Manning: All Games Are Big Games

Peyton Manning talks to the media about what it will be like to have WR Marvin Harrison back, San Diego QB Philip Rivers, what role injuries played in the Colts' last game against the Chargers, and much more!

On if he and WR-Marvin Harrison will fit back together like a hand in a glove...

"You hope so, I guess. We've never really crossed this bridge before. He's been an unbelievably durable guy during his whole career. I think the most time we've ever not been together was my rookie year, he missed the last four games. Then I think in my (sixth) year he missed a week or two. It's really the first time it's ever happened, so we'll see, I guess. I can't really give you a definitive answer."

On getting his receiving corps back to where they are able to do what they're supposed to do...

"Sure. Obviously in a playoff game you want as many regular starters out there as possible, so as many guys as we can get back that can practice this week and play, we'll certainly take it. That doesn't guarantee you a thing on the field if you don't go out there and execute. The simple fact is regardless of who played the last time we played (San Diego), we just didn't execute well enough. But, sure, on paper, it is good to get some of your normal guys back out there."

On if having reserves instead of WRs-Marvin Harrison and Anthony Gonzalez and TE-Dallas Clark was a factor on some plays in the last game vs. San Diego...

"I really don't. Like I said, that's one of the biggest, one of the best things we've done this year, is we have not used injuries as an excuse. We haven't really talked about them for an extended period of time. We've said, ‘Okay, this guy's not playing, this guy's going to play, let's go make it work.' And that particular game, bad quarterback play by me is the main reason that we didn't execute on offense. We didn't play real well in that game on offense or on special teams, yet still had a chance to win in the end. But the fact is San Diego made more plays than we did, and they deserved to win. They're playing a heck of a lot better these past few weeks than they were then, and hopefully somehow we can find a way, too. It still comes down to how you execute on the field."

On if a couple of his interceptions vs. San Diego were just because of great individual plays like the ones by Antonio Cromartie and Shaun Phillips...

"Oh, every one I've ever thrown has its own story, but nobody wants to hear it. I give San Diego full credit for the plays they made throughout that game, and like I said, I'm critical of myself. I think I could have made much better decisions and better throws. Their defense, everybody asks what makes their defense so good, I think it's the players. Most (great) defenses are made up of great players. They have just outstanding personnel at all positions and it gives their defensive coordinator (Ted) Cottrell a lot of flexibility to do a lot of different things, because they can move (Shawne) Merriman and (Shaun) Phillips around and they can play different types of man-to-man with (Quentin) Jammer and (Antonio) Cromartie. It's a real credit to their players."

On with four interceptions and a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown in the first few possessions, is it amazing the Colts even had a chance in the game vs. San Diego....

"Usually when you have that many turnovers and you give up a couple of returns, the game is over right away. You take a little bit of a positive (out of that game) that nobody quit, everybody kept playing, but the simple fact is we still didn't win the game. You can what-if yourself all over the field, but San Diego played better than we did and they won the game. I still think what happened earlier or what happened in years past, past playoff games, whatever it may be, I still don't think it carries a lot of relevance. It still comes down to kind of who plays better on Sunday, and that's what we're trying to do to get ready for that."

On if he thinks the Chargers are playing better now than the first time they played in November...

"I think so. I think they've played excellent football. They've won seven or eight in a row since after their Jacksonville game. They've gotten some guys back from injuries as well. I think (Luis) Castillo makes a big difference on their defense and what they're able to do, flexibility-wise. They're flying around, and the one thing that jumps out about their defense is how many turnovers they create. They find a way to get the ball out of the offense's hands. No better example than against Tennessee. Tennessee's going in to score, Merriman comes back-side and knocks the ball out. I think that kind of changed the flow of the game. So that's a real point of emphasis for us, as it always is in the playoffs, but especially against these guys, is trying to protect the ball. You really have to work at it because these guys do a great job creating tipped balls, creating fumbles and changing the tempo of the game."

On if he has had any interaction with Philip Rivers in the offseasons...

"I've known Philip since he was in college. We have a football camp down in Louisiana and he's come down and worked it before. I got a chance to visit with him before the game this year. He's had an excellent year. I'm a fan of quarterbacks. I know how hard it is to play quarterback in this league. Any time you can take your team to the playoffs, I think you're doing a heck of a job."


