in 1982?

The single-game record of seven touchdown passes, accomplished by five players, the most recent of whom was Joe Kapp against, ahem, the Baltimore Colts in 1969?

Whatever it might be, it will fall under the broad heading of playing to win. As we saw last year, Manning doesn't play to set records.

"It wasn't like last year our goal was to break the touchdown record," said Colts tight end Dallas Clark. "That was just a byproduct of everyone working hard and doing some good things and making big plays.

"This year, we're just going to go about our business and it's going to be a whole new season. We don't know what's in store."

First up in the surprise bin is the Ravens' blitzing 46 defense. When Manning opens the season tonight at M&T Bank Stadium, he will be operating under a new bar he raised himself.

Whether he throws for two touchdowns, one or none tonight, you should expect this to be a special year for the 29-year-old wunderkind. He is, after all, just coming into the best years of a quarterback's career. He has some of the best big-play weapons in football in his offense. And he has a work ethic designed to make special things happen.

He also hones a sharp competitive edge.

"I'm the first one to say it: What we did last year means nothing," Manning said. "Our division teams don't care. New teams on our schedule don't care. It's what we're going to do this year that matters.

"I feel I've been a better player each year I've been in the league."

The eighth-year veteran is not exaggerating, either.

He has increased his touchdown passes the past three years (27, 29, 49). He has thrown a career-low 10 interceptions each of the past two years. He has improved his completion percentage every season since the first, culminating with a .676 effort in 2004.

His passer rating of 121.1 a year ago shattered the league record of 112.8 established by Steve Young in 1994. Last year, he had eight straight games with at least three touchdown passes. He had five straight games with four.

This is a quarterback at the top of his game - who doesn't act like it.

"Experience is the best teacher," Manning said. "I've heard a lot of older quarterbacks, a lot of commentators ask: `Are you still doing the things that you did when you first got here? Are you still carrying out your fakes, are you still taking your five-step drop properly?'

"I try to wear out the basics. I have an excellent quarterback coach, Jim Caldwell, who I think is going to be a head coach at some level very soon."

Manning meets with Caldwell and offensive coordinator Tom Moore at 7:15 a.m. during the offseason and then devotes a workout to one specific area.

"Jim counts my throws," Manning said. "Fifty throws a day in April. Seventy-five today; we might push it to 100 tomorrow. Then we'll focus on throwing left, focus on throwing right, focus on moving in the pocket.

"You do that work in April, May and June, then you get to third-and-five in November with a defensive lineman in your face, it's like a reset drill. You have to trust that mechanics and fundamentals will be there, and count on experience."

Manning is famous for his study of tape and his game preparation. The no-huddle offense the Colts will use tonight gives him an advantage he has earned that few other quarterbacks could even touch. It's the ability to make play calls at the line of scrimmage while he motions receivers to and fro in the formation.

It's a tactic that infuriates opposing defensive coordinators and leaves defensive players scrambling in response to the Colts' movement.

"Ultimately, what he wants to learn is what you're playing, and he will put his offense in the best play he can," said Rex Ryan, the Ravens' first-time coordinator.

"I think they're pretty effective getting people's signals. If he knows you're in a certain coverage, he will carve you up."

Asked about Manning's attributes, Ryan mentions the confidence level that accompanies him, and his command of the passing game. But what really grabs Ryan's attention is Manning's toughness.

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