BIG DAY FOR DALLAS

Dallas Clark, the Colts' six-year veteran tight end, didn't just make up for a first-quarter drop Sunday, he turned in not only one of his best career NFL games, but one of the greatest performances by a player at his position in franchise history.

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Clark Sets Colts Record for Catches in a Game by a Tight End
INDIANAPOLIS – The ball caromed away, and Dallas Clark looked at his hands in disappointed disbelief.

This was the first quarter Sunday.

The rest of Clark's day had a decidedly different feel.

Clark, the Colts' six-year veteran tight end, didn't just make up for his first-quarter drop Sunday, he turned in not only one of his best career NFL games, but one of the greatest performances by a player at his position in franchise history.

Clark on Sunday:

• Broke a franchise record he set last season.

• Set another franchise record he didn't yet hold.

• Caught a crucial first-half touchdown pass.

And in so doing, Clark helped the Colts to their seventh consecutive victory, a victory that helped the Colts move a critical step closer to a seventh consecutive playoff appearance.

"Every game kind of has its own personality, and especially with the weapons we have, you never know what defenses are going to do, who they're going to try to stop," Clark said.

On Sunday, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said the Lions played predominantly Cover 2 in an effort to double-cover wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.

Wayne caught seven passes for 104 yards, and Harrison caught two for 22, but it was Clark who hurt the Lions most consistently.

"It just developed," Dungy said. "They're obviously trying to do a good job on our outside receivers and take our deep throws away, so they play a lot of Cover 2 and our tight end has a chance to work some holes in there against Cover 2.

"We see that defense a lot in practice. Our guys know how to work against us, and Dallas did a good job. That's what they gave us today, and Dallas did a good job of taking it."

Clark, a 2003 first-round selection from the University of Iowa, caught a career-high 12 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first tight end in Colts history to catch 10 or more passes in a single game.

"You could tell the focus was on Marv and Reg," Clark said with a smile. "I know they're not too happy, because they want to get their receptions and their catches and their looks, but I'm just glad to be able to step up like that and make some catches. . .

"(Colts quarterback) Peyton does a great job of kind of seeing coverages and seeing what they're trying to do. A lot of those checks were Peyton doing what he does and kind of getting us in the right position and in the right call. I was just able to make some moves."

Said Manning, "They were kind of mixing some zone and some man to man, and Dallas did a great job versus the zone of catching the ball, getting yards after the catch. A couple of times they did play man he did a great job beating the man coverage."

On the Colts' final drive, on which they scored on a 31-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri to secure the victory, Clark's 31-yard reception gave Indianapolis 1st-and-10 at the Lions 31.

"It was kind of an over-the-shoulder, seam throw," Manning said. "Great catch by him."

Manning's lone touchdown pass of the game came in the first half, when he threw high to Clark in the back of the end zone.

"Outstanding, getting his feet in bounds for the touchdown," Manning said. "Great job by him today."

Not that the day was all smiles and records for Clark.

In the first quarter, he caught a four-yard pass at the Lions 7, and was leveled on a hard hit by Lions linebacker Ryan Nece.

Asked if the hit was as bad as it looked, Clark smiled.

"Yeah," he said. "After that first drive, I felt like it was the fourth quarter. I was like, 'Man, I'm beat up already, on the first drive. I was happy I was able to hold onto the ball.

"You just have to try to find your mouthpiece and go back to work."

Clark's day was defined late in the second quarter. Clark, who broke his own single-season franchise record for receptions by a tight end on the drive, not only capped the possession with a leaping, three-yard touchdown reception, he also caught three other passes for 54 yards.

And while Clark said setting the record for single-game receptions by a tight end was "pretty cool," he said he was more concerned with his first-quarter drop.

"I kind of count it as one, because I dropped that one," said Clark, who now has a career-high 63 receptions for a career-high 684 yards and five touchdowns this season.

"I'm a little upset about that. That's kind of the one I focus on. The other ones were good, but I have to work on that and get that fixed. . . .

"It's pretty cool. I'm pretty happy, but there's work to be done."

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