A TREMENDOUS HONOR

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday will make the 11th Pro Bowl appearance of his 13-year NFL and Colts career. Still, he said, the feeling never gets old.

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Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning Making 11th Pro Bowl Appearance in 12 Seasons
INDIANAPOLIS – To Peyton Manning, the feeling never gets routine.

So, while Manning recently finished his 13th NFL season, and while he has been named the Associated Press' National Football League Most Valuable Player four times, his Pro Bowl appearances hold plenty of meaning, too.

That was true long before the appearances reached double digits.

And Manning said it's true this year, too.

Manning, who never has missed a regular- or post-season game or start in 13 NFL seasons, this week is appearing again in the Pro Bowl, another game he never has missed when eligible.

There's a reason for that, too.

Because as Manning sees it, the Pro Bowl matters. Quite a bit.

"It's a tremendous honor from the players and the fans and the coaches," Manning said recently late in the 2010 regular season, a season in which the Colts won their seventh AFC South title in eight seasons and a season on which Colts.com will continue looking back in the coming weeks.

It's an honor Manning received for the 11th time this past season, and as one of three 11-time selections in Sunday's game – middle linebacker Ray Lewis of Baltimore and tight end Tony Gonzalez of Atlanta are the others – Manning also owns several significant Pro Bowl records, including:

• Career attempts (179).

• Career completions (107).

• Career passing yards (1,496).

• Career passing touchdowns (14).

• Completions in a game (22).

• Passing yards in a game (342).

And this season for Manning, making the Pro Bowl wasn't an honor received without a measure of adversity.

The Colts, after leading the AFC South from start to finish five times from 2003-2009, started the 2010 season in 5-2, but slipped to 6-6 – a game behind the Jacksonville Jaguars – with four losses in five games in November and early December.

Included in that stretch was the Colts' first three-game losing streak in eight seasons.

The Colts won the final four regular-season games to qualify for the post-season for a ninth consecutive season, with Manning completing 97 of 145 passes for 991 yards and nine touchdowns with two interceptions during the stretch.

Manning, asked shortly after the regular season about his approach entering the final four-game stretch, said he was "determined to play better."

"I wanted to play better," Manning, who threw for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns with 11 interceptions during the three-game losing streak, said late in the season. "Somebody was asking, 'Did you have a team meeting or did you try to help other guys?' I was trying to help myself. I thought before I started trying to help other guys do their jobs, I needed to be sure I'm doing my job.

"I didn't think I was doing my job well enough. I was determined to play better."

Manning finished the season having completed 450 of 679 passes for a 4,700 yards and 33 touchdowns with 17 interceptions. The 33 touchdowns tied for the second-highest total of his career, but running back Joseph Addai – in his fifth Colts season – said Manning's value this season was as much in the locker room as it was statistical in nature.

The Colts this season placed more than a dozen players on injured reserve. Players such as tight end Dallas Clark and wide receivers Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez finished the season out of the lineup, and Addai missed half the season with a neck injury. With young players playing extensive roles, Addai said Manning was "the kind of quarterback that you want to be in a tight situation."

"Whenever you're in a bad situation, it's just like a family, whoever is the head of the family and you're in a crisis, the person that is supposed to lead, stands up and gives you the right direction," Addai said. "That is what Peyton was doing. No matter what the situation, come back Monday, let's get back going. Everybody was following along. All the veterans were doing that, (and) all the young guys were seeing that. . . .

"That's what they teach the young guys when they come in: if you don't know how to do it, watch the older guys. That is what Peyton was doing, just little things. We'd have extra meetings, not punishment, just extra meetings to focus in on what we were trying to do for that particular team.

"I think Peyton did a great job as far as showing us what we needed to do when we were in those bad situations."

Manning, who has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in 11 of 13 NFL seasons, not only did so again this past season, he finished 2010 with career-highs in attempts, completions and passing yards. Manning has surpassed the 4,500-yard passing mark three times in his career.

Two of those times have come in the last two seasons.

"I think his numbers indicate that he is still as productive as anyone else, and what he did (this past season) was what he always does," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said late in the season. "He focused in on what he is doing, he took his time and if there were things he needed to get corrected, he certainly is probably tougher on himself than anyone else, and he was able to get that done."

Near the end of a season in which the Colts tied an NFL record for consecutive post-season appearances, Manning spoke of the season-ending winning streak, a streak in which the Colts for the first time in the nine-year history of the AFC South rallied from second place in the final month to win the division.

When he did, he spoke of persevering through a difficult November and early December to get to the post-season, a place he has led the Colts 12 of the past 13 seasons.

"Finally, things started going our way," Manning said. "Even throughout that three-game losing stretch, there were plenty of good things in those games. The end results were losses, and we did have turnovers, but we were still doing some good things.

"You try to build off those and try to eliminate the negative plays and just continue to work. As (former head coach) Jim Mora used to say, 'Keep sawing wood.' That's kind of an expression we use around here.

"If you keep doing that, hopefully some good things will turn."

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