- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Taken by Indianapolis with the 19th pick in the 1996 draft, Harrison says he came out of Syracuse wanting to prove he was better than the three wideouts selected ahead of him ( Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn and Eddie Kennison). "It's something that motivates me every day? Harrison says. "I'm still not getting the respect I deserve around the league, but I'm lucky to have such a good quarterback to help me and the rest of this team accomplish great things."
Every day, it seems, people around the Colts see more to like about Manning. On Sunday it wasn't just the 404 passing yards or the 12-yard scramble he made for the go-ahead score; it was also playing with poise and brilliance down the stretch after having been pummeled repeatedly. On the clinching touchdown drive—with Indy up 20-19 but facing a third-and-seven from its 45 with 4:30 to go—Manning threw a 13-yard completion to Pathon, the third wideout. The pass was so low that players and coaches on the San Diego sideline began motioning that the ball hadn't been caught, and Chargers coaches in the press box began looking at the replay on their TVs to determine whether they should challenge the call.
Manning got sandwiched on the play and never saw how it ended. Yet he was immediately up and sprinting to the line of scrimmage, calling a play with no huddle. "All I heard was the crowd booing and the Chargers yelling it was incomplete," he said. "So I knew they might call for a replay. If it got overturned, that would have been deadly for us because we would have had to punt, and they would have had plenty of time to drive for the winning field goal or touchdown. So I yelled for our guys to get to the line. I just yelled, 'Run the draw! Run the draw!' We ran a quick count, and I handed it to Edgerrin before they could stop the game for a replay call." Four plays later Manning threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to wideout Terrence Wilkins, and the Colts had an eight-point cushion.
Dressing by his locker after the game, Manning was honored to be mentioned in the same sentence as Unitas, but he preferred to talk about his sidekick Harrison. He recounted the scramble play once more and why making something happen on the run is so vital to the success of a quarterback and receiver. Then he turned to a reporter and said, "Like Montana to Clark, you know?"
Falcons' Woes Mount
The Falcons, 0-3 after a 35-7 loss to the Rams, are looking more and more like one-year wonders. Quarterback Chris Chandler is as fragile as bone china, and super-back Jamal Anderson is out for the season after injuring his right knee. Almost as disconcerting to Atlanta fans is that the team doesn't have a first-round draft pick in 2000. That went to the Ravens so that the Falcons could select tight end Reggie Kelly in the second round of the '99 draft.
Atlanta might look back on the trade to draft Kelly, a backup who has yet to catch a pass this season, as a monumental mistake. When healthy, Chandler has been among the league's most productive quarterbacks, but he has been plagued throughout his 12-year career by injuries, and on Sunday he aggravated a hamstring injury he sustained in the opener. Backups Tony Graziani and Danny Kanell don't appear to be the answer, meaning that if the first-round pick turns out to be a high one, the Falcons could have blown a shot at a franchise quarterback such as Purdue's Drew Brees or Louisville's Chris Redman.
On top of all that, there's grumbling in the locker room. Players are peeved at coach Dan Reeves for suggesting that Anderson's injury might be traced to a training-camp holdout. Anderson didn't report until Aug. 11 and suffered the injury during a Sept. 20 game against the Cowboys. Some defensive players have also quietly questioned whether the club has its priorities in order when it comes to signing players to long-term deals. Defensive-line chemistry was disturbed in mid-September when tackle Travis Hall, who had three years left on his contract, was handed a seven-year, $52.5 million extension while end Lester Archambeau, the club's '98 sack leader, who is in the final year of his contract, waits for an offer.
The Falcons have two sacks in three games, and on Sunday former Arena League quarterback Kurt Warner passed for four touchdowns and ran for another score. "I told the guys in the huddle that they couldn't stop us," Warner said afterward. "I felt like I was back in Arena Football." Ouch.