Colts QB Peyton Manning
(on possibly clinching the division and a playoff spot this weekend)* ** *"It's a good opportunity. That's really been the goal for us all along, is to try to win the division. (Head) Coach (Tony) Dungy has always been very clear about that, that it's going to be the goal from the get-go, to try to take care of that first. And we have the opportunity to do it. But, that will be a tough challenge going down there, to Houston, especially playing at their place."
(on being in striking distance of breaking the TD pass record of 48)* ** *"It really hasn't crossed my mind as far as that idea. Like I said, the opportunity is to go down there and try to get a win and try to capture the AFC South. It's a competitive conference, and I know I've repeated it over and over again, but just to be able to get into the playoffs in the AFC is quite an accomplishment, I think. And to have the chance to do it early, guarantee you a spot, is something you want to take advantage of. We had an opportunity like this last year. I can't remember if it was for the division, but it was for a good spot, and we missed it at playing Denver here at home. So, it's an opportunity you want to take advantage of, but like I said, it's going to be a tough challenge. That's really what it's all about, is trying to win games, and you can't really worry about anything else."
(on if it would be nice to get the record out of the way so he's not asked about it all of the time)* ** *"Like I said, I hate to keep killing you with these boring answers, but I just can't get into it. Teams are playing you different ways. I thought Tennessee was really cognizant down there in the red zone of playing the pass. They had a couple of defenders that were just staring at Brandon Stokley the entire time, and Edgerrin James is running with the ball untouched. If teams want to play the run, then obviously the pass may be there, but if they are going to play the pass, we've always been a team that has run the ball. A classic example, we had a 3 rd-and-4, at a kind of pivotal point in the game, and we ran the ball and Tennessee was playing pass coverage. So, you still have to just follow the read, whether it's throwing touchdowns or handing off to Edgerrin James. The idea, though, is to keep trying to score points."
(on no one ever talking about RB-Edgerrin James despite almost leading the league in rushing)* ** *"I don't really know who 'no one' is referring to, because obviously around here, he's very popular and he's so crucial to the offense, what we're able to do. Certainly the play action has been a huge part of our offense this year, and I've always said this, that play action just doesn't work, and our team has been an example a couple of years. When Edgerrin was hurt or maybe not quite 100 percent, teams weren't biting on the fakes quite as much. But with him back there, linebackers or safties, even corners sometimes, are respecting the run. And it's just a real credit to him and his presence. He's running the ball extremely well, making plays with the ball in the passing game. I just can't state enough how important he is to the offense."
(on with him saying at the beginning of the season he wanted a 70 percent completion rate, if he felt the offense had the potential to be productive as it has)* ** *"The 70-percent goal was kind of just a goal (Offensive Coordinator) Tom Moore had, just kind of for the offense. Tom has goals, and that's just one of the things he set. It's always nice to aim high. Offensively, we had a lot of the same players back, but we emphasized certain things in the offseason about improving in the red zone, about being a little better on third down, about protecting the ball a little bit better, and in the games we've won, we've done those things. And that's the idea, to keep doing those things during these last games. But it's still week to week. Our offensive players have shown up each week and have made plays at the critical times, but because you did it last Sunday doesn't mean you're going to do it the next Sunday. You still have to show up during the week of practice and get better and show up every single Sunday. Hopefully, we can keep doing that."
(on possibly having three 1,000 receivers and three 10 TD receivers)* ** *"Like I said, I'm real proud of those guys, the years they've had. I think one thing, I've said this a number of times, it hasn't happened by accident. Those guys, along with myself, have spent a lot of time here in the months of March and April and May, when maybe coaches aren't around and it's not an organized workout, working on routes vs. zone coverage or man coverage, scramble drills, communicating during special teams periods about adjustments on routes. Every team has guys with good arms and good receivers, but I feel like we've truly put in some extra work to kind of get things the way they are right now. And we're reaping the benefits of that work in the offseason and of our off-the-field communication, whether it's in the locker room or in meetings or the weight room. But I'm real proud of those guys for their work ethic. I'm happy for them. I hope those are records those guys can break, because I'm just real happy for all of those guys."
(on Houston believing they were disrespected by the Colts scoring so many points and possibly running up the score in their last meeting)* ** *"I really don't know. I know it's a division game. It's the second time we play them, and I've always felt the second time around, it's always tough, especially in the division with a team that is as familiar with us as anybody else in the league. And we're familiar with their personnel, too. It usually comes down to execution. That was not the case in the first game. I'm not going to get into the whole fourth quarter. But (Head) Coach (Tony) Dungy, there's not a classier coach in the league, and we followed his orders. It was a good win the first time, but it's a totally different ballgame. And playing at their place is always tough to play."
