The Baltimore Ravens will be looking to make Manning work for the record for at least one more week.
Manning, three touchdowns shy of breaking Dan Marino’s 20-year-old mark, leads the Colts’ high-powered offense against a stingy Ravens defense when the teams meet at the RCA Dome.
“I know how hard it is to throw touchdowns,” said Manning, leading the NFL with 46 touchdowns and 3,919 passing yards. “They don’t come easy.”
That was true last week for Manning, who threw for 298 yards and two scores as Indianapolis won its sixth straight and clinched its second consecutive AFC South title with a 23-14 win over Houston.
Manning had both of his touchdowns in the first 12 minutes, but the Texans kept the Colts out of the end zone the rest of the way. Indianapolis settled for three field goals in the second half.
“The idea was to get the win. That was the whole idea,” said Manning, who was 26-of-33 with no interceptions. “You don’t want to let these opportunities slip away. … I need to do whatever it takes to win, and whatever happens along with it is great.”
Edgerrin James ran for 104 yards and had seven catches for 54 yards to take over the NFL lead in rushing yards (1,395) and yards from scrimmage (1,814). Reggie Wayne had seven receptions for 96 yards and one touchdown.
Manning failed to dominate a weak Houston secondary for the second time this season after throwing five TDs in a 49-14 win over the Texans on Nov. 14. The 2003 co-MVP didn’t record at least three touchdown passes for the first time in nine games.
He did get his 13th straight multi-TD game, breaking a record held by Marino, Johnny Unitas, Don Meredith and Brett Favre, but the Colts had their lowest point total of the season in failing to become the first NFL team to score 40 points in five straight games.
“That’s how it’s going to be sometimes,” receiver Brandon Stokley said. “You can’t score 40 points every time.”
Indianapolis leads the NFL with 422.7 yards and 34.9 points per game, but could have a tough time matching those averages against Baltimore. The Ravens are sixth in the league with 287.5 total yards allowed per game and are surrendering just 15.8 points.
The Colts should be prepared to score a bit less over the final weeks with closing matchups against Baltimore, San Diego and Denver—teams that feature three of the league’s best defenses.
“Every game makes you better, as long as you win,” Manning said.
Manning is still on pace for 57 TDs, and his passer rating of 126.3 would far surpass Steve Young’s 1994 record of 112.8.
Manning also needs 81 passing yards to extend his own NFL record of consecutive 4,000-yard seasons to six, which would also tie Marino for most in a career. No other quarterback in league history has had more than three straight seasons with 4,000.
The Ravens remain in the thick of the AFC wild-card hunt after snapping a two-game slide with a 37-14 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.
Lewis, who returned after missing two games with a sprained right ankle, ran for just 32 yards on eight carries in the first half against the Giants, but will see a lot more action Sunday as the Ravens try to keep the ball out of Manning’s hands as much as possible.
“I think Jamal is ready to play 40-45 snaps. If he’s got to go 60, he will,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
With three games left, Baltimore’s main competition for the two remaining playoff spots are the New York Jets (9-4) and Denver Broncos (8-5). The Ravens face another tough road matchup at Pittsburgh on Dec. 26 before closing at home against Miami on Jan. 2.
“There are no scenarios,” Billick said. “We’ve got to win to get in, and then we’ll go wherever they send us. We’re not playing for home-field advantage, we’re not playing for a bye, we’re not playing to get at home.”