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Two if by Land, One if by Air
Joe Levit
November 24, 2004

Though quarterbacking an NFL team is not the same thing as transforming a country with an historic ride, the fact remains that two quarterbacks are taking a revolutionary run at the record books this year, and leading their respective teams to victory while they are about the feats. Michael Vick, with his two feet, has the 8-2 Atlanta Falcons flying high this season, when no one really expected much out of them. Peyton Manning, with his one right hand, has the 7-3 Colts atop their division, with a defense that is coming together.

Although Paul Revere was stopped during his mission by British Regulars, nobody has been able to shut down Manning or Vick this season, who are about as far as you can get from ordinary.

All we heard about Atlanta before the season was how the Falcons had instituted a new offense predicated upon a shorter controlled passing game. Vick has been improving in the system as the season advances, but his coaches have also become more comfortable with him returning to his running roots, where he can truly make a difference in any game. His runs sustain drives in a way that no other play can, and the threat of them makes it easier for the other players to get open or find holes to run through.

Vick just finished with 104 yards rushing against the Giants. It put him past Billy Kilmer’s number (4) for most times a QB has hit the century rushing mark. Vick has dashed for 640 yards so far this year, and should easily surpass his career-best 777-yard total from 2002. He also has a chance to become the single-season leader in quarterback rushing yards. In 1990, Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham ran for an astounding 942 yards. And in 1972 Bobby Douglass ran for 968. If Vick tops that this year, he'll only be 32 yards away from the magical 1,000-yard barrier, which may not be an impressive statistical benchmark for running backs anymore, but would speak volumes about the athlete that Vick is.

Manning has been a model of fantasy consistency during his career. Check out his yards passing. He has posted fewer than 4,000 yards only once in his career so far, and that was as a rookie.

Peyton Manning

Year Team G GS Pct Yards YPA Lg TD Int
1998 Indianapolis Colts 16 16 56.7 3739 6.50 78 26 28
1999 Indianapolis Colts 16 16 62.1 4135 7.76 80 26 15
2000 Indianapolis Colts 16 16 62.5 4413 7.73 78 33 15
2001 Indianapolis Colts 16 16 62.7 4131 7.55 86 26 23
2002 Indianapolis Colts 16 16 66.3 4200 7.11 69 27 19
2003 Indianapolis Colts 16 16 67.0 4267 7.54 79 29 10
2004 Indianapolis Colts 10 10 66.0 2960 9.14 80 35 7

The big news for Manning this year is obviously how he is methodically stalking Marino’s single-season touchdown passing record. Marino torched the league for 48 scores in 1984, but Manning is on pace to blow past that total in 2004, exactly 20 years later. The thing that Manning has going for him this season is the sheer number of healthy weapons at his disposal. While teams like the Lions have had injuries to their top four wide receivers, the Colts have avoided any injuries that would keep players off the field.

Manning has always been good at distributing the ball, and he looks for the open receiver first and foremost. That receiver has just happened to be Marvin Harrison most of the time before this season. But now, he has three receivers (Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley) who all are on pace to reach 1,000 yards, and an outside chance (Stokley has five) of them all gaining 10 touchdowns. That would be plenty of prosperity for any team, but it doesn’t stop there with this one. Indianapolis boasts ownership of two talented tight ends. Dallas Clark and Marcus Pollard are each capable of humongous fantasy output. On top of that, Edgerrin James is an adept receiver out of the backfield.

While the Colts are currently in a pack of five teams that feature 7-3 records, and behind the Steelers and Patriots in the standings, and the Falcons are looking up at the 9-1 Eagles in the NFC, it is conceivable that the Colts and Falcons could meet in the Super Bowl this year. What a wonderful arrangement that would be – one great quarterback tricking us with his play-action passes, the other treating us to highlight-reel moments with his feet. Revere could have proclaimed it best: “The Records are Coming!”