After defeating the Cleveland Browns by a score of 17-7 and pushing their record to 5-1, the Broncos didn't get to bask in the glory of another victory for long. At head coach Mike Shanahan's press conference on Monday, the questions started to fly already about the upcoming clash with the undefeated Indianapolis Colts.
Shanahan stated his case regarding what it would take for the Broncos to hand the Colts their first loss of the 2006 season.
"To beat a football team like this, you've got to be very consistent. That's all I can say for offense, defense and special teams," he said. "You don't beat a team like them – regardless of whether you're at home or on the road – if you don't play well in all three areas."
Shanahan's Broncos have allowed just 44 points during their first six games, a mere 7.3 points per game. They've allowed just two touchdowns all year and have kept their opponent in single digits in five consecutive games. But he even sent a message to his defense during his comments when he said, "We have to play well on offense and special teams, and on defense we've got to play at another level because we're playing a quarterback that has played very consistently and played very well."
Denver's head coach had the opportunity to get to know Colts quarterback Peyton Manning much better earlier this year when Shanahan coached the AFC Pro Bowl team. And his admiration for Indianapolis' franchise quarterback was readily apparent in his remarks.
"He was exactly what I thought he would be. He just loves the game," he said. "You can see why he's so successful. He lives it, he breathes it, he wants to be the best that's ever played the game and he works at it...he's the real deal."
Shanahan's Broncos were ousted from the playoffs in both 2003 and 2004 by the Colts. So in addition to working with him during the Pro Bowl, he's seen first-hand what Manning is capable of doing on the football field and has learned one very important lesson.
"I know one thing – if you don't have any pressure on him, he's going to pick you apart," he said. "That's just the nature of the beast. He's that good."
And while Manning has been criticized for not winning a Super Bowl yet and Shanahan understands the reasons for it, he doesn't agree with those who say Manning will never get it done.
"It took John Elway 14 years with people telling him constantly every day that he didn't have the touch, didn't have this, didn't have that, he should retire after the Jacksonville game," he explained. "But he was just too strong and had too much perseverance, and he worked through it.
"Peyton's the same way. Peyton's going to keep on fighting until he wins a Super Bowl, and I would be shocked if someday he doesn't just because of his mindset."
Shanahan's also not buying into the theory that the Colts offense isn't as effective without running back Edgerrin James. While he acknowledged that James was a tough loss, he's taken note of Colts rookie Joseph Addai.
"They've got an excellent one (running back) in return," he said. "They got a first-round draft choice, and he can run. He can make it happen, so they've skill."
When the two teams last met, the Colts embarrassed the Broncos in the 2004 AFC Wildcard game by a score of 49-24. Manning completed 27 of 33 passes for 457 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. It was the most passing yards the Denver Broncos had ever given up in a game.
The organization has obviously made serious strides towards ensuring that won't happen again when the Colts come to town this weekend.
"I don't know how many years I've been saying this, but it's points given up by the defense that consistently wins. It wins championships," Shanahan said. "To do that, you have to have the right personnel. You have to have great corners, great linebackers. You've got to have a pass rush. You've got to have nickel and dime situations because offenses can use three, four, five wide receivers. They can dictate what substitution package you have."
And he provided a specific example of just how important that complete breadth of talent is to a team's success.
"We played the Colts one year and had lost two of our defensive backs. They came out with four wide receivers, and you've got a disadvantage," he said.
"It's hard enough when you do have the package because the offense can dictate what defenses can do. But it's a great challenge because they've been one of the top offenses for a number of years."
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