Manning and Dungy gushed with praise of Texans defensive end Mario Williams.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy and quarterback Peyton Manning spoke to Houston media via conference calls on Wednesday as they prepared for their Sunday affair with the Texans at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy
(on Mario Williams' improvement) "He's playing the type of football I'm sure they envisioned when they drafted him. I can remember when they made the choice and people second guessed it a little bit. I remembered back to Chuck Knoll taking (DT) Joe Green his first year and that picked got second guessed and people grumbled. They wanted the Heisman Trophy winner or whatever, but it ended up being a popular pick and I think (DE) Mario (Williams) is going to be the same way. He has played outstanding football the last seven, eight games that we just looked at here and I'm sure that's what everybody envisioned and that type of play helps you win championships. No question about it. He's giving them the type of impact that (DE) Dwight (Freeny) gave us with our first pick when I was here."
(on any similarities between the Texans taking DE Mario Williams and DT Amobi Okoye to the Buccaneers taking DT Warren Sapp and LB Derrick Brooks) "Very much so, yes. I think you get two young players to build your defense around and those guys can be very impacting. It's not as flashy; it doesn't put points on the scoreboard, but in the long run, if those guys are what everybody thinks they are, it's going to be great for them. So far, it's looking that way."
(on how hard it is to prepare for DE Mario Williams when he moves around a lot) "Everybody's system is different and obviously, you're looking for weaknesses in the other team, maybe moving him on their worst offensive lineman, those types of things. There is some of that and when you have guys that are flexible and who can do a lot of things, it definitely helps. That's kind of the New England-type of approach and it's something for us. We have to definitely be aware of where he is, for sure."
(on how he felt knowing he would have to protect QB Peyton Manning's blind side with a rookie) "It was a surprise when (T) Tarik (Glenn) talked to me. We were actually out in Los Angeles at the ESPY's and I had breakfast with him and he told me what he was thinking and it was quite a surprise. To me, I guess I've just been in the league long enough, it's like injuries or anything else, life goes on and you have to adjust and good teams are able to do that. We had (T) Tony (Ugoh) here. We had (T) Charlie Johnson who had played in the Super Bowl and played well, so it was never the type of thing of 'oh, what are we going to do?' You always feel guys are going to step up and be able to get the job done. For Tony to do it as a rookie, it's a little bit unusual at that position but he's a guy that we drafted with the eye on him being the left tackle of the future. It just happened a little quicker then we thought it would and he's done a great job of learning and really seeking that advice of the veteran guys of working hard and improving every week and he's been great for us."
(on what his team needs to accomplish this Sunday) "We have to get better. That's what we talked to the team about this morning. We had two days off after the Raider game, we won it. I don't think anybody was overly happy with our performance. We made some mistakes that can haunt you if you play that way in the post season, so we want to practice well. We want to come out and play sharp. We want to win the ball game, but more then anything else, we just want to make improvement from last week. I think if we do that we'll be in good shape."
(on the Texans offense) "They've been pretty impressive to me. They're throwing the ball quite well. Everybody looks at them as a running team and that's what they want to do, but I think the improvement in their passing game, the precision there, getting the ball off quickly, the pass protection, you have lot of guys catching balls. They were without (WR) Andre Johnson for a good part of the year and they're putting up really good numbers and scoring points. It's been impressive to see the system kind of take hold in the second year and I think those guys have done a great job."
(on if he would rest QB Peyton Manning and some of the other starters in the second half) "I don't think we're going to look at it in terms of a half or a time frame. We want to play well. We want to get some guys some work with our first group, some of our second team guys. So, it won't be wholesale substitution as far as just the whole second group going in there, but you will see some different guys in at different points in the game."
(on how much he would like to play QB Peyton Manning) "I don't know yet. He could be the whole game, it just depends on how we're going. We'd like to really play well. We have some things that we want to accomplish and get our rhythm going. If we can do that quickly, that's one thing; it may take longer to establish some things. We'll kind of play that by ear."
(on any update on WR Marvin Harrison) "Not really, he is probably not going to play this game. He is going to work and try to get in some practice time and we'll see what happens. He's working himself back towards playing and we would definitely like to get him in a little bit this week if possible. I don't if that's going to be the case, but hopefully next week for sure."
(on if it's important to play WR Marvin Harrison before the playoffs) "Well, we'd like to. That's kind of how we've had the success in the past. I know (TE) Dallas Clark and (S) Bob Sanders got a little bit in before the playoff started and we thought it was helpful. If we're not able to, we'll go with the next scenario."
Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning
(on what he thinks about DE Mario Williams this season) "I think he's an excellent player. In the film I've seen so far, he's really playing at a high level – really kind of took over the Broncos game himself in a lot of ways and put a lot of pressure on their passing game. And I think he's had a heck of a year; I really do."
(on the challenges for linemen caused by the Texans moving around DE Mario Williams) "Well, sure. Certainly, any time you have a guy that you can roam, whether it's a safety or a linebacker that does different things, a defensive end when he's at right and he's at left and he lines up at tackle, I think obviously it says a lot about his versatility. Some guys don't like that. Some guys want to just play one spot and don't have to worry about learning anything else. But it shows a lot of versatility on his part, and certainly you have to always kind of factor in where he is every time you come to the line of scrimmage."
(on if DE Mario Williams is good enough that he has to pay close attention to him at all times) "Well, I think so. I think, like I said, in the film that we've seen of him, he is what we call a disruptive guy, and he's certainly a guy that I think you'll be paying attention to on every single play."
(on if the Colts could ultimately be better than last season) "You know, it's hard to say. In my opinion, it's such a week-to-week thing. You're trying to get better each week, and last week against Oakland, we had a good win, we certainly need to get better in certain phases. Ultimately, it's about trying to play your best football here in the month of December and into January, and that is something that we did accomplish last year. Now, I'm not sure if we were doing it necessarily in December, but we definitely got hot at the right time in January. So that's kind of the goal, is to hopefully be peaking at the right time. There's no question that we've had some adjustments this year with our injuries, but every game experience for some of these young guys like (WR Anthony) Gonzalez or like you said (T Tony) Ugoh is very beneficial, so I think it's still very much a week-to-week process, and we're trying to find some ways to improve each week and at the same time keep winning."
(on how they will stay sharp with no meaningful game until the second round of the playoffs) "Well, I think in some ways that's where our injuries are going to help the focus, because we have so many young guys in there and there's so much to learn for some of these young guys. It certainly keeps me focused on trying to do whatever I can to help these guys get ready to get more on the same page, with (WR Anthony) Gonzalez, to get more on the same page with (RB) Kenton Keith, our backup running back. You know, it's one thing when you have a bunch of veterans in the offense; maybe there's nothing new to review, but with these young guys, every single practice, every single walkthrough and certainly every single game is extremely beneficial. And so that's the goal, is just to keep improving and to keep getting sharper with our young guys from here on out."
(on having a rookie in T Tony Ugoh protect his blind side) "Well, (T) Tony's (Ugoh) done a good job for us. He's fought the injury bug a little bit but now he's back in there, which is good. And the same thing, I can certainly remember myself playing as a rookie. I just thought that I learned something new every game, going against different defenses and different defensive coordinators, and for him it's going against different defensive ends every single week. And it's a marathon, it's not a sprint, but he has learned a lot in a short period of time due to the playing time that he's gotten. I know certainly when I knew that was going to be the case, I felt a lot better in the fact that Howard Mudd was the offensive line coach. I would've felt a lot more nervous if we had a rookie offensive line coach. When you have a guy like Howard Mudd who's been in the league 30-plus years, has seen it all, I felt good about Tony's transition with Howard as his coach."
(on if the Texans secondary looks different from earlier this season) "Well, it certainly is some different personnel. Like I said, I know we've had our share of injuries and I know the Texans sure have as well, and it's part of it in the NFL, but they're doing a great job making it work with some of these new players. (CB) Von Hutchins, and old Colt, is very versatile, can play safety and corner, and they've got 32, (CB Fred) Bennett, in there filling in for (CB Dunta) Robinson, so that's part of it. To me, injuries are something that you can talk about in the offseason but while you're playing, it's no good to complain about this guy's hurt or that guy's hurt while you have games to play. And that's kind of the attitude that we've adopted and it looks like the same attitude the Texans have had. They've filled in nicely with some other guys, some young guys, and those guys are making some plays for them."
(on if he has to convince young players that the last two games are important) "Yes, and I just believe in professional football, it's your job to come in every single week and to work as hard as you possibly can to get better. It's like we had a guy around here say one time, 'You should play the games for free. They should pay you to practice.' And I definitely think there's some truth to that. It's our job as professionals to try to improve this week and to do our jobs well, go out and play our best and try to get a win on Sunday, and that's really all you kind of know to do when you're playing football is to play your hardest and do whatever you've got to do to help your team win, and that's the focus this week."
(on how WR Marvin Harrison is doing) "I'm probably the wrong guy to ask on that."