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Conference calls: Indianapolis Colts


Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy

(on winning two in a row and beating Pittsburgh) "That was a good win for us and has certainly put us in the situation of feeling better than we were three weeks ago."

(on if it is weird for him to be looking up in the division instead of looking down) "Well, it's different than it has been the last four years, for sure, but this is the real world, the NFL, and a lot of times it's like this and you have to fight and play your best ball in November and December. So it's actually probably more realistic than maybe what's happened the last couple of years."

(on if he likes that the Colts aren't the team everyone is trying to knock off) "Well, no, I'd rather it be that we were 8-0 or 9-0 and everybody looking up at you. That's fun. This part is a different kind of challenge and it's having to win games and having to get yourself back in the race and having to get up after you've played poorly – those kinds of things. So it's all part of it, but no, I think ideally, you'd rather be on top looking down at everyone else."

(on what he thinks about the Titans' season) "Well, they're playing really well. They are probably the team that I've seen that has minimized their own mistakes all year. They've forced other teams to beat them and not beat themselves. You're going to win a majority of your games if you do that, and then they've played well. So that's the kind of football that I admire. I think they've been very patient in putting this team together, and it's paying off for them."

(on if he is surprised that Jacksonville is 4-5) "I'm not surprised at anybody that doesn't have the record that they would like to have or they think they should have. It's a very competitive league. It's a competitive AFC, and we're sitting there 5-4 and probably a little surprised, too. But it's not a situation where you can say, 'Hey, this game's a lock,' or, 'They should win that game.' It doesn't really matter who you play, especially in the AFC."

(on if there is any way to explain his success over Houston) "We've been able to get off to fast starts against them and get ourselves ahead. That certainly helps you. We got out 10-to-nothing in this past game, and they caught us and outperformed us for three quarters, but I think a lot of it has been getting off to those fast starts, getting them out of their running game and getting them into a throwing game. We'd like to do that again, but they're much more explosive than they've ever been when we've played them. They're averaging up in the 370s (yards) and putting a ton of points on the board. So I think they feel good about their ability to score, and that's probably what makes this team a little different than previous Houston teams we've played."

(on if you can have a mental or psychological edge over a team because you've beaten them so often) "I don't think so. People used to think that New England had that on us and that they were in our heads and that kind of thing. Now, I think we've won four of our last five against them, so it's how you play. And I don't think when you're a professional team you think, 'Well, this team has our number. We don't match up well against these guys.' You go out and play the next game."

(on the key to preventing turnovers since he has been the coach in Indianapolis) "Well, I think it was getting everybody to buy into how we were going to play and the fact that we still wanted to be explosive. We wanted to make those plays, but the biggest way that we could win games was to take care of the football on offense and take it away on defense. So you practice that way. You point those things out. It still comes down to everybody believing that, 'I've got to be careful with the football when I handle it. When I'm a runner and I have it, I've got to hang onto it. As a quarterback, I can't throw it into tough spots and put the receivers in bad positions. I can't take those unnecessary chances. You always have to take some chances, but I've got to be able to rely on the whole team and on my defense and on my special teams.' We got to that point about 2003, and it's really starting to pay off for us."

(on what it means to him to know that QB Peyton Manning is going to be there for him every game and what the secret is to QB Peyton Manning being there every game) "Well, the secret is probably a couple of things. Probably number one is having a great awareness of where people are and not taking those unnecessary hits, and then number two, you've got to be a little bit lucky. He's had some close calls and some things that have bothered him. The third thing that people underestimate is how tough he is. So all of that plays into it. It's definitely, for any team, to have your starting quarterback in all of the time is obviously a big help. That falls on everyone. That falls on the pass protection. That falls on the quarterback, and as I say, a little bit of luck as well."

(on how frustrating it has been for him to be last in rushing) "We haven't run the ball like we need to. We feel like we've got to be better, especially in November and December. So we're going to continue to work it. We have moved the ball well. We're not scoring as much as we like, and part of that is our running game. But all in all, we think it's correctable and we've just got to continue to work at it just like we have our run defense. That has improved from the beginning of the year, and it's really not doing anything different. It's just working on it and doing it a little bit better."

(on what he remembers from the last five minutes of the game this year in Houston and how important it was to pull that game out) "Well, it was a huge win for us, a division road game and a game that we probably didn't deserve to win looking at the first 55 minutes of play. But I think what it shows is our team doesn't give up. We feel like we've got some quick-strike ability. Everybody just continued to play hard even though the situation didn't look good. I remember walking off the field and thinking how disappointing that would have to be for the Texans. But they bounced back. They won three in a row after that, and I think that was really something special in terms of what their team accomplished after a loss like that."

