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Manning comes up short of Marino's mark for TD passes in a season

HOUSTON (AP) _ Dan Marino's record for touchdown passes in a season has stood for 20 years. So what's another week?

Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning came up short in his bid to tie Marino's NFL record of 48 touchdown passes in a season, throwing only two Sunday to push his total to 46 in the Colts' 23-14 win over the Houston Texans.

Manning will have three more games to break the mark, though the task figures to get much tougher. The Colts will face Baltimore, San Diego and Denver three of the NFL's top 11 defenses to close out the regular season.

I know how hard it is to throw touchdowns,'' Manning said.They don't come easy.''

They certainly didn't on Sunday.

Manning threw two in the first quarter, but the Colts were kept out of the end zone for the rest of the game by one of the league's worst pass defenses. For the first time in nine games, he had fewer than three TD passes.

Whether it was unexpectedly tough defense by the Texans or a rare off-day by Manning, the Colts simply came up short on big plays that they usually make.

Brandon Stokley just missed coming up with a diving catch in the end zone in the third quarter, and the Colts were forced to settle for a 30-yard field goal.

Manning later missed on two wide-open throws that could have gone for scores, one to Marvin Harrison in the third and another that sailed just over Reggie Wayne's fingertips in the fourth.

Manning wasn't that crisp fantastic sharp that he has been,'' Colts coach Tony Dungy said.A throw here and there like he normally gets it would have made it a little bit easier of a game.''

But despite becoming increasingly prickly in the face of media scrutiny over the past few weeks, Manning put on a happy face when questions about the record came up repeatedly in the locker room.

I'm really enjoying the ride,'' he said, wearing a brand new black AFC South champions cap atop his sweaty head.When you throw a touchdown, you give yourself a little applause.''

Dungy said he wished the record had fallen in Houston.

Honestly, I was hoping against hope that we'd get it down here so we can be done with it,'' he said.We'll just have to deal with it.''

The four-time Pro Bowler has followed up his co-MVP season of a year ago with potentially the greatest season by a quarterback in NFL history.

Last year, Manning became the first quarterback to throw at least five touchdowns three times in one season, including a playoff victory over Denver. This season, he's already done it four times, including a six-touchdown outing at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, and has thrown at least four in a game six times.

He's still on pace for 57 touchdowns, which would obliterate a record that's essentially the football equivalent of the home-run record.

``I threw 29 last year and it felt like a lot,'' Manning said.

Though the Texans lost for the fifth time in the past six games, some players found solace in the fact that they'd kept their names out of the league record books.

It means a lot. We've heard about it all week,'' Texans rookie cornerback Dunta Robinson said.We never get this much media coverage. I don't think anybody thought we could hold him to two touchdowns.''

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