November 25, 2004

Manning to Face Detroit, Marino’s Record

DETROIT - Peyton Manning won't threaten Dan Marino's record when the Colts play at Detroit on Thanksgiving, but he can take another step toward the milestone the former Miami Dolphins star set in 1984.

"People are starting to ask about it on a weekly basis," he said. "I know it's a boring answer, but I just want to keep winning games."

Manning, who has thrown at least four TDs in four straight games to tie another Marino mark, said he's thankful he doesn't play in a sport with 162 regular-season games. He is on pace to break Marino's record of 48 touchdowns in a season.

"I can't imagine those baseball players, if anyone goes out on a hitting streak, trying to go after (Joe) DiMaggio's streak or anyone flirting with hitting .400 like Ted Williams," Manning said. "Or (Mark) McGwire or (Barry) Bonds in the home run chase.

"That's a lot of games those guys have to deal with those questions."

Through 10 games, he leads NFL with 35 TDs, two more than his previous career best, 2,960 yards passing and a passer rating of 122.2.

Colts coach Tony Dungy said if his quarterback was focused on the record, he could've thrown for even more scores this season.

"We go to the line of scrimmage all the time with a run-pass option. He can call a pass on every play," Dungy said.

The Colts are 7-3.

In a game earlier this season, Dungy said Manning called three or four straight runs when he probably could've tossed yet another TD, but wanted to get Edgerrin James in the end zone.

Detroit cornerback Fernando Bryant knows what he and the rest of his teammates on defense are in for when they try to slow down Manning.

"I played him in college and I've played in the pros," said Bryant, a former Jacksonville Jaguars and Alabama standout. "Over the last 10 years, he's the most complete player in this league."

The Lions hoped they landed a star quarterback of their own when they took Joey Harrington No.3 overall in the 2002 draft. Now, they're not so sure.

When Detroit was 4-2 a month ago and being hailed as an improved team after winning an NFL-low 10 games the previous three seasons, Harrington had thrown nine TDs and just two interceptions. They are now 4-6.

Since then, the Lions have lost four straight and Harrington has thrown for four TDs and four interceptions.

"He was off to a good start," Dungy said. "Just watching the tape recently, it just doesn't seem like he's as comfortable.

"I went through that in Tampa with Trent Dilfer. We kind of hung in there with Trent. He went through a couple periods of ups and downs, but then he came on and took us to the playoffs. I think the same thing will happen with Joey."

Backup Mike McMahon took more snaps with Detroit's No.1 offense during practice for the second straight week, but Harrington insisted he's not worried about job security.

"I'm not playing like I'm playing for my job," Harrington said.

If Harrington and/or the Lions struggle against the Colts, a national television audience will hear just how unpopular he is in the Motor City.

"He is getting booed a lot at home," Lions CEO Matt Millen said. "But that's only because it's easy to blame the quarterback."

Harrington is optimistic - or delusional - about Detroit's ability to keep up with the Colts on the scoreboard. Harrington's options when he passes or hands off the ball are average at best and his offensive line has been a disappointment.

"I think we can outscore anybody," Harrington insisted.

With Manning directing an offense with several capable receivers and James in the backfield, Indianapolis is averaging an NFL-best 33.9 points.

"They have a lot of special players," Lions defensive tackle Shaun Rogers said. "Put them all together and they've got the total package."

The Lions would be in even worse shape if Eddie Drummond wasn't returning punts and kickoffs for them.

Drummond, who scored three touchdowns on returns in the last two games, is the first player in league history to score three straight touchdowns for a team on punt and kickoff returns. If Drummond can score again off a punt or kickoff, he will be the first to score on five returns in a season.

"We wanted to go to the jump ball theory and just have a jump ball at midfield every time you start," Dungy joked.

As a Michigan native, Dungy is aware of Detroit's ability to pull off upsets in its annual Thanksgiving game. The Lions have won seven of their last 10 on the holiday and are 33-29-2 overall.

"I remember all of those Green Bay games growing up when I was a kid in the '60s," said Dungy, who was born in Jackson, about 80 miles west of Detroit. "It really didn't matter what type of year the Lions were having, you could almost count on them having a tremendous game."