Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell and quarterback Peyton Manning spoke to the Houston media via conference call on Wednesday. Following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell(on the last three meetings with the Texans being very close) "We're expecting a very, very tough ballgame. They've played extremely well, no matter where we've played them. They've been a very, very difficult team to deal with and they just keep getting better every week. It's going to be tough."
(on being the most successful first-year coach since 1970) "Well, I really don't feel that way. You know how the grind and how this game and league is in terms of getting prepared every week, so we kind of throw most of those things behind us and start focusing in on the next game. Every time you start looking at film, you forget about everything else and try to work on ways to prepare your team for a real talented opponent."
(on the Colts allowing the fewest points defensively and what they are doing) "Overall, I think what it really boils down to, just in terms of the defensive plays, schematically we've done a few things a little bit differently. We're probably a bit more aggressive than we've been. All of those things that we're using were in the package. (Defensive coordinator) Larry (Coyer) has done a great job of selling it to the guys and getting them to buy in to the way in which he understands defensive football should be played. I think fundamentals and technique are really the key and I think our guys have been really, really strong in terms of their fundamentals and they continue to get better. They believe in work and techniques. Those are the things that carry you through."
(on if it helps defensive coordinator Larry Coyer that he coached with Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and Texans offensive coordinator Alex Gibbs in Denver in knowing their tendencies) "Well, that goes both ways. They also know him extremely well. They certainly understand and know his tendencies also. I think those two things probably cancel one another out and it really boils down to who executes best."
(on how he keeps the team focused on the next game) "The big thing is, I think, if you have a bunch of guys that have never had a lengthy streak going before and never been in the situation, it would be a bit more difficult to deal with. All these guys have all had some extended streaks. For example, most of the core guys around her have been 13-0 at one point. They've been 9-0 several different occasions. I think they know how to handle it and focus in on the next game. They don't look at it as a novelty. They do understand that we really haven't accomplished anything yet. That's the thing that most people don't realize, the fact that we have not accomplished one thing even though we have a real fine record. We haven't put ourselves in any better position than anybody else at this point."
(on keeping the edge when you're the team everyone is gunning for on Sunday) "That's kind of been a constant around here. There has been a certain sense of the targeting being on one's back for an extended period of time. The last how many years since we've been here, that's kind of become expected. But it also certainly gives us an opportunity to make certain that we can use that as a point of emphasis too, that we have to be ready because we're going to get everybody's best shot. We know that."
(on if winning the close games helps them the next time they're in those situations) "I think so. I think it certainly gives you an opportunity to talk about it and teach from it. We've had a few games in our history where we've come from behind. In Tampa, we were behind by a significant number of points and the team was able to come back and win that game. A lot of the younger guys have not been involved in it, so even though we use some of those examples, they couldn't sense it and feel the spirit. Obviously, since they've had an opportunity through several of them now, now they understand why it's important to play all 60 minutes and why it's important to always make certain that we finish a ball game. So it serves as some great teaching but also, I think it shows that we do have some guys that have some strong constitution and strong character on this team. I think that helps us."
(on what the Texans have been able to do to close the gap on the Colts) "I think they're just a very, very talented football team. I think overall, from top to bottom within their organization, they do a tremendous job of identifying talent and getting that talent on the field. (Texans head) Coach (Gary) Kubiak has done a tremendous job, just in terms of building a real solid foundation on both sides of the ball and the kicking game. They're a very, very difficult team to deal with. They're very tough on us."
Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning
(on the key to maintaining their edge every week knowing every team will give them their best) "Well, every week presents a new challenge, and that's always kind of been our philosophy around here is just one game at a time. We respect all of our opponents and treat them all the same, I guess. So far, we've had good weeks of preparation. We've had a lot of close games. They certainly haven't been perfect, but we made enough plays especially in the fourth quarter to be able to pull them out. Our first game against Houston, extremely close game and we felt fortunate to win. We're anticipating another very close game this Sunday."
(on the way Texans have played last three games against them) "They're a very good team, and like you said, a number of of our games have gone down to the wire. Even in years past, especially in Houston, a number of the games have been close, and it's always a dog-fight. Their personnel has improved over the years and they're well-coached and like I said, they're a very disciplined team. So it's a challenge."