(on what he thinks of Texans T Duane Brown) "Well, he's a very good athlete. I think he's going to be an excellent player. He's getting baptism by fire. He's against (DE) Dwight Freeney and (LB) Joey Porter, top guys every week, which is what is going to happen to you at that position, (DE Kyle) Vanden Bosch. So he's holding his own. I'm sure just like with (Colts T) Tony Ugoh practicing against Dwight every day, practicing against Mario Williams has to help him. He's playing well for a rookie left tackle, playing very well."

(on what he thinks about WR Andre Johnson's season) "Well, doing what he's done, I think the help that he's gotten from (TE) Owen Daniels and (WR) Kevin Walter and different guys catching the ball and being a big part of the offense has really helped him. Everybody is still taking the approach that you've got to know where he is, put in stuff to try to shut him down and not let him beat you. But getting that help, it's definitely been better for him. He's a great player."

(on the difference between playing against QB Sage Rosenfels and QB Matt Schaub) "Not a whole, whole lot of difference. He (Rosenfels) might be a little bit more active, a little bit more mobile, but really not a whole lot of difference when you look at it. I think they're both very smart guys. They're both capable of making the throws you need to win. They run the bootleg stuff very well. They get out of the pocket and they extend plays. I think the team has confidence in both of them."

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning
(on if the last two games has helped them turn a corner) "It's really hard to say. I think at 5-4, there's really not any corners out there. It's truly just one game at a time. That's the best thing we've done the last two weeks, coming off losing two games. Going into the New England game we were saying, 'We need to win,' and we had a good win against New England and then we knew we had a tough test last week against Pittsburgh, and we got another road win. It's the same approach this week. We're playing Houston, a team, obviously, that we're fortunate to come away with a victory the first time. Their record, in my opinion, is misleading. The number of games that could have gone the other way, the defense is playing well. So we're truly taking it one game at a time and kind of fighting and scratching and clawing our way, just trying to hang in the picture here."

(on what it's like for him to be looking up at a team in the division for a change) "It's pretty much what normal football teams have to deal with. I'm trying to remind our young players, our third- and fourth-year players, that the way we've started the last three seasons really is not normal. This is what the NFL is really all about, just fighting and scratching and trying to hang in there in the fourth quarter and make a play. Sometimes, we make the play and sometimes, they make the play and you get beat by a field goal. So this is kind of what it's been like this season, and we're sort of just trying to fight our way through it. We've had some injuries and some young guys that have had to play, but we're just still kind of fighting our way. So that's what we're having to deal with, and it's important to hopefully try to be playing good football in the months of November and December, and hopefully we can be doing that."

(on what he thinks of the AFC South division this season) "I'm still biased. I still think it's a tough division, at least from a defensive standpoint. That's really what I focus on. Whether you're playing Houston, Jacksonville or Tennessee, it's always a tough challenge. Especially with the good players on defense, when you've got guys like (LB DeMeco) Ryans and (DE Mario) Williams. It's an excellent defensive conference, in my opinion, which is what I'm focused on."

(on if there is something they are not doing as well as they have done in the past) "I'm sure there are. I'm sure that's kind of the way it is every season. You're always looking to improve. Everybody can do their job a little better. I can do my job better. Like I said, hopefully we can do those things better at the same time and do them better in the second half of the season. I think you're always trying to improve each week, each year."

(on if there is something that has been missing this year so far) "I don't know if anything's missing. We're just trying to find a way to win games. That's what we've always tried to do and that's kind of what we're doing this season."

(on what he thinks of the Titans being unbeaten so far this season) "I really just kind of thought about it the one time we played them. I went down there and had some chances; just didn't do it in the fourth quarter. They made the plays in the fourth quarter. We didn't. They're playing very well, obviously."

(on the key for a quarterback being as durable as he and Brett Favre are) "There's a lot of things. I think you have to have good protection and good teammates. I've been real fortunate here. I've had great offensive line protection since I've been here. It's been a number of guys through the years, going back to Tariq Glenn. Of course, Jeff Saturday has been here the entire time. Ryan Diem, just a number of guys through the years that have contributed to that however much. The line coach the entire time here, he's done a great job with those guys. I've had receivers that get open on time and running backs and tight ends that block and get open on time, so you're not going to hold the ball for a long time. Obviously, you have to have good fortune, there's no question about that. But there's some want-to in there. It's kind of about accountability. I certainly expect my teammates to be there for me on Sunday. Therefore, it's important for me to be there for them as well. I've been fortunate, there's no question about it, but it's something that I do take a lot of pride in, being there every single Sunday."