(on if he can describe the feeling of being in the no huddle, walking up to the line and knowing what he's going to do, thinking it's going to work)* ** *"I think that's a big part of it, is having confidence. And I guess the best thing we have is prior experience to refer to, whether it's a 3rd and 10 or it's a two-minute drill where you have to get a field goal or a touchdown. And I think the guys in the huddle, we've been there before. So, you can say, 'Hey guys, we were down in Tampa, we had to come back and score, we did it. We had this 3rd and 15 that we had to get two weeks ago and we got it.' So, it's nice to have that, kind of 'we've done this before' type deal. Everybody's on the same page. The offensive linemen obviously have shuffled this year, but for the most part, out wide and behind me, the skill positions, guys are on the same page. Guys have a pretty good idea of what play I'm changing it to. I'm not really surprising anybody with any audibles. That continuity just helps. It's been very rhythmic. Guys have been in the flow of the game and everybody's been on the same page. We don't have a lot of missed assignments, which is a big part of executing an offense. Like I said, it's still week to week and play to play, and we feel like, one thing we talk about is getting better each week. Let's get better than the week before. I think we've done that in practice and it's showing up on Sundays."
(on his play this season and winning games)* ** *"Like I said, that's really all I can focus on, is trying to win games. I feel like for us to win games, I feel like I have to do my part. If that requires throwing touchdowns or making an audible to throw a touchdown pass; but at the same time, I can't tell you how many times I've checked out of pass plays where we probably had good looks, probably had a chance to hit (a receiver). I even get the receivers going, 'Hey, why didn't you run that play? I would have been open.' I say, 'Well, there was a big bubble over here on the right guard and Edgerrin (James) got 10 yards and that's what I'm coached to do and felt that was the best play.' It's all about the team. I know that's cliché, but if you're winning games and taking care of business, some of the things that come along with that are fine, but the ultimate thing is to keep winning games. So, it's been a nice five-game winning streak. We were at a pretty pivotal point a while back after losing two in a row to Jacksonville and Kansas City, and since then, we have played better. We have a tough stretch coming down here. The key is to keep winning, and if I can keep doing my part, hopefully that will be the case."
(on if he ever plays the game of 'what if we were in the NFC')* ** *"I never have done that. I've kind of been an AFC guy since I've been here. You sort of get defensive about your conference, and I have a lot of respect for all of the teams in our conference. That's just a classic example of how tough it is this year. We're right in the middle of it and I hopefully, we can have a shot in the end."
(on if WRs Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley were with him all spring)* ** *"The work Marvin and I have done has kind of been well documented. Marvin is the only receiver that's been here the entire time that I've been here. Marvin was really kind of the old, savvy veteran, even though he was just a third-year player when I got here. But he was kind of that guy that I leaned on early. It was Marvin and Marshall Faulk. And then of course Marshall left and we brought in Edgerrin James. But when you lean on a guy early, he kind of takes care of you and you tend to always kind of lean on him. So, Marvin and I have always just sort of had that repoire. And we spent a lot of time when I first got here in the offseasons and in between drills, getting our timing down. And when you get it, it's just kind of hard to lose. Marvin and I have had it from the get-go. Reggie, really his last three years, has really, really come on and has just been the consistent performer that we hoped he would be. And he's just played at a high level. And Brandon, it's just his second year, and really only half of last season he was healthy, but he and I, every offseason, he works our football camp in Louisiana. I don't know, even the little time we spent together there talking and throwing, I felt we kind of had a little time coming in, so it wasn't hard to make a transition to a guy like him. Some guys, and we've had guys we've brought through here, it's hard to get timing with them. Every route is kind of different. But with those three guys especially, left side or right side, you feel like you could make certain throws with your eyes closed because they are in the right spot. That's a real credit to them, for that consistency with the routes."
