Manning: Focus Has "Made A Big Difference"

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning talked to the media about the team's focus this season, his thoughts on the Jaguars, and his teammates as they prepare for Sunday's game in Jacksonville.

(on Coach Tony Dungy's comments about this year being a better year for him despite stats)
"Well it's been a different year from the standpoint of managing the game differently. I really sort of sensed that towards the end of that season with the way defenses were playing us, but I sensed last year that it was because of the touchdown record. I don't think anybody wanted to be that team that showed up on SportsCenter giving the 49th touchdown up to Brandon Stokley. So you saw teams down in the redzone drop more into coverage and that's how teams kind of started out this year, but it's really hard to say that teams have done this against us. It's really week to week and what every defense presents, but I felt I've really tried to manage the game from a standpoint of checking to run plays on third downs, really trusting in the run game. We have thrown some more shorter passes and during the course of the game, the deep pass may not open up until the fourth quarter. It's forced me to be a little bit more patient, but just trying to be efficient and doing a good job of getting into the endzone."

(on if he feels he's playing better)
"Well, we're winning games. That's really what it's all about to me. It's really how you judge yourself at the end of the day is, ‘Did I do enough to help my team win this game?' I guess up until this point I feel like I've done my part to help our team win 12 games."

(on if the approach is on wrapping up home-field this week)
"No question, it's a tremendous opportunity. What a challenge to go down there and play these guys at their place. The two top teams in the AFC South the past couple of years and it's always a good ballgame and we've worked hard to earn the opportunity and certainly you would like to be able take advantage of that. It's always a close game when we play these guys."

(on always rising to the challenge this year in big games)
"I think it's the same answer I've given over and over again, it's just good preparation and that's really the key. Hopefully we'll have that again this week. We feel like we beat Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Because of the preparation, because our guys are practicing, we've been healthy for the most part and that helps not only in games but in practice. That's what we hope to have this week, a good week of practice and a good week of preparation, and hopefully we can take that onto the playing field on Sunday."

(on if this is the biggest non-playoff game he has played in)
"I really haven't even had time to think about that. The focus is so much on the team that you're playing and the defense for me, trying to figure out a way to move the ball against this good defense. We know it will be a great atmosphere down there and you certainly are aware of what's on the line. But as far as our preparation, all you prepare for is the Jacksonville defense."

(on Jacksonville doing well against the Colts in the first game)
"They just have good players. That's the simplest thing I can say. DT [John] Henderson and DT [Marcus] Stroud get a lot of the attention, which they certainly deserve, and a lot of defense start up front. It's really solid there and all the way back. LB-Mike Peterson, a guy that played here and he's been an outstanding linebacker, and the secondary is very active. I think in any case, offense or defense, if you want to be good at something you have to have good players and they have good players."

(on the focus of the team)
"It's made a big difference I think. You have to be focused on the little things, the details and truly take it one week at a time. I hate to say this team is more focused than other teams because that's a knock on other teams, but I think we've always had guys that were focused on taking care of the job at hand. This team, I think, that is one of it's strengths."

(on what it would mean for C-Jeff Saturday to make the Pro Bowl)
"I certainly hope that's the case. I think it just means that he's getting the attention that he's probably deserved for a couple of years. You know for offensive lineman, it's hard to pick there, but I always thought you should go by who's having a good offensive season. You see a running back that's close to leading the league in rushing yards and you see a passing game that's highly efficient, you have to look up front when it comes to that. Also for what we require Jeff to do in this offense, Jeff essentially does a lot of the same things that I have to do as far as making audibles and making checks and he's talking just as much as I am at the offensive line. The perception of the offensive linemen of just being these big guys, these guys have to be some of your smarter players on the team. There's no way we could do the things we do offensively if it weren't for Jeff. He and I actually spend a lot of time together talking about defensive coverage. You kind of like a guy who's learning more about the game than just his position."

(on if he thinks he should play the entire season)
"It's really hard for me to play the hypothetical game with a week like this. I think the best thing we've done is focus on the job at hand. I know Coach Dungy has questions that he has to answer, but this game and everything that's on the line, it's hard for me to get into anything else. My only answer is that I feel it's my job to play every week. I like to play."

(on if he has an appreciation for all the hype)
"Well you understand it and it's exciting. Our home crowd the past two weeks has been outstanding and fans are getting there early. You see the signs in the stands, and I think it's great for this franchise and great for the fans. All we can do is keep showing up every week and keep practicing hard every week. That's really all I know to do."

(on if there is a worry of a letdown)
"I don't think you really have to say don't take any team lightly. I think players around here understand the NFL. They see the film and see two guys like [Marcus] Stroud and [John] Henderson on film. Whoever you're playing week to week, it's you're job as a professional football player and a professional athlete to get yourself prepared to play every single Sunday. Everybody's doing their job and that's been a big difference in us winning these games this year."

(on Brandon Stokley's performance in different roles)
"He's been a great player. He has a great attitude. It's been frustrating for him. He's too good of a player to not have on the field, but certainly we would like to get him involved this week and the weeks to come. We know he's going to be a big part of us trying to accomplish our goals. You never hear anything from him. He's practiced hard, which I think is the most impressive thing. I think he also knows in this offense you kind of never really know when it's going to be your day, so it's your job to always be ready. He's been ready every single Sunday."

(on if Stokley's attitude is reflective of the team)
"Yes, I like to think so. I think we have a number of guys like that. The defensive line is a good example. Those guys rotate all throughout the game and of course Dwight [Freeney] and Robert [Mathis] get a lot of the attention, but I think to be a good team you've got to be unselfish. I think we have the right kind of guys in this locker room."

(on Bryan Fletcher)
"I think he has prepared hard every single week. He's tried hard to understand the offense and understand the role of the tight end in a three point stance and in the slot. He hasn't always had the repetitions of being a starting tight end, but he's stayed involved and stayed tuned in to meetings and watching film. As a result, when his number has been called these last three or four weeks he's responded. He's played well and catching touchdowns three games in a row, and when they were, all three down in the redzone, all three that we needed badly. He's answered the bell."

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