Tony Dungy Press Conference

Colts head coach Tony Dungy answered over 20 questions for the media yesterday ranging in topic from the San Diego Chargers, to what it's going to take to repeat as Super Bowl Champions, to safety Bob Sanders, and much more!

General comments...

"It is good to be back. It's good to be one of only eight teams preparing to play this week, and that's what I always tell our team, that's something special and you want to keep that going. It's quite an honor to be in the final eight, to know who we're playing, and I do think we have the four best teams in the AFC still in it. It's going to be a fun weekend and we're going to have our hands full with San Diego. People have told me that we're healthier and we're playing better, and I believe that's true. I don't think we'll play a game like we played out there, but I think San Diego is playing better. They were in the process of finding themselves, too, earlier in the year, and I think they're pretty grooved now with a seven-game winning streak and knowing what they do well and all their components. They've looked pretty good in the last few weeks to me. So it should be fun, it should be exciting. I think it's going to be good for our city, and I know our guys will be energized. We're going to just do a little bit today, really not do a whole lot on San Diego, give our coaches this evening and tomorrow to prepare, and we'll start up in earnest on Wednesday. I've gotten note from our trainers that they expect everybody with the possible exception of Ben Utecht—Ben might still be a little sore and be limited on Wednesday—but everybody else should be ready to go, and that will put us the healthiest we've been in a long while. So one of the benefits of the bye I think is going to pay off for us, and now it's up to us just to get ourselves ready and get dialed in on San Diego."

On with the injuries in the last game at San Diego and it being a different team, can he take anything out of that game or is it two different teams...

"I don't think there will be a lot to take out of that game, what happened one way or another. We do know this, that they're very explosive on special teams and we have to do a much better job of handling Darren Sproles. We know who their talented guys are, obviously (LaDainian) Tomlinson and (Antonio) Gates are the guys who get the focus on offense and then the two outside linebackers on defense. But they have a lot of good players, and we have to certainly play better than we played out there. I think we're in better shape to do that. I think we'll play much better, and we're looking forward to it."

On RB-LaDainian Tomlinson...

"He's special. I like him a lot, in a lot of ways. I like the way he plays the game, I like what he does for his team, and the fact that he's a complete player. He does a lot of things that don't show up. He catches the ball well and runs and his nose for the goal line, just a lot of things you admire. I like the way he goes about his business and how he's really lifted his team. He's a special player."

On it being difficult defending RB-LaDainian Tomlinson because of his ability to break a long run at any point whether his numbers early in the game are good or not...

"It really is, and that's how the great backs are. You feel like you're holding them down to a certain extent and all of a sudden two plays define the whole game. They have the capability of making those. It is a lot like when we used to play Barry Sanders, that if you can (hold him to) 12, 14 carries you have a chance to hold him down. Usually, they get 20, 23, 25, and they're going to make one big run or game-changing play. You are never secure in feeling like, ‘Oh, yeah, we know what these guys are doing. We can hold this guy down.'"

On QB-Philip Rivers winning his first playoff game....

"I think for the whole team, your first playoff game, they're hard to win. They'll be a lot more relaxed and I'm sure play a lot better this week. Every year it's a little bit different, but winning that first one feels like it gets you in the groove for the rest of them. I'm sure that was a relief to them, and I know they're looking forward to playing us."

On how much it changes the game plan whether TE-Antonio Gates plays or not...

"I think it would change a lot, and it wouldn't hurt my feelings if they rested him up and tried to get him healthy for the following week. He's a tremendous player, he's a big, big part of what they do. He's a tough matchup, much like Dallas Clark is a tough matchup because they can move him a lot of places. He's a little bit too big for most DBs to cover, and he's a little bit too nifty for most linebackers to cover. They go to him in such big ways, it does dictate what you can do. I don't know that they'll tell us if he's going to play or not, but it certainly would make a big difference."

On San Diego intercepting QB-Peyton Manning six times the first time this season...

