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NFL PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Peyton's record pace awes peers

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Brett Favre's appreciation for Peyton Manning's efficiency has reached another level: astonishment.

Manning's record-breaking achievements are becoming as routine as his audibles, and his almost incomprehensible numbers this season have forced other NFL quarterbacks to view Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in a different way.

I think it's amazing what they're doing, what he's doing,'' said Favre, the league's only three-time MVP.I think they've built that offense to where they're at a point right now where they dare you to try to stop someone, and that's a hell of a place to be.''

With five games left, Manning, last year's co-MVP, has put himself in the biggest fishbowl of all.

He's already thrown 41 touchdowns and is closing in on the league's single-season record for touchdown passes, the NFL's equivalent to baseball's home run record.

New York Giants quarterback Kurt Warner can empathize with what Manning is about to endure during the season's final month. In 1999, the first of his two MVP seasons with the St. Louis Rams, Warner threw 41 touchdown passes.

Only Marino, who had 48 in 1984 and 44 in 1986, has thrown more. Manning is on pace to throw 60, a number that seemed preposterous just weeks ago.

I just stand back and say 'Wow!' to myself, even having had a couple great seasons,'' Warner said.To see what he is doing and how easy they are making it, I am longing to have another run like that because I know how special it is.''

Instead of slowing down, Manning increased his pace with a near-perfect November.

His 19 touchdowns were a one-month record. He finished with a quarterback rating of 129.3, led the Colts to four straight wins and helped them regain the AFC South lead.

He enters December trying to extend his NFL record to six consecutive games with at least four touchdown passes, and not only chasing Marino's mark but also going after Steve Young's record quarterback rating. Young finished at 112.8 in 1994; Manning is at 126.6 after 11 games.

Manning's peers haven't seen anything like it.

You look at the things he's done even with them having eight DBs in the game, and he's still throwing touchdowns,'' said Tennessee's Steve McNair, who shared last year's MVP award with Manning.It's amazing what he's doing right now.''

The mind-boggling statistics have also produced talk of another MVP award.

Only six players have won multiple MVP awards and only two Favre and Joe Montana have won it in consecutive years. Favre won it in 1995-97.

Perhaps the scariest thing is that at age 28, while Manning is setting new standards, he's still improving.

Colts wide receiver Brandon Stokley has said he expects Manning to throw four touchdowns each week, and the numbers suggest it's not much of a stretch.

Last year, Manning became the first quarterback in NFL history 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.

His efficiency also is increasing.

As the touchdowns pile up, Manning's attempts have actually dropped. At this rate, Manning will throw the fewest passes of his seven NFL seasons even as he remains on pace for a career-high yardage total. St. Louis' Marc Bulger has a league-leading 3,267 and Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper or Kansas City's Trent Green could still challenge for the league crown. Manning has 3,196 yards, Culpepper 3,180 and Green 3,052.

What impresses Manning's peers most, though, is the ease with which he and the Colts make everything look.

They're scoring at will,'' Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick said.It is astounding to see those type of stats and the number of touchdown passes he is throwing from week to week.''

The difference this year has been Manning's supporting cast.

Stokley, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne could become the first trio of receivers to each top 1,000 yards since San Diego in 1980. Wayne, Stokley and tight end Dallas Clark already have produced career highs in touchdown receptions, and Harrison and Marcus Pollard also could finish with career bests.

The intense internal competition, Manning believes, has made everything more challenging.

All five guys think they're getting the ball now,'' Manning said.I wish it could be all their days every Sunday.''

But Manning has never put much stock in numbers. In his mind, it's the victories that count most, and not even his pursuit of Marino's mark can change that opinion.

Outsiders, though, see something else: a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback playing at a level once thought impossible.

They are rolling like I've never seen before and they feed off each other,'' Favre said.You can't double-team anyone. When we played them, I wanted a bird's-eye view of it and I was standing there thinking, 'Who do you cover? How do you play them?'

I thought Marino's record would be broken relatively soon, I didn't know if it would be this year,'' Favre said.But I'm not surprised that it's Peyton.''

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