As Manning soars, Vandy gets sour

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

The way Peyton Manning is going, you can see how some among the Indianapolis Colts braintrust have been lulled into the idea they no longer need a field-goal kicker.

In fact, it's starting to sound like the Colts don't want the reliable foot of Mike Vanderjagt beyond this season, but more on that later.

Manning was the showman again yesterday in Indianapolis, throwing five touchdown passes in a 49-14 Colts rout of the Houston Texans.

His third five-TD game this fall runs Manning's total to 31, putting him on pace to surpass former Miami Dolphin great Dan Marino's NFL record of 48 in a season.

So explosive is the Manning-led offence that on three of its touchdown drives yesterday, the Colts ate up just 2:06 from the clock.

"We're the kind of offence that's score, score, score; attack, attack, attack," Manning said afterward. "We're hitting on all cylinders."

The Colts even added a rare dose of defence yesterday, winning at the RCA Dome to improve their record to 6-3 and a share of first place in the AFC South.

If there is bad news, it appears to be coming at the expense of Oakville native Vanderjagt, who yesterday missed his third field goal try in just nine attempts this year.

It has been a frustrating season for Vanderjagt, who had his regular-season record for consecutive field goals snapped in a season-opening game loss against the New England Patriots.

Though he has been kept busy kicking extra points on the frequent Colts touchdowns, Vanderjagt was stripped of his kickoff duties two games ago and wasn't too happy about it.

"It's going to be re-sign or release and it's going to be release because next year, my cap number is huge," the outspoken Vanderjagt told the Indianapolis Star this week.

At $2.8 million US in 2005, it's unlikely the Colts will bite, even as a nice insurance policy for the most accurate kicker in NFL history.

Colts general manager Bill Poilan has persistently criticized Vanderjagt for his shortish kickoff attempts, however.

It has come to the point where Vanderjagt seems resigned to the prospect of leaving Indy where he has been for seven mostly money-in-the-bank reliable seasons.

"That's fine, I have no problem with that," said Vanderjagt, who hit all of his 37 field-goal attempts last year.

"I'll play in Canada next year. I've been convinced ever since I got here that I suck as a kicker."

The latter remark was a thinly-veiled barb directed at Polian, the man who signed Vanderjagt away from the Argos and ultimately will decide if he remains a Colt.

After punter Hunter Smith was a failure last week, Polian brought in Jason Baker to handle kickoff chores yesterday. Vanderjagt understandably saw the move as a slap in the face, especially given Smith's blunders the week earlier.

"Nobody could come to Indy and satisfy this organization," Vanderjagt told the Indy paper. "That person doesn't exist."

It's doubtful if the former Argo would return to the CFL just yet -- there will be several suitors in the NFL, especially given Vanderjagt's record for reliability.

Of course, because of Manning's remarkable efficiency, those in Indy barely give the kicking game a second thought.

"You kind of come to expect it," Colts coach Tony Dungy said of what is increasingly looking like an MVP season for Manning.

Just as the Colts have long expected success from the kicker, they apparently no longer see that as being so important.


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