"There were a lot of factors that went into it. Number one, they have a great defense. They take the ball away from a lot of people, and that has to be our focus. They're I think number one in the league in giveaway-takeaway (ratio), so you have to make a concerted effort to hang onto the ball. Number two, we're playing without a lot of our weaponry and feeling like we're going to have to make some plays. We got down with the opening kickoff return and then a punt return, so you're down 14-0 and pressing, a lot of different things that go into it. I hope we don't turn it over six times in this game, and I don't think we will."

On why historically the offense has had trouble with a 3-4 defense...

"I don't know that we've had difficulty with the 3-4. We've had difficulty with good 3-4 teams that have good players, and that's the difficulty of it. It's when you're blocking Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips and (Jamal) Williams, whether they're in a 4-3 or 3-4, they're going to cause you problems. But the 3-4, you have four guys that can come at any time. You have to know who's coming and who isn't. They can get you with your backs blocking those guys at times, just having four different guys that can come without having to blitz and be in man-to-man coverage. It's a system that has a lot of variations in it, it has a lot of different things that they can do, and it's one that if you're not familiar with it and you don't play it a lot it can cause you some problems. But the main thing is, it's not necessarily identifying who to block, it's getting it done and getting those guys special guys blocked."


RB Joseph Addai
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

On having to take a patient approach on offense ...

"Well, I think that's playoff football in general. You have to do what you do and understand that the Denver games that we've had are rare. They're few and far between. Most playoff games aren't like that, where one team kind of just gets out to a fast start and everything goes right. You're going to have back-and-forth field position, you're going to have plays that don't go well, you're going to have to punt the ball and you're going to have to return punts and all those kinds of things. I think that's playoff football, and being able to do that and function and not make big mistakes, that's generally what loses playoff games and that's what you have to try to avoid."

On how effective the special teams has to be in the playoffs...

"You hope to be effective enough to win it all. That's what we'd like to do, and we'd like not to give up those long returns, and we'd like to return some on our own. We'll do that, we'll put the best guys out that give us the best chance to perform and then we have to go do the job. But just as you saw this weekend, there's going to be some plays made and there are going to be some returners that make things happen. And if we do give up a return touchdown, we have experience, we know that doesn't necessarily mean you have to lose the game."

On if like a year ago, if he plans on putting starters on special teams for the post-season...

"We'll look at it, and I would expect to see some of those guys on there. We're going to put the best coverage units we can have out there, and that may include some of our front-line guys I would think; especially with the linebackers, we'll get a lot of those guys out there. We'll look at it and see."

On being hesitant to put DE-Robert Mathis on special teams because of his knee injury...

"We'll see how he is. I would say that's true, with him not playing in a couple of weeks, we would hesitate to have him on those long runs, but if it's necessary and he's healthy, you could see him."

On with the bye, if there is anything he can do to make sure they don't get off to a slow start...

"That's the tough part of it, and whenever you're off, you're always a little bit unsure how you're going to start off. You do the same thing in the regular season opener, but usually both teams are coming in the same way. Now you're playing a team that has been playing. But it happens in the regular season. You have a bye week, the other team has been playing. It's really not that big of a deal. What we have to do is avoid the slow start that we've had in the last two regular season home games, where we've let the first drive go right down the field and score, because in the playoffs it's much tougher to come back on teams. You're playing better teams."

On if they will kick to Darren Sproles...

"I hope we kick it to him a lot, kickoffs."

On the theory of more return touchdowns and it being great athletes on return units but players on the cusp of the roster being on the coverage units...

"I think that's a big part of it. I think that return units are getting better. I think people are not afraid to put some great weaponry back there. Devin Hester returns and doesn't play that much from scrimmage, where in the past it would be people trying to find ways to get him 80 or 90 catches and maybe save him on the returns. You're seeing some big-time returners back there and you're seeing I think because of the salary cap, when you do have to play young guys and play guys who haven't had experience covering kicks, it's a different ball game."

On if he has to tell the team anything heading into the playoffs...

"I've always told our teams that in the playoffs, it's not going to another level, it's not getting sharper, it's not any of that. It's being able to do what you always do when the stakes are high. And the stakes are higher in the playoffs, and most of the time you see what you saw over this past weekend; you see fumbled kickoffs, you see fumbles at the five yard-line, you see blown coverages, you see missed field goals, things that don't normally happen determining the games. And if you can do what you've always done during the regular season, but do it when the stakes are at their highest, that's when you're going to win. I think we have a lot of those types of players, and I think San Diego has a lot of those types of players."

