Q: I guess just first off, Peyton, how good does this feel?
Peyton Manning: It's a good feeling because of how hard we worked this season. I know how hard I've worked, how hard our team has worked. It's always nice to see hard work rewarded, you know, with a great opportunity to go down to Miami to win here at home. I first just have to say how special the fans have been today and tonight, really all season. The kind of support they've given us made a big difference, and what a difference they made in today's game.
I just have to say what a class organization the New England Patriots have. What they've done in the NFL these past number of years has been nothing short of incredible. The way some of the players came up to me after the game and sent their best wishes, I really appreciate it. It says a lot about the players they have.
I'm just happy to be a part of the Colts organization. Top to bottom, Jim Irsay, Bill Polian, Coach Dungy, all the players, excited to be going to Miami to play the Bears.
Q: Peyton, the way this team won it, does it make it more special?
PM: Well, I mean, I guess so. I mean, you know, I would have taken 35-nothing also, I think. You certainly don't envision getting down 21-3 to the New England Patriots in any game, much less the playoffs. That's not the hole you want to be in and really felt like we were kind of doing okay. I mean, didn't feel like things were going that bad. Samuel made a good play on the interception and then, once he runs back the touchdown, it's just that double whammy. From that point on, I really felt like I wanted to make at least 7 points up somewhere. The defense, really only given up 14 points, so it was kind of my fault that it was 21-3.
I was really trying to make a play to make up for that. Really didn't do it there until the very end. It was such a methodical, kind of method that we used to clip away at the lead. Nice to tie it up and then those kickoffs -- got a little scary to score because the kickoffs weren't much fun, watching Hobbs run it back, but just a great win for the fans here at home, I think.
Q: Peyton, it's a big win for the team. Do you feel vindicated in any way?
PM: I just don't, I don't play that card. I thought this game was about two really good football teams and certainly the history we've had with this team and, I can remember the disappointment three years ago when we lost up there to New England in the AFC Championship.
That's been the number one question I've been asked so far. I don't get into monkeys and vindication and -- I just don't play that card. I know how hard I've worked this season. I know how hard I worked this week to get ready for these guys, and it's always nice when you, at that time hard work and put it to use and come away with a win.
Q: Peyton, when you guys were down 21-3, you didn't panic. How much of that is a reflex of coaching, did you think?
PM: That's something I've said since Coach Dungy has been there, kind of that calm look he has on his face. He's calm on opening kickoff, and he's calm when you're down 21-3, which how many guys can say that?
He's just a cool customer. I think that really spreads through the rest of the team, that it cannot be a panic situation and you can't try to get it all back at once. And you saw there in the opening drive of the second half, we were really taking some short passes and finally got a little running game going. As we all know, that solves a lot of problems when you get your running game going.
We kind of slowly clipped away at the lead and made some plays. Who would have thought Klecko would be our top touchdown guy here in the playoffs and the 2-point conversion was a big play.
Q: Did Tom Brady say anything to you when the game was over?
PM: I really appreciated, Teddy Bruschi came up, Kevin Faulk, and Tom just wished me luck and I just appreciated the class that those guys demonstrated. They've beaten us, and today we beat them.
Q: Peyton, in the final moments you were sitting there with your head down on the bench. Were you meditating? Did you get emotional? It seems you may have been a little teary on the field.
PM: Certainly the way that the game went down at the end there, I mean, it's not the first time that I've ever felt that way. Those are fun opportunities to play quarterback. Obviously more fun when you win. It's not very much fun when you lose. I said a little prayer there on that last drive.
I don't know if you're supposed to pray for stuff like that, but I said a little prayer there. I'll say one thing about our last drive there, there's no question and Coach Dungy, it just came from him, that we certainly wanted to score a touchdown on that last drive. We did not want to score too fast once we got down there because you do not want to give Tom Brady that much time.
So the personal foul penalty, you know, put us down at the 11. At that point we can still get a first down. It was kind of like even when Joe ran the touchdown. I was kind of thinking just go ahead and get the first down, let's run a little more clock, use a few more timeouts because a minute -- with Tom Brady and two time outs, that's not the situation that you truly want to be in.
Q: You seemed emotional when you walked on the field, went to hug your dad. What's going through your mind?
PM: It's an emotional game. This profession that we do, it's -- emotion is a big part of it. It's a satisfying feeling when you work hard, prepare hard, and you want to try to achieve something. We really haven't achieved the ultimate goal, but we're certainly giving ourselves an opportunity so it's a very satisfying feeling.
Q: When you get the ball after -- on the last possession, do you think at all this is where the quarterbacks have their defining moments, in a situation like this and this is your opportunity right here?
