Horse Report: Manning Claims to be Worried

From Indianapolis, Peyton Manning maintains a straight face while claiming to be concerned about the Cleveland Browns defense.

It didn't take much for the Cleveland Browns to get the attention of Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning.

Cleveland's 35-14 shellacking of the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Oct. 13 was all it took. Throw in the Browns' 23-17 win at Jacksonville and a 29-27 win at Buffalo for good measure.

"They beat the Giants, the Giants' only loss, and they beat them 35-14. You see their (video) cut-ups and see the things they do. They're capable of doing a lot of different things defensively, play different schemes, and they have good playmakers," Manning said earlier this week.

"They have a tough (defensive) front and a great nose tackle in (Shaun) Rogers. Of course, (outside linebacker Willie) McGinest is a great veteran for them. They are a tough defense to move the ball against."

Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy hasn't pulled any punches in regards to the Browns. Despite a 4-7 won-loss record, and the season-ending loss of quarterback Brady Quinn to a broken finger, he likes what he's seen of Romeo Crennel's team.

"We're getting ready for the Browns. Our defensive coach had to spend a little extra time looking at (quarterback) Derek Anderson and trying to get ready for that. But we know what to expect going in there," Dungy said.

"Cleveland has a good football team, somewhat like San Diego. A little deceptive record, but they beat Buffalo a couple of weeks ago when Buffalo was really in the hunt in first place in their division. And they beat the Giants and gave them their only loss."

The Colts have won their last four meetings with Cleveland, including a 13-6 win at the RCA Dome in 2005. But what Crennel's defense did against Indianapolis in that game has the Colts' coaching staff taking a long look at the game tape.

"The last time we played them was a 13-6 game (in Indianapolis) and they did a really good job of holding our offense down," Dungy said. "That's what we're anticipating, a team that's going to play their best. They have some weaponry and we have won some things that we have to improve on from the San Diego game if we want to come out of there with a win.

"With this type of week, Thanksgiving week where you're a little disrupted schedule-wise, we have to really concentrate and get a lot of work done. And I think we will."

It shouldn't be too hard for the Colts coach to keep everybody's focus on the task ahead.

"You look at their Pro Bowl players and guys that they have in certain spots that can give you trouble," he pointed out. "(Wide receiver) Josh Cribbs in the return game, all the things that you really have to be sharp on. I think if our guys just watch the tape, they'll have an understanding of what we're going to be dealing with."

SERIES HISTORY: 25th regular-season meeting. The Browns lead the series, 13-11. The postseason series is tied at 2-2. The two franchises last met on Sept. 25, 2005 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis with the Colts posting a 13-6 win. The series began in 1956. Indianapolis has won the last four games, six of the past seven and eight of the last eight 12 meetings. Cleveland's last win in the series occurred on Sept. 25, 1994 with the Browns registering a 21-14 decision at the RCA Dome. The Colts have an 8-7 record in Cleveland, with Indianapolis winning its last game there 9-6 on Sept. 7, 2003 (three Mike Vanderjagt field goals, including the game-winner from 45 yards out coming with 0:01 left in the fourth quarter).Indianapolis has a 3-0 record in Cleveland Browns Stadium. The two franchises played each other in the 1964 NFL Championship game, with the Browns winning 27-0. Other postseason meetings were the 1968 NFL Championship game (Colts winning 34-0), a 1971 AFC Divisional Playoff game (Colts won 20-3), and a 1988 AFC Divisional Playoff game (Browns won 38-21).

 

NOTES, QUOTES

--Colts coach Tony Dungy has a 3-0 career coaching record against the Browns.

--"I think a lot of it is that -- having been there at some point in the past and feeling like we can do it, knowing the way to do it. Kind of what we've been talking about is doing your job and not getting too caught up in everything else, not worrying about all of these other things, just taking the approach, 'If I do my job, we're going to be OK.' We've got a lot of guys who have been able to sell that to the younger players so we haven't had to look for anything special or fantastic. Maybe going for it on fourth down is about the most bizarre thing we've done. Really, we've just played fundamental football and counted on players to make plays." -- Dungy on the Colts' ability to battle through injuries and an uncharacteristic 3-4 start to the season.

