Marvin Harrison is making Peyton Manning's transition to the NFL a lot easier.
Manning finished the preseason with his most productive game Thursday night, passing for 172 yards and two long touchdowns to the veteran receiver as the Indianapolis Colts held off the Detroit Lions 20-17.
"Marvin is our most experienced receiver. You always try to develop great timing with all your receivers, but I threw a lot of balls to Marvin in the mini-camps and during training camp and our timing feels good," Manning said.
"He's a big-play receiver that can get deep on a lot of guys, and it really makes a quarterback's job easier. All you've got to do is put the ball up and let him run under it."
The touchdowns to Harrison, both in the first quarter, went for 76 and 40 yards and helped stake the Colts (2-2) to a 17-10 lead.
Manning, the no. 1 pick in the NFL draft, was 8-for-17 and retired to the sideline after the second quarter. Harrison had four receptions for 145 yards.
"I've always felt that way," Harrison said of his success with Manning. "There are some things we need to clean up ... but basically we're going to get better and better every week as a team and me and him. We're working well together."
"The timing is there. Peyton comes from a big program and has been making big plays all his career, and so have I. It's just a matter of guys coming together, working hard and putting two and two together," Harrison said.
The Lions (1-3) tied the game with a 22-yard pss from rookie Charlie Batch to Germane Crowell early in the fourth quarter. A fumble by veteran Frank Reich, signed earlier in the week, set up the winning 27-yard field goal by the Colts' Mike Vanderjagt with 3:55 to go.
| Peyton Manning took his lumps but was vastly improved in the Colts' victory. (AP) |
Detroit's Jason Hanson missed a 56-yard field goal that would have tied the game again as time ran out.
"The second half, we struggled offensively and defensively," Colts coach Jim Mora said. "Our defense was on the field a lot and got awfully tired. We were really on the ropes at the end, and then they turned the ball over to us. That won the game for us."
Manning's two touchdown passes marked the first time he had thrown for more than one score in a game. The 172 yards topped his previous high of 123 last week in a 33-3 loss to San Diego and No. 2 draft pick Ryan Leaf, when Manning had two passes intercepted.
This time, the Lions couldn't get to Manning or to Harrison, who got by his former Syracuse teammate, Kevin Abrams, on both of his touchdown receptions.
The first was on the first play of the game, when Manning threw from the Indianapolis 24 and hit Harrison at the Lions 40. The third-year receiver outran the second-year Detroit cornerback the rest of the way to complete the Colts' longest play of the preseason and put Indianapolis up 7-0.
"On the first play, they blitzed the corner," Mora said. "Peyton was able to have time back there and hit Marvin. But that's a total team thing. That's the quarterback recognizing it and hitting the hot receivers, the receivers adjusting their routes, the backs, the tight ends, everybody."
A 22-yard run by Barry Sanders set up Scott Mitchell's 8-yard TD pass to Herman Moore that tied the game midway through the quarter.
Manning and Harrison, continuing to pick on Abrams, put the Colts ahead on the next series. An 11-yard pass to Harrison and two unproductive runs by Marshall Faulk put Indianapolis at the Detroit 40, then Harrison beat Abrams again for the score.
"Peyton is a great player and has a great future ahead of him," Lions coach Bobby Ross said. "He exceeds what you expect from a young quarterback."
"A couple things hurt us, and we have to do better in those areas. First of all, we still do not play the long ball well, and it is starting to become a concern."
Batch replaced Mitchell at quarterback after a 57-yard punt return by rookie Terry Fair, Manning's former teammate at Tennessee, midway through the second quarter. The Lions moved six plays to the Indianapolis 13, where Hanson kicked a 31-yard field goal to cut the Indianapolis lead o 14-10. The Colts countered with a 43-yard field goal by Vanderjagt with 40 seconds left for a 17-10 lead at halftime.
After Crowell's tying touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, the Lions had a chance to take the lead when Ryan Stewart intercepted a pass by backup Kelly Holcomb and returned it 19 yards to the Indianapolis 27. Reich, on his first play with the Lions, was hit by Emil Ekiyor and fumbled the ball back to the Colts. After the next Indianapolis punt, Reich fumbled again, and Ekiyor recovered at the Detroit 24. Six plays later, Vanderjagt kicked the winning field goal.
"I didn't think it was that tough of a situation," Reich said of his debut with the Lions. "I was ready to go. I just came in and had two miscues, one on a fumbled snap, which should never happen. ... I'm just disappointed and mad at myself for having two turnovers. That can't happen."
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