(on if it's a challenge not to talk about being unbeaten) "It's certainly something that we haven't talked about. We don't talk about it around here. All we talk about is the next opponent. Obviously, this is a team that we played two weeks ago, it came down to the wire. They've only played one team since us. We've had two tough games since we played them. They've had a bye week in there, so they'll be fresh. All we talk about, like I said, is just taking it one game at a time. That's really kind of been our philosophy."
(on if he has daydreamed about the possibility of playing in the Super Bowl against his hometown team, the New Orleans Saints) "I have not. I have not. Obviously, there's been plenty to think about here in the AFC with our schedule, with our young players that are playing, with our injuries. It's a lot on your plate each week, so I have not thought about that. Certainly, the Saints are having a great year. There's no question about that."
(on if the Saints or Giants are his second-favorite team) "Giants. Giants."
(on if the Saints are third) "All I have is two."
(on how the Texans' defense is different this season) "You see some similarities, you see some differences. Obviously, I think they have some new personnel. They've added (Brian) Cushing and (Glover) Quin as good rookie players that have given them some flexibility to do some different things on defense. But they're very sound in what they do. Guys are in the right position. You don't see a lot of mental mistakes out there on the field, and to move the ball against them, you truly have to be good and disciplined at what you're doing."
(on the difference in the Colts' defense under Larry Coyer this year) "It's a different scheme. There's certainly some different philosophies. I know one our defensive players could probably give you more specifics, but it's a number of the same players – although, like you said, we have had some injuries – but a lot of the veterans are leading by example: Gary Brackett, of course Dwight Freeney, Antoine Bethea. But we've got some young corners that have played well and have learned kind of on the run throughout this season. They get thrown in there early and have done a good job. But guys are just making plays at critical times. That's really what it comes down to in football."
(on the difference in having head coach Jim Caldwell instead of Tony Dungy) "Well, I could probably give you a better answer probably next April, after I've kind of known Coach Caldwell as a head coach for a full year. Certainly, I knew him as my position coach, but I'm getting to know him as a head coach as well, and he's getting more to know us as a head coach of the entire team. I think everybody's kind of learning something a little bit new each week or every three or four games. Players are playing very hard for him, which I think is a great quality as a head coach, and the players respect him."
(on if he still has as much fun now as he did five years ago) "If we win, there's no question about that. You know, it's not much fun when you lose. It's definitely a lot of hard work, but it's very rewarding when your hard work comes to fruition and you have a close game or you win by a last-minute touchdown or a game-winning field goal and your defense has a goal-line stand. That's very rewarding and makes you feel like that hard work's paying off. But it's a long season, obviously. There's lot of intensity, a lot of pressure."
(on how he gets young guys to not succumb to pressure every week) "I'm not sure if it's something that we do. I think, obviously, a lot of it has to do with the kind of players that we've brought in here. They're young guys but they're guys obviously that can handle a lot mentally. It is a long season. I think it'll be a challenge to all of our young guys as the season gets later and later. But it's a credit to them to be able to work through the mental side, to pick up the offense or the defense and to be able to make the adjustment to the National Football League."
(on Texans S Bernard Pollard) "He's a good player. He's a good player. He's an active guy in the run game. He's a good tackler and a smart player."
(on if Pollard has added a physical dimension to the Texans' secondary) "Good tackler. He's a good tackler. You don't see him miss many tackles, and he definitely has some pop to him when he makes a tackle. So he's a very good safety."
(on what games like the Colts' victories over New England and Miami feel like to him) "It's kind of week to week, I guess. I don't think any two games are the same. Like I said, it's a lot of intensity out there during the game. it's great satisfaction when you come out on top, but I think the key we've done each week is to put the previous game behind us no matter how it ended up and move on to the next opponent."
(on if he's ever surprised by what they're able to do in certain games) "I think, like I said, every game is going to have its own identity, and when you're out there playing, I guess you don't think much about it except to go on and try to do your job, try to do what you practiced and prepared for. If it's going down there making a first down to ice the game or if it's going out there having to make a two-minute drive to win the game, that's what you prepare to do, that's what you're trying to do in order to win the game."
(on the Colts' comeback victory at Reliant Stadium in 2008) "Obviously, we had some guys make some big plays at critical times. Brackett's fumble recovery for a touchdown was a huge play. Reggie (Wayne) made a great one-handed catch there in the end zone. So we were fortunate, there's no question about that. We had some breaks go our way, but also, some guys made some critical plays at critical times."