DETROIT (AP)—Peyton Manning barks and gestures at the line of scrimmage, adjusting to defenses and changing play calls.
It might seem like chaos, but he’s in complete control. Blitzing linebackers or disguised coverages don’t faze him. Manning truly seems flustered only when he’s far from the field, standing in a locker room to talk about his remarkable performances.
In his latest brilliant display, Manning threw for six touchdowns in less than three quarters and raised his season total to 41 TD passes, leading the Indianapolis Colts past the Detroit Lions 41-9 Thursday.
He set an NFL record with at least four TD passes in a fifth straight game— and he did it by halftime. Dan Marino had a four-game streak with at least four TDs in 1984, when he also set a league mark with 48 TD passes in a season.
“I feel uncomfortable talking about anything individual,” said Manning, almost pleading to change the subject. “I just want to keep winning.”
Look at the performance this way: Manning had more TDs than incompletions.
“He’s the best that’s ever played this game as far as quarterbacks are concerned,” Stokley said. “When he’s retired, they’ll compare everybody to Peyton Manning, without a doubt.”
The reeling Lions (4-7) didn’t help themselves by fumbling four times in their territory, missing a field goal and stalling repeatedly in the red zone.
Fittingly, backup quarterback Mike McMahon fumbled on the final play before scooping up the football and throwing an interception in the end zone to cap what’s now a five-game losing streak.
“This is the pinnacle of those five losses,” cornerback Fernando Bryant said.
The Colts replaced Manning with Jim Sorgi late in the third quarter. Otherwise, the QB would have had a shot at tying the NFL record of seven touchdown passes in a game, shared by five players: Sid Luckman, Adrian Burk, George Blanda, Y.A. Tittle and Joe Kapp.
Manning matched the Colts record he set in September 2003 against New Orleans, his father’s old team. Before that performance, no one had thrown for six TDs in an NFL game in a dozen years.
With five regular-season games left, Manning has already matched Kurt Warner for third-most TD passes in a season. Marino threw 44 TDs in 1986.
“Whatever record they want to break, they have a chance,” Lions coach Steve Mariucci said.
Marino, now a CBS analyst, was asked at halftime how teams should deal with Manning.
“Blitz him!” Marino said.
The Lions tried that at times, but they were no match for Manning’s quick release and sound decision-making.
All the offense is helping the Colts overcome their less-than-stellar defense. Indianapolis has won four straight games, scoring at least 40 points in each of the past three.
Detroit and its quarterback are headed in the opposite direction.
A month ago, the Lions were being praised for their turnaround after winning an NFL-low 10 games the last three years. They have reverted to their old ways.
Joey Harrington was 14-of-23 for 156 yards before he was benched in favor of McMahon late in the third quarter.
No such problems for the Colts. Harrison caught 12 passes for 127 yards, and Stokley had five receptions for 57 yards. Edgerrin James had 23 carries for 105 yards.
Stokley caught his three TDs in the first half, and Harrison had one of his to help the Colts take a 27-9 lead at the break.
Lions returner Eddie Drummond, who has scored on four punt and kickoff returns this season, left at the start of the second half with a shoulder injury that could end his season. Things got so bad for the Lions that Drummond’s replacement, Reggie Swinton, fumbled on a punt return and the football was recovered by Colts punter Hunter Smith.
Detroit’s subdued fans came to life when Harrington was replaced by McMahon late in the third quarter. But McMahon couldn’t help the offense much, going 11-of-15 for 105 yards and the game-ending interception.
Mariucci said despite the change, Harrington has not lost his job.
“I thought Joey did OK, but the score got away from us, so I saw an opportunity to get Mike some much-deserved playing time,” Mariucci said.
Kevin Jones ran for 99 yards on 12 carries for the Lions, who fell to 33-30-2 in their traditional Thanksgiving Day home games. The Colts handed Detroit its most lopsided loss on the holiday.
Indianapolis C Jeff Saturday (strained calf) and DE Josh Thomas (knee) were injured. … Before the game, the Lions honored three of their former greats—Barry Sanders, Lem Barney and Billy Sims—all of whom wore No. 20. Sanders also received his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring; he was inducted last summer.