Manning the show

Peyton Manning is on a roll. <P> The Bears just hope they're not the butter.

Most teams this season haven't had an answer for Manning, Indianapolis' red-hot quarterback, who is pace to break Dan Marino's single-season record of 48 touchdowns. Manning has 31 entering Sunday's game at Soldier Field, while Marino had 48 for the Dolphins in 1984.

"No, it's not (a goal)," Manning said Wednesday during a conference call. "Obviously it's being talked about a lot. Like I said, we're 6-3 and we're in the middle of a huge division race, competing with Jacksonville and Houston and even Tennessee still. ... It's so competitive right now that's all I can think about. I'm just trying to help my team win games."

So far, so good for the Colts, who come in with the NFL's top scoring offense (33.1 ppg) and league's hottest quarterback. Last week against the Texans, Manning tossed five TD passes. The Colts went on to score a season-high 49 points. The seventh-year signal caller needs only 251 yards passing Sunday to reach 3,000 yards for a seventh straight season. The Colts haven't scored less than 24 points in a game all year.

"We are doing certain things well. We are protecting the ball pretty well for the most part," said Manning, who is two TD passes short of 200 for his career, second quickest behind Marino. "We are pretty good on third down and we have been solid in the red zone. Those are three things we talked about in the offseason and about doing those every single week."

It's been scary the way Manning has done his damage. Five receivers have caught at least five touchdown passes this season.

The key for the Bears will be to sustain drives and eat up the clock with the running game. Manning will be dueling against rookie Craig Krenzel, who hasn't exactly been lighting up scoreboards with his passing.

Krenzel is 3-0 as a starter, but the Bears defense has carried the load over that stretch. Chicago will need its defense again Sunday against a Colts team that leads the NFL in red-zone proficiency at 76 percent. Indy has scored a TD on 26 of 34 trips inside the 20.

And as good as the Bears defense has been the last few weeks, sacking Manning is another story. He's went down just six times this season on 296 pass attempts.

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