Peyton Manning isn't playing favorites as he continues his assault on Dan Marino's NFL record for touchdown passes in a season. In the wake of Manning's six-TD afternoon in a 41--9 pasting of the Lions on Thanksgiving Day, Indianapolis wideouts Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley are on pace to have the best season for a trio of receivers in league history. Only three times have three teammates surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in the same season: most recently Bert Emanuel, Terance Mathis and Eric Metcalf of the 1995 Falcons. And never has a team had three players with at least 10 touchdown receptions the same year. The Colts' trio is on pace to do both.
"One of the strengths of the three guys," coach Tony Dungy said last Friday, "is each one enters every game thinking, Today's going to be [my] day. They may get a little frustrated when it isn't, but we're going to have about 25 completions in an average game. We've got six really good receivers, so the math isn't going to work for each of them each week. In Detroit, Marvin had 12 [catches], Reggie had three. They're professional enough to know it'll probably be different next week."
"Marvin makes it all go," says Vikings safety Corey Chavous, who chased the Colts' wideouts during a 31--28 loss to Indianapolis on Nov. 8. "He's so precise, and he's so hard to cover. Reggie's more physical than he looks, and Stokley just gets open."
Manning, who with 41 touchdown passes--and five games left--is on pace to shatter Marino's record of 48, truly is an equal-opportunity thrower. Harrison has 11 touchdowns and 764 yards, Wayne nine and 779, Stokley eight and 729. They're bolstered by three more receiving threats: tight ends Dallas Clark and Marcus Pollard and running back Edgerrin James, who might actually be the key to the attack. "So many of our touchdown passes have come on play-action," Dungy says. "That works wonders when you've got a runner teams respect as much as they do Edgerrin."