Colts 35, Titans 3
Peyton Manning found a correlation for the Indianapolis Colts' pursuit of NFL history.
After leading Indianapolis to a 12-0 start with another victory on Sunday, Manning compared his team's quest for the second perfect season in NFL history to last year, when he set the league's single-season record for touchdown passes with 49.
"The offensive players, the receivers, we were trying to score touchdowns for us to help the team win. Anything that comes along with winning, you take it," Manning said after the Colts beat Tennessee, 35-3, at the RCA Dome.
"As a student of the history of the game, I'm very respectful of what other teams, other players have accomplished. But when you're in the middle of it -- a quote I've liked to use is 'Enjoy the journey, not the destination.' "
For the Colts, it is becoming quite a journey.
If they can win four more games, they'll finish the regular season unbeaten, matching the NFL's only unbeaten team, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went 14-0 before going on to win the Super Bowl.
The Colts became the fifth team in NFL history to start 12-0. All three teams to do so since 1970 -- the 1972 Dolphins, 1985 Chicago Bears and 1998 Denver Broncos -- won the Super Bowl.
Dating from last season, Indianapolis has won 20 of its past 21 regular season games, the only loss a 33-14 setback at Denver in the final game last year when there was nothing to play for and the stars rested. Sunday's victory secured the Colts' sixth playoff appearance in the past seven years.
"I don't pay attention to measuring sticks until we get to the end," said team president Bill Polian, who is in his eighth year with the Colts.
The Colts have won 12 games for three years in a row and at least 10 in six of the past seven years after reaching double-figure victories only nine times from 1947 to '99. (They joined the NFL in 1950.) The Colts have games remaining at Jacksonville (Sunday), at home against San Diego (Dec. 18), at Seattle (Dec. 24) and at home against Arizona (Jan. 1). "Everybody is buying into the one-game-at-a-time," running back Edgerrin James said. "That's the main thing. Coach [Tony] Dungy is doing a great job of keeping everything in perspective. Everything is strictly on the opponent we have the upcoming week."
Manning threw his 25th touchdown pass of the season, a 27-yarder to Reggie Wayne that put the Colts up 21-3 early in the third quarter. The scoring strike extended Manning's own NFL record for consecutive seasons with 25 or more touchdown passes to eight.
James, dancing in and out of holes and plowing through them when necessary, rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. The seventh-year back surpassed 9,000 career rushing yards (9,067) in his 93rd game, the third fastest pace in NFL history. Only Eric Dickerson (82 games) and Jim Brown (88) reached 9,000 rushing yards in fewer games.
Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison had four catches for 61 yards and became the 12th player in NFL history to surpass 12,000 receiving yards (12,040).
The Colts continue to win at times with an explosive offense and at times with a markedly improved defense. They've scored 30 points or more seven times, and they've held opponents to 10 or fewer seven times.
The win was the 100th career coaching victory for Dungy, making him the sixth coach to win 100 games in his first 10 seasons, a list that includes Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs.
The Colts led just 14-3 at halftime, but went on touchdown drives of 72 and 68 yards in the third quarter. Defensive tackle Larry Tripplett snagged a Steve McNair fumble out of the air and raced 60 yards for the final score.