PM: That's certainly not what I was thinking at that time. I kind of used this word earlier in the week. I mean some of that stuff is a little deep for me. I just -- I really wanted to do my job -- I wanted to do my job well. I didn't think that I had to be super for us to win, but I thought I needed to play well for us to win and didn't get off to the kind of start that we wanted. Had a third down on the first series, we had a shot, and you just hate getting down to these guys because hardly anybody ever comes back when the Patriots have the lead.
It's not situation you wanted to be in. What are you going to do? It's the last game of the season. If you don't win, no point in getting mad and panicking. You might as well as just try to go out there and the execute and everybody kind of start doing their part. The defense got a few stops, the situation there at the end when you're down and you need a field goal, but a touchdown sure would be nice. That's why you do the two-minute drill every Thursday in practice. And sure, those are situations that you have dreams about as a kid, and it's always nice when you can go out there and execute and do it.
Q: Peyton, the call on the touchdown, whose idea?
PM: On the run play at the end? That was a play we run on some short yardage situations earlier in the game and I'm pretty sure the call came from Tom Moore, and was trying to get the first down. Third and two on the four. Get the first down and keep chipping away. Make them use another one of their timeouts, and it opened up pretty good.
Q: Peyton, were you able to hear what your father told you on the field?
PM: No, I really couldn't hear that much, but, you know, just told me "congratulations," and it's always nice to have my family here and my brothers are here, and it's always nice when you can share a moment like that with your family.
Q: Tony said he thought people would still talk about the big game until you win the Super Bowl. Do you think that's done now?
PM: I think there's probably always something else they'll be talking about. I'm sure on that (Around The) Horn Show you have, I'm sure you will be debating it tomorrow. So there's always something. …and I watched a pretty good amount of that Bears/Saints game today. That was the not a great feeling, seeing how good the Bears are and how good that defense is. We know what kind of challenge we'll have down there, but we're excited to be representing the AFC and really excited for these fans here.
Q: Peyton, the throw to Bryan Fletcher
PM: Play to Bryan Fletcher, this is scary to say this publicly because who knows where his ego go will go from here. That was his call. He actually called two plays in a row. The play before that we kind of threw a little side route, 52 made a break. He said, "Give me a corner route on that guy."
We called the appropriate play to get him on the corner route. They were really playing man-to-man. Once again, the middle safety was going over to the right side to double. So it's funny, I kept -- even the series before, I was on the phone with my quarterback's coach, Jim (Caldwell), "What's something that we can do to take advantage of that coverage," and nothing was really popping in my head.
So much of our offense goes just on the fly, everything is in, every single week, and the game plan so you can get to those plays. Finally Bryan Fletcher said "Run the corner route." We called the play. That was a huge play because once you got there, you're in sure fire field goal range, and the personal foul was a nice little bonus to get it down there close to the endzone.
Q: Has it sunk in yet there might be a new definition for the drive?
PM: No. I guess it really hadn't. I hadn't thought about that. It's funny, I watched -- was on the other day. I don't know where I was. I guess at my house. I watched the drive with Elway, and you never get tired of seeing that. That was 20 years ago, I guess. That one has always kind of been special to me to watch, and you always kind of get a good feeling when you see it. So I'm not comparing what we just did to that, but I guess that sounds pretty good.
Q: Were you in pain that last drive at all? Seems like you might have been wincing.
PM: It's always your biggest fear as a quarterback, thumb on the helmet. I've been lucky that way in a lot of practices and lot of throws. The guy got me pretty good. I was a little worried at first. I went over there and made a couple warmup throws. I think adrenaline kind of carried me through.
Q: Jeff talked about how everybody is involved now in the offense. Do you think that's kind of the last step for you guys, that it's okay to run the ball, that it's okay to throw underneath?
PM: I think it's so important. To beat a great team like the Patriots, everybody has got to do their part in the whole game, but we knew offensively we had to get some kind of running game going. It didn't look real good early. When you get down 21-3, you can become kind of little bit one dimensional if you're not careful. You saw that with the Saints. Once they got down, they started throwing.
We felt there's enough time on the clock to use our running game going. I felt the tempo that we set was important. They had a lot of guys substituting, they had some guys cramping at times. That was the tempo we wanted to create. Also, we played our best. We can kind of get into that rhythm and get some consecutive first downs. That was important.
Q: This has been the third straight week really that you guys have done this?
PM: It's something that in past playoff games we haven't done quite as well in past years, haven't had a good run, just a good run game to really open some real things in the passing game. It certainly has been real positive with the running game the last three weeks.
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