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  •   Manning's Passing Boosts Colts Past Chargers

    Indianapolis Logo San Diego Logo By Bernie Wilson
    Associated Press
    Sunday, Sept. 26, 1999; 9:35 p.m. EDT

    SAN DIEGO –– As Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf prepared to enter the NFL as the top two picks in the 1998 draft, the cocky Leaf would often refer to the mature Manning as "The Golden Boy" or "Perfect Peyton."

    For once, Leaf was accurate.

    Manning had the most spectacular performance of his 19-game career, throwing for a franchise-record 404 yards to supplant Johnny Unitas in the Colts record book and embarrassing one of the NFL's best defenses as Indianapolis stunned the San Diego Chargers 27-19 on Sunday.

    "It's special because of the quarterbacks they've had here, especially John Unitas," Manning said.

    Leaf didn't even see Manning's performance in person. Coach Mike Riley said Leaf was home with a case of the flu that kept him from being at practice all week. Even if Leaf wanted to play he couldn't because he's recovering from shoulder surgery.

    The Colts (2-1) blew a 10-0 lead, but rallied behind Manning, who passed for two touchdowns and had his first career rushing touchdown. He played a marvelous game of pass-and-catch with Marvin Harrison, who tied the franchise record with 13 receptions for a career-high 196 yards and one touchdown.

    "The routes weren't like you draw them up on paper," Manning said. "They were like you draw them on dirt. It was making do with what you've got. That's all we did the second half."

    San Diego's defense, ranked No. 3 overall in the NFL, kept Edgerrin James from becoming the first rookie to rush for 100 yards in each of his first three games, but the Chargers (1-1) ended up paying dearly through the air.

    "Once we shut down the run, it looked like a run-and-shoot team out there," linebacker Junior Seau said. "Hats off to them. They did a great job."

    How much has Manning improved from his rookie year?

    "Peyton Manning just threw for over 400 yards, and you just don't do that in this league," Seau said.

    Manning broke the previous franchise record of 401 yards by Unitas, set for the Baltimore Colts against Atlanta on Sept. 17, 1967, nine years before Manning was born. Manning completed 29 of 54 passes in surpassing his previous career-best of 357 yards set last Nov. 29 at Baltimore. This was his fifth 300-yard game.

    The Colts trailed 19-13 going into the fourth quarter, but Manning's 18-yard scoring run and his 26-yard pass to Terrance Wilkins brought them back.

    Manning's run capped an eight-play, 83-yard drive that put the Colts ahead for good, 20-19. Manning said it was pass play all the way, with the last option calling for a run.

    He told his teammates in the huddle that he'd call a dummy audible to make the Chargers think run. Manning faked a handoff to James going left, then took off to the right and beat safety Greg Jackson to the end zone.

    "Speed kills," Manning joked.

    "They bit really hard," Manning said. "The secondary was covering the receivers. I looked for the guy to account for me and there was nobody there. I looked to throw to freeze them for a second and then I got to the corner of the end zone."

    The losing quarterback was Jim Harbaugh, who played with Indianapolis from 1994-97 and almost got the Colts into the Super Bowl following the 1995 season. He was traded to Baltimore in February 1998, clearing the way for the Colts to draft Manning.

    The Chargers' offense showed little zip for the second straight week.

    "Speaking for myself, I didn't get the plays done," said Harbaugh, who was 15-for-37 for 188 yards and one interception. "Peyton Manning outplayed me today."

    The Chargers got the ball to the Colts 24 in the closing seconds, but Harbaugh was intercepted on the final play by Tyrone Poole.

    With his 13 catches, Harrison tied the club record set by Lydell Mitchell set on Dec. 15, 1974, against the New York Jets and matched by Joe Washington on Sept. 2, 1979, at Kansas City.

    "I'm happy we're winning," Harrison said. "If it takes Peyton and me to do what we did today, then that's what we'll keep doing."

    The Colts jumped to a 10-0 lead before San Diego got its first first down.

    Manning set the tone with a 41-yard completion to Harrison on the game's first play, although Mike Vanderjagt was wide left on a 36-yard field-goal attempt.

    Vanderjagt came back to kick a 35-yarder, then Harrison ran right past cornerback Jimmy Spencer for a 33-yard touchdown with 1:19 to play in the first quarter. Harrison kept the drive going with a one-handed, 16-yard catch on third down.

    San Diego made up the deficit by scoring twice in 1:09, on a 1-yard run by Natrone Means and a blocked punt by Michael Dumas that Darryll Lewis recovered in the end zone for a 14-10 lead.

    The Chargers made it 16-10 with 2:53 to go before halftime when Larry Moore's snapped the ball out of the zone for a safety.

    Notes: Harrison has caught at least one pass in all 47 of his NFL games. ... His previous career high was 128 yards. ... In the 15 games Manning and Harrison have played, they've combined for 13 TD passes. ... Riley was trying to become the first Chargers coach to start his career with two victories. ... The Chargers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 games. ... Chargers S Rodney Harrison strained his right hamstring and CB Terrance Shaw sprained his right ankle.

    © Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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