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Still, with five minutes left in the third quarter and the Colts trying to extend a 13-10 lead, Manning had to be a bit surprised when White sidled up to him after Collie’s five-yard catch set up a second-and-5 from the Denver 9-yard line and offered his unsolicited input.

Um, excuse me, Mr. Manning. So, uh, I was thinking that maybe, since the defender seems to be cheating to the inside that, uh, we might be able to fool him, Sir. If you think it’s a good idea, that is …

Well, not exactly.

“I probably should have [called him ‘Mr. Manning’], right?” White acknowledged afterward. “He’s probably thinking, ‘Who is this kid? Get the hell out of here.’ ” What White actually said to Manning – “My guy’s playing me inside. I think I can get him on the slant and up” – was enough to inspire the crafty quarterback’s trust. In fact, the young receiver had already laid the groundwork when few others were watching.

After the game, Manning made a point of stressing that his familiarity with White was a product of countless repetitions during offseason workouts, a reality of modern football he hopes won’t be curtailed in the next collective bargaining agreement between owners and players. Whereas a vast majority of his peers would undoubtedly relish some additional downtime in March, April, May and June, Manning is staunchly opposed to the NFL Players Association’s push to place stricter limits on OTAs. “They’re trying to get rid of offseason workouts,” Manning said. “They’re talking about extending the season to 18 games, so they’re going to cut down the offseason stuff in return. That’s not a fair trade. Offseason workouts – that’s how we’ve gotten our edge over the years. It’s how you really develop a player and improve your craft.

“Without the offseason, how do we get anybody ready to play? I’ve thrown to Blair White(notes) since we picked him up in April, and there’s no way he’s ready to play [Sunday] if I don’t have those reps with him. In training camp, there just aren’t enough reps to get familiar with a guy [near the bottom of the depth chart]. You’ve got be able to throw to him in the spring – otherwise I wouldn’t feel good about rushing him out there.” Even if White never catches another NFL pass, he’ll feel warm and fuzzy about the nine-yard touchdown grab that put Indy up 20-10: As he’d humbly suggested, White (three receptions, 27 yards) ran a slant on cornerback Perrish Cox(notes), who bit on Manning’s cold pump fake, then turned it back outside as the perfectly delivered ball settled gently into his hands.

Manning threw 43 passes on Sunday, completing 27 for 325 yards and three TDs, with no interceptions or sacks. Those are impressive numbers – granted, it’s only three games into the season, but it’s not too early to proclaim that Manning, who won an unprecedented fourth MVP award last year, has a solid shot at No. 5. Still, mere stats don’t do Manning’s brilliance justice. Neither, truth be told, does television, even of the highest-def variety. Seeing him do his thing in person, in three dimensions, arcing balls into windows tighter than a middle seat in coach between Rex Ryan and Albert Haynesworth(notes), gives you a perspective that’ll be worth sharing with the grandkids.

TWEET OF THE NIGHT

You know who has a pretty cool vantage point? That would be Collie, last year’s on-the-spot neophyte as a fourth-round draft pick and now an established resident of Peyton’s Place. On Sunday he had career highs of 12 receptions and 171 yards, including a pair of touchdowns and a 48-yard reception off a pass that was simply stupefying. With Indy up 20-13 and facing a third-and-15 from its own 17, Manning conjured an on the-fly adjustment, sending Collie on an inside route that the receiver turned back toward the right sideline. The quarterback somehow looped a crisp pass between defensive backs Nate Jones and Darcel McBath(notes), and Collie caught it cleanly for a 48-yard gain.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK

“That was pivotal,” Manning said, as Magic Johnson might have once said of a no-look pass to James Worthy for a back-breaking, fast-break dunk. Four plays later, on second-and-9 from the Broncos’ 23, Manning threw an equally beautiful ball to the right corner that Collie, falling backward, cradled with Cox in hot pursuit.

“That was a freakin’ gutsy throw,” veteran center Jeff Saturday(notes) said of Collie’s second scoring play. “He stayed in the pocket and held it, held it and knew he was gonna get hit, and he just threw the ball on a dime. What can I say? That’s what he does.”

WRAPPING THE WEEKEND

“That was pivotal,” Manning said, as Magic Johnson might have once said of a no-look pass to James Worthy for a back-breaking, fast-break dunk. Four plays later, on second-and-9 from the Broncos’ 23, Manning threw an equally beautiful ball to the right corner that Collie, falling backward, cradled with Cox in hot pursuit.

“That was a freakin’ gutsy throw,” veteran center Jeff Saturday(notes) said of Collie’s second scoring play. “He stayed in the pocket and held it, held it and knew he was gonna get hit, and he just threw the ball on a dime. What can I say? That’s what he does.”

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