Manning's 440 yards lead Colts over Jags, 43 - 14

Tuesday, September 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

INDIANAPOLIS – Johnny Unitas, the greatest pure passer in NFL history, threw for 400 yards just once in his 17-year career with the Baltimore Colts. Peyton Manning has now done it twice in his three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

Manning's second 400-yard effort came Monday night under the brightest lights against the toughest opponent. The Jacksonville Jaguars brought a Top 10 defense to Indianapolis but didn't leave with one. Manning threw four touchdown passes to four receivers in thrashing the Jaguars, 43-14.

Manning completed 23 of 36 passes for a franchise record 440 yards – and his receivers dropped five passes or he might have challenged a 500-yard night.

Manning opened the game with seven consecutive completions and also had a streak of 10 in a row during the second and third quarters.

Manning did much of his damage without Marvin Harrison, which is like Unitas spending a game throwing away from Raymond Berry. Harrison caught a 76-yard bomb on the third offensive play by the Colts to stake Indianapolis to a 7-0 lead. Then the Jaguars decided to double cover Harrison right out of the game plan.

No problem.

Manning started working the ball to his other wide receivers, Terrence Wilkins and Jerome Pathon, against single coverage to embarrass the Jaguars.

"It was good for us to show people we have other weapons on offense," Manning said. "We can spread the ball around. If teams want to double Marvin, we can beat you with other guys. It's nice to have weapons."

Manning threw two more passes at Harrison in the second quarter, both for incompletions, and didn't throw to him again until late in the fourth quarter. Harrison caught a 27-yard pass to collect his third consecutive 100-yard game this season.

Having Manning throw just four of his 36 passes to Harrison would normally be unthinkable. Especially against an opponent the caliber of the Jaguars.

Jacksonville allowed the fewest points in the NFL a year ago (217) and finished with a Top 5 defense. The Jaguars retained their lofty standing this season, ranking seventh in defense and coming off the first shutout in franchise history. That was a 13-0 whitewashing of Cincinnati a week ago.

But the Colts are not the Bengals and Manning certainly isn't Akili Smith.

Jacksonville's biggest problem proved to be Wilkins, who was making his 2000 debut. He suffered a concussion in Indianapolis' second pre-season game and hadn't played in more than a month. He sat the rest of August and then missed the first two games of the regular season.

Willkins got an extra week of unwanted rest because of the bye week before suiting up for the first time against the Jaguars. Manning didn't wait long to go to him, hitting Wilkins on a 12-yard slant on the second play of the game. Welcome back. Harrison caught his 76-yard bomb on the next play for a 7-0 lead.

With the score tied, 7-7, midway through the second quarter, Wilkins caught a 27-yard touchdown pass to put the Jaguars in front for good. The next time the Colts got the ball, Wilkins caught a 44-yard pass on the first play to move Indianapolis into Jacksonville territory. Three plays later Pathon caught a 16-yard touchdown pass for a 21-7 lead.

Wilkins wound up with career bests of nine catches for 148 yards.

"Terrence is a really good football player," Colts coach Jim Mora said. "We've missed him the last few weeks. He's a big-play guy, and he made them tonight."

Pathon chipped in three catches for 67 yards and Edgerrin James two for 65 yards. Tight end Ken Dilger added the fourth touchdown catch on a four-yard pass from Manning.

It was the first Monday night defeat in six appearances for the Jaguars and it also saddled them with as many losses as they suffered all last season. Jacksonville fell to 2-2 – this after sprinting through the 1999 season with an NFL-best 14-2 mark. The Colts improved to 2-1.