On if his team's approach surprised him heading into this season, coming back as defending Super Bowl champions...

"No, this is what I thought we would do. I thought we had a lot of guys that understood that you can't really worry about last year, that you have to come in and establish what the 07 team is going to be all about. And I think we've done a good job of that, but we all expected to do that."


QB Peyton Manning
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

On after going deep into the playoffs before, if they were able to learn anything from last year about what it takes to win the Super Bowl...

"No, I think it just confirmed to us that you get to the playoffs, you don't know what to expect, you don't know how games are going to be. You might have to win a game 15-6, you might have to win a game 38-34, you might have to win on the last drive and stop the last drive. There are a lot of ways that you're going to have to do it in the playoffs, but it comes down to just being able to make the regular mundane plays. If you can do that and do that well, you're going to be in good shape. But the tough part is to put it out of your mind, that it's the playoffs and it's the big stage. You just have to go out there and play hard for 60 minutes."

On if he thinks he is taking a better team into the playoffs this year...

"I think we are. I think we're much better in a lot of ways. We've been more consistent on defense. I think we're physically a little tougher on defense. I think we're taking care of the ball—other than that one San Diego game—I think we're taking care of the ball really well. We've had to develop some other weapons in our arsenal with Marvin (Harrison) being hurt, and we've done that. We have guys that have moved around and played in different positions. We've developed a lot more depth on the offensive line with all of the guys that have had to play. And I think we have a mental toughness of playing in close games and being involved in games where you have to dig down in the fourth quarter to win. So I think we're better, but I think the overall AFC is probably a little bit stronger than last year."

On how much more reliable is the defense than last year...

"We'll find out, I guess, in the playoffs. Over the regular season, it's been much more reliable, and we've played some good offensive people and held them down. We've played more to the standard I think we should play to, more to the standard I thought we'd play to last year, and we really didn't see it until the playoffs last year. This is when you have to do it. This is when you get tested by the Tomlinsons and the Gates and Rivers of the world, and we'll find out."

On DB-Bob Sanders being named Defensive Player-of-the-Year...

"For us and for him, we've been known so long as an offensive team, I think for someone from our defense to be recognized is quite an accomplishment because I don't think nationally we're thought of as a defensive team. He's been good, he's made a difference for us, and he's a great player."

On Sanders' ability to play in the box and in coverage...

"He's probably what you would look for if you were designing a safety for this system, so I think it's a mesh of the perfect guy playing in a system that's designed for him. I think Joseph Addai has that benefit, too. It's really a great system for all of the things that he can do. So every now and then, you get that guy who just really just fits the job description. And I think that's what we have in Bob, a guy who can do a lot of things that our safety position demands."

On Bob Sanders' tackling ability, near the line of scrimmage...

"That's an instinct that he has. He is able to do that. He's able to go full speed, he's able to diagnose pretty quickly, and he's able to disguise a lot of things a lot more than most guys because he does have that reaction time, and that's one of the things that makes him a great player."

On if Bob Sanders brings a swagger to the Colts defense...

"Yes, in a lot of the same ways (as Warren Sapp did in Tampa), that, ‘Hey, I know what I'm doing out here. I'm a guy that you're going to have to deal with play after play after play, and you're going to have to gameplan for me.' A lot of the same thing, yes."

On DT-Warren Sapp's retirement...

"I'm a little misty-eyed about that. I remember Warren was one of the first guys that I talked to when I went to Tampa in 96 and said that if we're going to get where we wanted to go, he was going to have to carry us. He was going to have to be not only a great player, but a leader, and we were going to build a defense around him. And he did, he turned out to be that three-technique that you could build around. He was a great practice player and one of the smartest players I've been around. I think Ronde Barber said it, the swagger that he had really rubbed off on everyone else, and then he gave that franchise the idea that they could win. He was special, a special guy. I think both of us came along at the right time."


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