Manning: It's Gut-Check Time

Peyton Manning met with the media Wednesday for his weekly press conference. See what Manning had to say about the Tennessee game, his thoughts on how to turn things around, what he thinks about New England quarterback Matt Cassel, and his conversations with an injured Tom Brady. Manning also addressed rumors that he still may be playing with an injury. See what he had to say inside!

On if this game against New England feels different:

"I guess you would have to say yes. It's obviously not two undefeated teams. They're playing well, though. They're 5-2 coming off a really good win against St. Louis. They've battled through some adversity this year with some of the injuries. Of course, losing (QB) Tom (Brady), lost (S) Rodney Harrison and came back with a win against St. Louis, which is impressive. Obviously, we need to find a way to get a win. That's what our focus is this week, just to somehow find a way to get a win."

On RB-Dominic Rhodes:

"Dom's done a good job. He made some good runs the other night (at Tennessee), and had a couple of good runs when the score was kind of even-keel against Green Bay. He's made a couple of plays in the passing game. It was close on a little short throw the other night. He cut it back and just barely got tripped up. It could have been a big play. He's pass protected well. It's nice having a veteran that's been in a lot of big games and knows the offense well. (RB) Chad (Simpson) came in and did a good job spelling Dom the other night. He made some good runs in a couple of high-pressure situations, 3rd-and-1s. He got some good experience, so I think that'll help us out down the road."

On getting Rhodes the ball when RB-Joseph Addai returns:

"I know (RB Coach) Gene Huey just has a rotation with those guys. I think those guys give a lot of input as to how they feel and Joe comes out when he needs a little bit of rest. Both of those guys will be important."

On New England QB-Matt Cassel:

"I'm probably the wrong guy to ask. I know our defensive guys have certainly seen more of him, but just from their record, obviously he's come in and has done a good job. I did see he threw a game-winning touchdown with three minutes to go against St. Louis to (RB) Kevin Faulk, which was a nice play in the fourth quarter. I haven't seen a lot of him each week, but he's playing well enough to be 5-2, so that's a credit to him."

On if he watches film and sees the offense being close on certain plays after games like at Tennessee Monday night:

"Sometimes. I think you do that in a lot of games. When you win you do that. When you lose, obviously, you probably think about them a little bit more. We had great effort in the game the other day. The guys played hard, but effort alone isn't going to win games for you, so our execution has to be better. We did have a couple of plays where a little bit better execution here or there could have resulted in some different results, and it just didn't go our way."

On why he thinks the offense is off:

"I really can't give you a one-word or one-sentence summary, but we do need to play better. Our offense needs to find a way to score some more points. It just comes down to executing better and trying to be sound with all 11 guys doing the right thing at the same time and not 10 guys on this play and nine guys on this play. That's what we need to get back to, and this would be a good week to start doing that."

On the mental aspect of this season:

"This is a good mental test right now. This is when you find out a lot about what you're made of. It's easy to feel good and be happy when you're undefeated, but when you're 3-4 and you're back's up against the wall, it's what we call gut-check time. I think we will respond the right way. Like I said, our effort was outstanding the other night, a lot of guys playing hard and flying around. We just have to sharpen it up a little bit and be a little more sound when it comes to the execution part of it. I think we do have the right kind of guys that will keep fighting hard and stick together and answer the challenge."

On if he is in a slump:

"I think we're 3-4. I don't really know how that really applies to football. In baseball it applies. If you haven't had a hit in 50 at-bats, I guess that's a slump. But in football, like I said, we did some good things the other night on offense. We had some good drives and got down there a few other times and just weren't able to finish the drive off. That's what it is right now."

On if he has spoken to New England QB-Tom Brady:

"Not recently. I've contacted him a couple of times since his surgery. It was a pretty short conversation, just wished him the best in his recovery."

On if it is strange playing New England without Brady:

"Yes, I know that will be different for our defense seeing a different quarterback back there. But, I think they realize with the Patriots record – like I said, they're 5-2 and playing well and coming off a good win – we'll still have a tough challenge."