--"I thought it was very much errors we were making that you can't make if you want to win championships. It's not easy to get those straightened out. You just emphasize taking care of the football and emphasize fundamentals so you're not out of position, creating penalties on yourself. That was what I saw that needed to be corrected." -- Dungy, on what gave him confidence that the Colts could survive and prosper despite the 3-4 start to the season.

--"It's good training for us, because if we go in as a wild-card team that's what we're going to have to do. That's how the games are going to be, and you're going to have to play as hard and as well as you can, then you're going to have to make some big plays in the fourth quarter. You're going to have to withstand the noise and the emotion and the adrenaline and everything the home team has. This is good preparation." -- Dungy, on the Colts' current winning streak and possibly having to play all, or most, of its postseason games on the road this year.

--"You can't look at it that way. You look at Oakland going into Denver Sunday (when 3-8 Oakland beat 6-5 Denver, 31-10). That's the National Football League. This is what separates really good teams that can take care of business week in and week out. That's how we were in '03, '04 and '05. Whatever the challenge is you're able to meet it that week." -- Dungy, on a 7-4 Colts team playing at 4-7 Cleveland this week.

--Indianapolis is aiming for its seventh consecutive win in the month of November.

--The Colts own a 2-0 mark against the AFC North this season with wins over Baltimore (31-3) and Pittsburgh (24-20).

--QB Peyton Manning is tied with his younger brother, Eli (New York Giants), and Kansas City's Tyler Thigpen with nine touchdown passes in the month of November.

--Manning has a 4-0 career record against the Browns, completing 93 of 143 passes for 992 yards, two touchdowns and has thrown four interceptions. He has a career 78.2 quarterback efficiency rating in those four games.

--"It's very much like last week (heading into the San Diego game). All you have to do is look at the film and see a really good defense. You see a team who I don't think their record is indicative of what kind of team they have. When you get to this point, you're not looking at (won-loss) records. You're looking at who you're playing and what they do well. They have good playmakers on defense. They have an explosive offense. So we know we need to score some points. That's all we look at." -- QB Peyton Manning, on playing Cleveland this week.

--WR Marvin Harrison has hauled in 38 passes for 407 yards and two touchdowns in four career games with the Browns.

--WR Reggie Wayne has caught three of his five touchdown passes this year in road games.

--Wayne has eight catches for 136 yards in three previous meetings with the Browns.

--DE Dwight Freeney has recorded four sacks in his past three games. Freeney has five sacks in three career games with the Browns.

--"It's not something I want to miss a playoff game for, that's for sure. I don't know how long it will be. It's strained and until it doesn't hurt anymore they're not going to let me go out there. The doctor gives you kind of a roundabout time frame. They have made it very clear they're not going to put me back out there until there's zero pain or zero residual issue with it." -- C Jeff Saturday, on when he might return to the starting lineup for the Colts. Saturday is expected to sidelined from three to four weeks with a strained left calf muscle.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- QB Peyton Manning is shooting for his sixth consecutive game with two or more touchdown passes.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "A win is a win is a win. As (Kansas City Chiefs head coach) Herman Edwards said, 'You play to win the game. That's what you do.' There has been a myth created by these report cards and all of these power rankings and all the other chatter that somehow if you don't win every game in the National Football League 37-0 and hold the other team under 200 yards that you're a flawed team and there's something wrong. That isn't the way the National Football League is. The National Football League is what we see every week -- hard-fought games that turn on one, two or three plays where the matchups are very, very even and you're in a situation where you have to fight and scrap for every single game. We make no bones about the fact that that's the way it's going to be the rest of the way. We said it at the outset when we had all of the injuries that that was likely the way it was going to be all season long. Coulda, woulda, shoulda doesn't count either way. Either you won or you lost, and then from our perspective, 'How did we play?' We play to a certain standard. Every week we want to adhere to that standard. We want to reach that standard and if we do it, then we're fine. All of the other things -- the so-called style points -- are totally meaningless in the NFL." -- Team president Bill Polian, on the Colts winning close games this year.