(on if he feels good about the running game and where it's going to be) "Well, I hope so. Obviously, that's something that we're always working on and trying to get established. I think every NFL team, going into a game, wants to establish the run, and we're no different. We feel like when you can run the ball, it certainly opens up a lot of other things for you. We'll always stay committed to it, and it's something that we're trying to improve on, among other things."

(on how important it was to pull out the game against Houston earlier in the year and what he remembers from it) "It was a pretty crazy end of the game. Like I said, offensively, we had some chances early in the game. Houston made some stops on third down. They made some plays. We had some mistakes. We had some untimely penalties and some things that kind of hurt us a little bit. So then, of course, at the end of the game, our defense made a couple of big plays to give us a chance to get back in it. But it's a whole new game. It seems like a while ago. It's always a different challenge when you're playing a team the second time around, and it will be a real test for us."

(on if Houston looks different on film now than they did when they played them the first time) "Defensively, I thought they were playing well at that point. I think they're playing well now. I think they've gotten a couple of guys back, certainly (CB Dunta) Robinson back in the secondary. I think they've lost a couple of guys injury-wise like all teams have. But they're still very active. They're sound at what they do and really make you try to execute your offense. They're not going to give you anything. I think their goal is try to make you be really sound, and that's the important thing to try to do."

(on what he was thinking last game being down 17 with five minutes left) "I've been playing long enough, certainly we've had some games this year against the Packers and against the Titans when we've been down 17 points or whatever with three or four minutes to go and you go out there and you drive and you score a touchdown. You hear people often say, 'Hey, that's a garbage touchdown or garbage stats or those kinds of games.' I never believed in that. I believe in playing until the final whistle and keep fighting and if you don't win the game, you can learn something in there. You can learn something about a two-minute situation or you can get your timing better with a certain receiver. So it certainly wasn't looking good and certainly had to have some help from our defense. Offensively, we went out there on the one drive and just kept fighting. Tom Santi, our tight end who's been injured some since, made a couple of catches, caught his first touchdown. Those are things that can come back to help you down the road, whether you win that game or not. So I believe in being a professional and keep playing until the end."

(on if it taught something to the young guys on offense being able to pull that game against Houston out) "I certainly hope so. I think it's a valuable lesson in the NFL. It is a crazy game, and I've been involved in some crazy games, whether it's that one or we had a crazy one in Tampa a few years ago. That's your job as a professional football player. You get paid to go out there and do your job and play up until the final second ticks off. That's your job. That's what we did that day, and fortunately, it worked out for us."

(on if he could put a percentage on how good his knee feels) "I've kind of gotten over those knee questions. It feels fine. It's really not a factor."

(on the key to not throwing so many interceptions any more) "It's always kind of a combination of things. I think certainly the more comfortable you feel on offense, knowing where your answers are, knowing where your check-downs are, that's always going to help you feel more comfortable out there. At certain times, you're going to throw them. Guys are going to make good plays. You're going to have tipped balls at the line of scrimmage by a defensive lineman where you made a good throw on a good read and the guy didn't have a pass rush and got his hands up. So those are usually pretty cyclical. I think those kind of go your way some and they go against you some. I think as a quarterback, you're certainly always trying to protect the ball. That will be really important for us this week. Houston is capable of creating turnovers, so it's important to try to protect the ball. As a quarterback at the end of the day, the most important thing is to possess the ball at the end of every play regardless of (if) you want to convert third downs or throw touchdown passes. I had an old coach in college, David Cutcliffe, told me the most important thing about every play is to possess the ball at the end of that play. That's the quarterback's job, to protect the ball. So it's something you try to do every week, you try to do a good job of, and it will be important this week."

(on the state of his alma mater, Tennessee, and what he thinks has happened and what he would like to see happen) "Obviously, I'm disappointed about what's happened. I've spoken to coach (Phillip) Fulmer. It was a sad day last week when that announcement was made. So that's kind of where my thoughts are right now, kind of for him right now. I'm unbelievably indebted for what he's done for me in my football career. He's the reason why I chose to go to Tennessee and what he's done for me as a person as well. So he's been in my thoughts a lot these past couple of weeks and especially, not this Saturday but next Saturday when he coaches his last game there, I know that will be an emotional day. He's been in my mind a lot lately."

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