On if he is angry with the team's start:

"I don't think anybody's happy. Everybody's mad about not winning the game the other night, but everybody realizes why it happened. The Titans made more plays in the second half than we did. It's about funneling that energy into improvement, going out and taking it to the practice field, doing our jobs a little bit better and just trying to be better in the execution part of it. There are plenty of teams that are angry out there. That doesn't mean you're going to go out and win the next week. I know the Patriots could care less about what our record is or how we feel. But, I think we do have the right kinds of guys in this locker room to handle the adversity in football terms. There's a lot of adversity going on in our world right now, but in football terms this is a tough time right now and we have to fight through it and stick together and believe that something good is going to happen if we keep working."

On if the team's struggles are just cyclical in the NFL:

"No. I know everybody wants to summarize the whole season based on one game or one play. While you're in the middle of it, you truly are taking it one week at a time. People ask me those questions, ‘Is the window closing?' I don't see the football and windows connection. The fact is, we have lost two in a row, we have an extremely tough game this Sunday and it's going to be tough from here on out, especially when you put yourselves in a hole. That's what we're concerned about, just trying to get a win. A win would help some things to try to get us back on track. That's what we have to do this week, somehow find a way, scratch, fight, to get a win."

On the mood in the locker room:

"I can't really summarize every single person's feelings right now, but I would like to think guys are disappointed about losing the last two games. I expect that we'll see good practices these next three days because we have good professionals in here that know how to take care of their business, and that's what we have to do this week."

On how frustrating the season has been for him:

"The frustrating thing has been the losses. We just aren't playing good enough football to win these close games. We're doing some things well at times, but throughout the entire four quarters need to be a little bit sharper and execute a little bit better. You try to deal with each game individually based on what the defense is doing and how you're executing against that defense. The Titans presented some challenges the other night, and New England presents a whole different array of challenges and defensive looks. That's what we have to handle this week."

On if he has empathy for Brady:

"An ACL and being out for the season, I probably can't give as much perspective on that as (Cincinnati QB) Carson Palmer or maybe (Philadelphia QB-Donovan) McNabb, the guys that have had those ACL injuries. I hated to see it when it happened. I don't like to see a quarterback have one of those tough games or have an injury and be out for the year. I think it's a pretty unique fraternity that quarterbacks are, so when one of them gets hurt, you hate to see it. I wish Tom the best in his recovery and his rehab. I'm sure he'll be back before they say he will."

On how he tries to get out of the offensive funk:

"The key is just trying to do better on Sundays while practicing hard and studying just as much as you always have and when it comes down to it, making those plays on Sunday. Trying to stay on the field on third downs, trying to avoid first- or second-down negative plays that get you into the 3rd-and-longs that we've had a couple of times this year, which are hard to overcome, and we certainly need to protect the ball better."

On how many games it took him to get over missing training camp:

"I really had no bar to compare it to, so I don't really know. All I know is I was out there for game one and tried to play my best in order to win that game. If this had happened to me before, I could probably give you a more comparative analysis of how I was feeling as compared to what it's felt like in the past. I've just adjusted to how I felt at the beginning of this year and tried to play my best."

On Steve Young thinking he was still hurt:

"No, that's not the case. Although, if I was I probably wouldn't tell you. But, that's not the case. It's certainly not an excuse. It's something I'd never use as an excuse. We just need to play better. I need to play better. Everybody needs to step it up a little bit and be a little sharper. That's not going to guarantee you anything because we are playing a tough team this week, but that's the short and sweet of it I think."

On if there is an advantage to struggling early in the season:

"I certainly hope it can be. If there's something to play for late in the season, it certainly can make you a little more battle tested, especially with these young guys we are playing. They can grow up and learn in a hurry. I've tried to tell our young players these past three years, ‘This is not normal, what we've been doing.' I'm not sure they really believed me because you do it three years in a row and they say, ‘Maybe this is how it is in the NFL,' but having my rookie year (in 1998) and my fourth year (in 2001) when we struggled a bit and having some years where we went 10-6 and fought through it, this is real football here. This is a little bit of gut-check time. We are fighting and scratching. Hopefully, we can fight and scratch and find a way to get some victories. Obviously, the goal is to have a chance to be playing for something in the end, but right now, the immediate goal is to try to get one win and see if we can build off of that."


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