 

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Rookie LB Jordan Senn has made some major contributions to the Colts' kickoff and punt coverage units this year.

Two other rookies, S Jamie Silva and WR Pierre Garcon, have also helped solidify an area that has often been an Achilles' heel for Indianapolis in recent seasons.

"We had had (Senn) deactivated for a couple of weeks, but then we watched the first Houston game (on Oct. 5) and he had quite a few good plays in that game and (special teams coach) Russ (Purnell) wanted to get him back up, so we did last week. He was good last week (vs. Houston) and (Sunday) night. (WR) Pierre (Garcon) has improved every week. (Rookie LB) Philip Wheeler, Jamie Silva, a lot of young guys that are stepping up and playing well, and that's what we need," said Colts coach Tony Dungy.

 

PLAYER NOTES

--S Antoine Bethea (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. He is expected to start Sunday at Cleveland.

--LB Gary Brackett (hamstring) was held out of Wednesday's workout. Brackett will start against the Browns on Sunday.

--S Melvin Bullitt (rib) did not take part in Wednesday's workout. He is expected to start against the Browns this week.

--DE Dwight Freeney was held out of Wednesday's practice in order to rest old injuries. Freeney is expected back in practice on Thursday.

--LB Tyjuan Hagler (knee) did not practice Wednesday. Hagler should be available to play Sunday at Cleveland.

--CB Tim Jennings did not practice Wednesday as he rested old injuries. Jennings will probably return for Thursday's workout.

--DE Robert Mathis was rested during Wednesday's practice. Mathis is expected back for Thursday's workout and start Sunday at Cleveland.

--WR Roy Hall (knee/hamstring) took part in Wednesday's practice. Hall has not played or practiced since the opening game of the regular season. His availability for Sunday's game with Cleveland won't be known until the end of the week.

--C/OG Christian Gaddis has been signed to the Colts' practice squad. Gaddis was an undrafted free agent signed by Buffalo last year. He also played briefly with the Cleveland Browns this season.

GAME PLAN: Don't overlook anybody. That's the motto that the Colts have undertaken this week.

Offensively, Indianapolis is starting to find its rhythm. The running game, though, can get better. The Colts want to try and control the tempo of the game, especially with their running backs. Finding a way to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers will be key.

Defensively, clean up mistakes that were made in last week's win at San Diego. Tackle better. Play the defense better. And continue to get after the quarterback. Force turnovers.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Colts C Jamey Richard vs. Browns NT Shaun Rogers. A rookie, Richard took over as the starter in last week's game at San Diego. He replaces Pro Bowl C Jeff Saturday for the next several weeks. Rogers is another big, athletic nose tackle/defensive tackle that Rogers will be facing this week.

Browns CBs Eric Wright/Brandon McDonald vs. Colts WRs Marvin Harrison/Reggie Wayne. Wright and McDonald both had interceptions in Cleveland's big win over the New York Giants earlier this season, with Wright taking his back 94 yards for a touchdown. Wright has picked off three passes this year, McDonald two. Harrison has been on a tear of late, catching 15 passes over his last two games. Wayne has a team-leading 58 receptions this year.

Colts RDE Dwight Freeney vs. Browns LT Joe Thomas. Freeney has been on fire over the past couple of weeks, picking up four total sacks in games with Pittsburgh and San Diego. He has a team-leading seven sacks so far this season. Thomas was the Browns' first-round draft pick last year and has quickly become one of the league's best left offensive tackles.

INJURY IMPACT: OT Tony Ugoh (quadriceps) did not practice on Wednesday. Ugoh's availability for the Cleveland game on Sunday won't be known for a couple of days.

--S Bob Sanders (knee) is not expected to play this week at Cleveland. Sanders probably won't practice until Friday or Saturday, if at all. A final decision on his availability won't be made until Saturday.

--C Jeff Saturday (calf) is sidelined for the next three-to-four weeks. He was hurt in the first quarter of last Sunday night's game at San Diego.

 

 


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