(on how much of their connection (QB-Peyton Manning and his receivers) is mental trust and how much is physical trust)* ** *"Obviously, you have to have the ability, no question about it. You couldn't play in the NFL. I think that's what kind of separates our timing, is the mental discussions that we have, whether it's film study…To tell you the truth, we don't spend a lot of time watching film together, but what we do is, things that I see, or I'll see in meetings, we visualize. I'll say, 'Hey, here's what Tennessee's going to do or here's what they might do. I want you to run this, and make this adjustment.' And those three guys (WRs Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley), they can see it in their head, which I think is a real key to being a special player, is to be able to visualize it in your head. Some guys have to have you write it down on a notebook or on a bulletin board. If you can see it in your head on a Wednesday practice, then you can see it in the game on Sunday. The many of plays that we've run, I mean Reggie's touchdown against Tennessee was a play we had not run in a few weeks, it was not a play that was in the game plan, but boom, we called it, gave him the signal, he knew what to do, executed it perfectly, touchdown. So, it's kind of that flexibility, that the trust that we have in each other, that really makes this thing go."
(on how much side adjustment goes on every Sunday)* ** *"There's quite a bit. Like I said, there's so much flexibility and teams play you differently. I mean, there are so many teams that show certain things. We played Detroit, they showed things all week in the film study and really didn't do any of that to us on Sunday. Some of the plays that we had in the game plan really weren't all that effective. So, we said on the sidelines, hey, we might go to this or maybe at a timeout, hey, be alive for this. Like I said, during a timeout, you don't have time to draw in the dirt. It's visualization, and those guys can do it. I can tell you, as a quarterback, it's nice to be able to have one guy that you can kind of play that game with, but when you have really a number of guys; I mean, Edgerrin's good at it, Marcus (Pollard) and Dallas (Clark) are good at it. So, that's big for me, is being able to be flexible, to be able to visualize things and to adjust on the run."
(on what the best offense he remembers watching)* ** *"It seems like watching those Buffalo offenses, they were kind of a no-huddle, fast-break offense. Jim Kelly called a lot of his own plays, and they were very aggressive. That's one thing I will say about us, Tom Moore, he is as aggressive of an offensive coordinator as there is. There are certain calls that he makes that a lot of people wouldn't make -- 3rd and 1, 4th and 1, deep balls, those kinds of situations. That puts a lot of pressure on the defense. And the key is to be aggressive, and at the same time, be smart and disciplined with the football. So, I don't know, that's what kind of comes to mind."
(on Dan Marino once asking how to stop this offense and he kind of laughed)* ** *"I laughed because I wasn't going to tell him. Believe me, there are certain things that I can think of. I guess the one thing we try to do, though, is in the offseason, we try to work on our weaknesses. We try to take teams that did things to stop us, that stopped us on a third down or maybe certain things that gave us trouble, we work on those things in the offseason. We've gotten better at some of those things. I use the red zone. Last year, we were in the red zone more than any other team in the league, we settled for a lot of field goals and we just said, we have to get better down in the red zone scoring more touchdowns. And we've done that. A lot of it's because we've run the ball better down there, but you run the ball, boom, all of a sudden you're faking it to Edgerrin (James) and Brandon Stokley is wide open in the end zone. So, I think that's the thing that, as a team and even as a player, a lot of people are afraid to work on your weaknesses. I've tried to work on mine every year, whether it's certain throws or certain mechanics and try to be a better player each year. Like I said, there are going to be Sundays when it's going to be tough, and the thing we've done is been able to play, for the most part, 60-minute games. And if we punt a couple of times, it's frustrating, but you just have to keep playing."
(on because they do so many mental adjustments if they break tendencies more than most teams do)* ** *"The thing about us, the whole offense is in every Sunday, and we really kind of hold you accountable for knowing. It's not an excuse to come back and say, 'Hey, that wasn't in the game plan.' If we ran it in training camp, it is in the game plan. Obviously, there are certain things you want to focus on, but with the audibles, we're going to get to certain plays, we're going to pull them out, even if we haven't run them in a while. Certainly, we have some plays that we do run a lot. The thing we talk about is, let's just do what we do, and do it really well. Certainly, with the flexibility and the no-huddle, it does give you time at the line where you can change to certain things and get to certain looks. The thing we try to do is take advantage of matchups. If you get Marvin (Harrison) on a young corner or a guy that's in man-to-man, if you get it on 1st-and-10 and you have a run play called, hey, we might not get this look again, why don't we take advantage of it right now and go ahead and throw the deep ball on them. Just try to take advantage of a shot when you get it, because you don't know when you're going to get it again."
(on if this is an uncomfortable week for him with everyone talking about the record)* *"No. I mean, this is such a tremendous opportunity for our team to be able to win the division this weekend, and that's what it's all about. That guarantees you a playoff spot, which I think these days, that's all you can ask. And from there, try to get hot and have a shot at the whole thing. Everybody on this team kind of knows what I'm about. I'm ultimately just trying to help our team win. So, it's really not a problem."