Philip Rivers
Winslow Townson/Associated Press

On if playoff experience is important for a quarterback...

"Not necessarily, I guess. It kind of depends on the individual. Coach Dungy talks about playoff games as the ability to do your job, perform your duties in the high-pressure situations. What we talk about around here, all games are big games. We prepare hard and prepare the same for all games. You have to be careful changing your routine all of a sudden just because it's a playoff game and get yourself out of your normal comfort zone. I think it's a credit to our team and our players for preparing hard for every game. Obviously we know what's at stake. This is win and advance or lose and go home. I think you'll see great effort from both teams on Sunday."

On if the Colts are better this year than last year...

"It's hard to say. It's one of those deals that you never know, trying to compare teams from different eras and different years. It feels like a different team because of the players that we have, especially some of the players that have played this year due to our injuries. We have a lot of new faces, certainly pretty much the same schemes we've been running. I think we're trying to form our own identity. I think we've done that throughout the regular season and hopefully we can do that here in the post-season. One thing I say is, you don't hear many people talking about last year, even the players on our team. This is a new year and we know that nobody else cares what we did last year. And the truth of it is, we really don't, either. We're trying to get hot at this time this year and trying to keep advancing."

On if the Colts are a more confident team this year...

"I think you have to be careful there. I think we've always been a confident team because guys trust that their hard work and preparation is going to pay off. That's why you work hard in the offseason, that's why guys spend extra time over here studying film and getting ready to play. And that's what allows you to go out and play with confidence. I think just because whatever happened last year, I still don't think it has a lot of relevance to this year and to this game. Whoever wins this game Sunday is going to be the team that probably executes better and probably makes fewer mistakes. We're hoping we can be that team."

On being a defending Super Bowl champion flying under the radar because of the season New England has had...

"I'd say that's probably true just from the standpoint we probably haven't had as many national media in each week during the regular season, and probably so because more talk about the Patriots and deservedly so because they were going undefeated. I think any time you can keep winning and stay under the radar, that's probably a good thing. Usually, staying under the radar means you're not winning games and nobody's talking about you. Obviously, we know it changes now. With the playoffs, there's only a certain amount of games, a lot of teams aren't playing, so it creates more interest. And believe me, these are the kind of games that you want to be playing in, where you do have more interest and more excitement. The one thing that we've never really talked about is being defending champs. Coach Dungy and Bill Polian kind of addressed us in training camp that ‘defending champs,' that's kind of a catch phrase, I guess, but really 2007-2008 is really to be determined. Obviously, we'd like to be able to call ourselves that after this year. I just know speaking from years past, as you get into the playoffs, I kind of forgot who won it the year before. It didn't matter to me if we were playing somebody and they had won it the year before. I thought, ‘Hey, it's a new year and you have to go out and do it again.' So that's kind of what we're trying to do right now and this season."

On DB-Bob Sanders winning Defensive MVP...

"I was real happy for him to win that award and for him to get that kind of recognition. He is very deserving. He's worked real hard. He's worked real hard to keep himself healthy this year. He plays so physical every play. He plays all-out, and the fact that he's maintained his health this year, to be out there for his teammates every Sunday has been real commendable. He makes such a difference on our defense. I think he really elevates the play of the guys around him, with his energy and his enthusiasm. He's just a real difference-maker, and I'm glad I don't have to play against him, I guess."

On his brother Eli getting his first playoff win...

"I was excited, it was a good game to watch. I was proud of him. It's his third year as a starter, taken his team to the playoffs all three years. I think sometimes when you lose in the playoffs, they sort of put you in the same category as all the teams that didn't make the playoffs, and I've never agreed with that. I think it takes hard work to make the playoffs, and it is a cut-throat business. Whoever doesn't win the championship, people say, ‘Oh, they had a bad year.' Believe me, you're doing something right. I can remember winning my first playoff game and that was a good feeling. We beat Denver here a few years ago, and it's a satisfying feeling as a team. But once you win one, it makes you want to go try to win another one. I know they're excited, and this is an exciting time to be playing football. I'm happy that Eli's still in it and I thought he did a great job on Sunday."


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