Manning called tops on offense
Ben Roethlisberger is a unanimous choice as the best offensive rookie.
Published: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 1:07 a.m.
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.
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).
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.
Hours away from his first NFL start, Pittsburgh rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was hunkered down in a Miami hotel as Hurricane Jeanne swirled about, dumping an ocean's worth of rain and scaring players and coaches alike.
Roethlisberger knew he would be in the eye of a storm as a highly scrutinized first-round draft pick. He never realized it would occur so literally, in a dark, scary setting more suited to a Stephen King novel than any depicted in an NFL playbook.
``Talking about getting thrown into the fire,'' Roethlisberger said, following the Steelers' 12-3 victory on Sept. 26. ``Playing in a hurricane and against that (Dolphins) defense.''
Roethlisberger showed the Steelers a lot that night while subbing for the injured Tommy Maddox: poise, patience, a commanding on-field presence and the qualities of a leader. He kept displaying them during the most successful season ever by a rookie quarterback, one that was rewarded with his unanimous selection as The Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
He is the first quarterback chosen since the award was initially presented in 1957.
There's a fine line between intimidating and dirty, between physical and cheap. Denver safety John Lynch insists he doesn't want to be on the wrong side of it.
So three days after he said his helmet-to-helmet hit on Indianapolis fullback Dallas Clark could have been a good thing because it established the Broncos as physical, Lynch recoiled a bit Wednesday and said he doesn't want to be considered a head hunter.
The NFL certainly treated him like one, fining Lynch $75,000 for the hit - one of the biggest monetary penalties in league history. Lynch said he would appeal the fine because he and the league have ``a difference of opinion'' about what happened.
``I would like to say that throughout my career, I was taught to play hard and I think I have,'' Lynch said. ``I think my reputation has preceded me in terms of playing hard and playing physically. But I've also taken great pride in playing within the rules.''
After the game, a 33-14 Denver win that set up a playoff rematch with Indy this weekend, Lynch sounded few regrets for knocking Clark silly. He said being physical was the best way to slow a quick, athletic team like the Colts. He felt the hit sparked his team.
But asked if intimidation could give the Broncos an edge this Sunday, Lynch wasn't so adamant.
``Intimidation? I don't know. They get hit a lot and they continually get up,'' he said. ``I have a lot of respect for the receivers for that. They're a tough group of guys. Dallas Clark, I've got a lot of respect for him. He laid down for a second. He got back up. That's what makes them good. They're tough.''
Lynch's hit caused Clark to fumble. Colts receiver Reggie Wayne scooped it up, but he fumbled and Broncos cornerback Kelly Herndon picked that up and ran for a touchdown. Officials, who had initially thrown a flag for Lynch's hit picked it up. But the play was reviewed and when referee Pete Morelli ruled the pass incomplete, the unnecessary roughness penalty was reinstated.
Lynch said the fact the flag was picked up at one point would be a key part of his appeal.
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