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Receivers making big impact in Peyton’s fast start

MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Peyton Manning has options everywhere he looks these days.

To his right is three-time Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne. In the slot, he has Austin Collie. Over the middle, he can rely on Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark, and when everyone is healthy, Manning can even go deep to speedy Pierre Garcon.

It’s as talented a receiving corps as any in the NFL, and Manning is making it all work to perfection.

“It’s just throwing, just getting on the same page with him,” Collie said, explaining the offseason work he and Manning did. “I think what also helped was the time we spent watching film together last season, just getting in his head a little bit.”

Clearly, the overtime work is paying dividends.

Last weekend, Collie caught 12 passes for 171 yards, breaking the career highs he established in Week 1 (11, 163). After three weeks, Collie is the NFL’s surprise leader in receptions (27) and yards receiving (359), and he already has four TD receptions.

Not bad for a second-year guy playing in a system the veterans insist takes three years to fully master.

But Collie was no typical fourth-round pick, and he’s not exactly playing with a typical NFL cast.

Manning, the only your four-time MVP in league history, is already making a strong case for No. 5. He’s topped 300 yards and thrown three TDs in three straight games for the first time in his career, has yet to throw an interception and leads the NFL with a quarterback rating of 116.9.

On Sunday at Jacksonville, he will likely achieve two more milestones.

When the Colts’ iron man makes his customary start, he and four-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday will be starting their 158th game together, breaking a league record they now share with Buffalo’s Jim Kelly and Kent Hull.

Should Manning and Wayne hook up for 32 yards receiving, they will pass Kelly and Andre Reed for the second-most yardage between a quarterback and receiver in league history. Manning and Marvin Harrison hold the record of 12,766.

Wayne and Manning have combined for 9,507 yards. Kelly and Reed had 9,538.

“Andre and Reggie come from different backgrounds, Andre was a college tight end and Reggie was the ‘second’ receiver at Miami,” said Colts President Bill Polian, who put Hull, Kelly and Reed together in Buffalo and Saturday, Manning and Wayne in Indy. “They’re very similar in receiving style and extremely similar in work ethic.”

But the list of milestones the Colts’ receivers are chasing seems to be expanding by the week.

Manning’s next TD pass to Wayne will move the tandem past John Unitas and Raymond Berry (63) for second most in franchise history, trailing only Manning and Harrison. Clark and Manning need three more TDs to become the NFL’s all-time leaders among quarterbacks and tight ends.

And the veterans who were around for Manning’s record-breaking 2004 season think this year could even his best yet.

“It’s different because those were special guys and that was a special group where everybody sort of peaked at the same time,” Clark said, noting the Colts faced more blitzes that season than now, too. “We had a lot of big-play opportunities back then and now we’re getting a lot of two safeties back.”

Manning & Co. are still making things work, though.

For Collie, who has the ability to make catches over the middle or go deep, it’s a perfect storm.

He is benefiting from the increased attention defenses are devoting to Wayne and Clark, and the rapport he has with Manning now.

But even Collie, the 127th overall pick in the 2009 draft, isn’t sure how long his good fortune might last.

“Every week is a new week, and you never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “We have so many talented guys, it could be a different guy every week.”

NOTES: Eight Colts players missed Wednesday’s practice although three – linebacker Kavell Conner (fractured left foot), receiver Anthony Gonzalez (sprained right ankle) and safety Bob Sanders (torn right biceps muscle) have already been ruled out of the Jacksonville game. Garcon, running back Donald Brown, defensive back Brandon King (hamstring) and linebacker Clint Session were all out with hamstring injuries. Defensive end Dwight Freeney took his weekly rest day. Running back Joseph Addai (knee), linebacker Gary Brackett (back), left tackle Charlie Johnson (right foot), cornerback Jerraud Powers and Saturday (knee) were full participants. … The Colts also released tight end Gijon Robinson and re-signed free agent linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, a fifth-round pick in 2005 who spent all five of his previous NFL seasons in Indy. The Colts also added fullback-tight end Matt Clapp and receiver Chris Brooks to the practice squad.