Records are nice, but ...

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:15 PM ET

It is only a matter of time before Peyton Manning steamrolls Dan Marino's record of 48 touchdown passes in a season. Assuming he snaps out of this slump, that is.

Such has been the production level of the Indianapolis Colts quarterback that his two-touchdown effort against the Houston Texans last Sunday was almost a downer.

In fact, even though that outing has him idling at an incredible 46 scoring tosses through 13 games, Manning says a fan with a vested interest busted his chops for scoring just twice.

"I said 'you and I have different goals here buddy,' " Manning said yesterday on a conference call of the friendly encounter he had in an airport.

"I've got a lot of fantasy thank-you letters. That's probably the most common statement I get, besides 'can I have your autograph,' it's 'I have you on my fantasy team.' "

Yes, Manning is having a fantasy owner's dream season, throwing at least five touchdowns in no fewer than four games already, an NFL first.

The seventh-year pro and his coach, Tony Dungy, are bright enough to differentiate fantasy from reality, however. Manning said the subject of records never comes up between the two. Getting through December in the best shape for playoff success as a team, does.

In all likelihood, the numbers Manning has put up will be difficult to match this month, let alone around the corner in the playoffs.

PLAYOFF GAME

The defences will start to tighten up, beginning with the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday. The weather will turn nasty and it's almost certain there will be a playoff game in either New England or Pittsburgh.

Manning rejects the notion he is a fair-weather flinger and dismisses those who lob those accusations.

"I think it's about who plays better on that day -- home, away, dome or outside," Manning said. "I've had good games on the road, I've had bad games here at home."

That argument is only digestible to a point. Manning's most notable bad-weather bad game came when the stakes were the highest in his stellar career.

The scene was a snowy Foxboro this past January, the opponent the pending Super Bowl champion Patriots.

Manning threw just one touchdown to three interceptions in a 24-14 loss and spent more time picking mud out of his facemask than connecting with open receivers.

As Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel put it, "A championship was on our minds, not how good Peyton Manning is."

So as eye-catching as Manning's record run has been, Dungy would rather see efforts closer resembling the 23-14 win over the Texans.

"As we move on, the games will be more like that," Dungy said of his Colts (10-3), who sit atop the AFC South.

Even with rugged games against the Ravens, San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos to close out the season, Manning is assured of finishing with a year for the ages.

WEAPONRY

Whether he passes Marino this week or next, it will happen. He has judiciously utilized an arsenal of weaponry putting his team on the brink of more history. With Marvin Harrison (12 touchdowns), Reggie Wayne (11) and Brandon Stokley (nine), the Colts could become the first team to have a trio of double-digit touchdown receivers.

"I am enjoying the run, I really enjoy winning," Manning said. "I realize this is somewhat of a unique situation. I'm such a fan of the history of the game, I'm very humbled."

He can enjoy and be humbled by the inevitable all he wants. But Manning also is sharp enough to get that there is a sure-fire way to distinguish himself from Marino.

That would be to do something the Miami Dolphins great never did -- win his final game of the playoffs. 


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