FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Ray Buchanan and Ashley Ambrose had a solution six games ago to some of the problems for the Atlanta Falcons defense: Give them more responsibilities.
Now wide receiver Marvin Harrison is asking the same from the Indianapolis Colts.
If Buchanan and Ambrose have their way today (1 p.m., FOX-54) inside the RCA Dome, they will play a lot of man-to-man defense against the Colts. That means playing Harrison, one of the National Football League's most-prolific receivers, face-to-face with no help and no margin for error.
If Harrison has his way, it won't matter if he faces single coverage or some double-teams. He wants the ball.
"We need to free up other people on defense to make plays," Buchanan said. "Me and Ashley know that puts a lot of pressure on both of us, but we can handle it. We might give up some plays, but we're going to make some plays."
Harrison, who is ranked second in the league in touchdown receptions (12), third in receiving yards (1,107) and eighth in catches (78), told his teammates he wants to do more to help Indianapolis snap its current five-game losing streak.
"I want the ball," he told an Indianapolis newspaper. "I want the burden on me. When I'm done, I want to be exhausted, tired. I want my hands in a bucket of ice when it's all over. And I don't mean from blocking, either."
Both teams are clearly struggling, and both need their marquee players to assume a greater role. The Falcons are 6-6 and need to win three of their final four games to have a chance, albeit a slim chance, of making the playoffs as a wild card team. The Colts are out of postseason picture with a 4-7 record.
And with losing comes discontent. Indianapolis coach Jim Mora recently blasted his team, especially quarterback Peyton Manning, for turnovers and lack of focus. The quarterback responded by saying he was angry for being the focus of Mora's tirade.
Then earlier this week, Fox Sport's Jay Mohr got in a heated exchange with Colts president Bill Polian on a local radio show about the way the team handled Edgerrin James' season-ending knee injury.
Mohr said the team forced James to practice after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, and that caused damage to two other ligaments. Polian denied the charge and James, who's decided to go through rehabilitation in South Florida instead of at the team's headquarters, isn't talking.
During the 20-minute on-air argument, Mohr said told Polian he was part of the team's problems.
"You're crazy," Mohr said. "You're insane. No wonder the Colts are doing so poorly. You are an absolute madman. And everyone listening to the radio knows the general manager of their favorite team is a madman."
Manning has completed a career-best 63 percent of his passes this year, but his 20 touchdown throws have been matched by 20 interceptions. Manning has thrown to Harrison 108 times this year, while tight end Marcus Pollard has been the second-favorite target with 56. And yet, Harrison wants more.
"I'm thinking like, (the Atlanta game) is the one," Harrison said of taking charge and helping his team end the losing streak.
All that's fine with Buchanan and Ambrose, who want the game to rest on their shoulders.
"I want it on me," Buchanan said. "I want to be in position to make the big play. Ashley and I can handle it. That's why we went to (defensive coordinator Don Blackmon) and told him to put more on us. Give us more man-to-man. Put it in our hands."
Reach Don Coble at doncoble@bellsouth.
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