Manning wins first 2004 NFL Offensive Player of the Year award

Jan. 6, 2005
Associated Press

Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning winner of the Associated Press 2004 NFL Offensive Player of the Year

NEW YORK Former University of Tennessee star Peyton Manning was a runaway winner of the Associated Press 2004 NFL Offensive Player of the Year as if there could be any doubt.

The Indianapolis Colts' star quarterback had perhaps the greatest passing season in league history. He broke Dan Marino's 20-year-old record with 49 touchdown passes and had a passer rating of an almost unfathomable 121.1, shattering Steve Young's mark of 112.8 set in 1994. Manning threw only 10 interceptions and led the Colts to the AFC South title with a 12-4 record.

Manning earned 35 votes from a nationwide panel of 48 writers and broadcasters who cover pro football. He easily outdistanced Eagles receiver Terrell Owens and Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who each got four votes.

He also turned two of his previously unaccomplished receivers, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley, into threats almost on a par with Manning's favorite target, perennial Pro Bowler Marvin Harrison. All caught at least 10 touchdown passes and went over 1,000 yards in receiving an unprecedented combination for three teammates.

''I feel more comfortable than I did last year,'' said Manning, who was co-MVP in 2003 along with Steve McNair of Tennessee. ''My goal every year has been to be a better player every year than the year before, and I really fell I've done that. I feel I am a better player this year than last year.''

And how.

Rarely, if ever, has a quarterback been so dominant. Manning, 28, had a six-touchdown performance on Thanksgiving Day at Detroit. He had three five-TD games (against Green Bay, Kansas City and Houston) and two with four touchdowns (Chicago and Minnesota). Against the NFC North alone, he threw for 19 touchdowns.

''Amazing,'' said Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who won the award in 1995. Favre held an NFL mark with 12 straight games throwing at least two TDs, which Manning also broke, finishing at 13. ''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.''

In all, Manning was 336-for-497 for 4,557 yards and hit on 67.6 percent of his throws. Three times, he had a passer rating above 140.

Perhaps the only one relatively unimpressed was, well, Manning.

''The regular season is over with and it's been a good run for us,'' he said. ''Statistically, those things don't carry a lot of weight in the playoffs.''

What could carry weight in the postseason, which Indianapolis opens Sunday by hosting Denver, is the versatility of the Colts' attack. The Colts have the three terrific wideouts, good tight ends in Marcus Pollard and Dallas Clark, a solid offensive line and a Pro Bowl running back in Edgerrin James.

And, of course, Manning, whose steady rise as an NFL star has been capped by this special season, his seventh.

''I look at him as the best player in this league because of what he's responsible for and what he does for our team,'' Stokley said. ''And then to do it at such a high level says a lot about him.''

Running back Curtis Martin of the Jets received two votes, while fellow back LaDainian Tomlinson of the Chargers got one. So did Chargers quarterback Drew Brees and Falcons QB Michael Vick.

The only other Colt to win the award was QB Bert Jones of the Baltimore Colts in 1976. Last year's winner was running back Jamal Lewis of the Ravens.

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