Manning: It's A Great Mental Challenge

Peyton Manning held his weekly meeting with the media on Wednesday, and not surprisingly, much of the talk centered around Pittburgh's excellent defense. See what Manning had to say about preparing for the Steelers, and get his thoughts on how things are going with his receivers, his college coach stepping down at Tennessee, and more!

On Pittsburgh:

"They're an excellent team. The defense is excellent. I think they're number one against the run and number two against the pass, so there aren't really any weaknesses on that defense. There are a number of guys that have been playing there for a number of years. They are very familiar with the system and they're creating a lot of negative plays for the offense via sacks and turnovers. That's what you have to try to avoid when you play those guys."

On Pittsburgh's game at Washington Monday night:

"They're an excellent defense. They did a good job against a Redskins team that has been playing well on offense. That definitely showed how good of a team they are."

On comparing Pittsburgh's defense to Baltimore's:

"Some of the philosophies, you might say, are similar in that they play a lot of guys and they do move guys around quite a bit. It's a 3-4 defense which is the base, but Pittsburgh does some things that are unique to them. I think it's their players that are out there making the plays. They have excellent pass rushers. (ROLB-James) Harrison has a lot of sacks. (LILB-James) Farrior and (SS-Troy) Polamalu are the leaders of the defense, get everybody lined up and you don't see anybody running wide open. You don't see a busted assignment. They truly make you execute and do your job, and that's a credit to them."

On the difference in mental preparation before a game against Pittsburgh and a game against Baltimore:

"It's the same philosophy. It's a great mental challenge, and it'll be even tougher (this week) because we're playing up there on the road with the crowd noise and all those things. It'll be a great challenge for us on offense. We need to try to do some of the things that we did the other night (vs. New England). We need to protect the ball, and when we get down in the red zone we need to try to score touchdowns and be decent on third downs. Those are some of the things – no sacks, no penalties, no turnovers. I guess we had one penalty at the end of the (first) half, but I think the clock was at zero anyway. Those are the kinds of things that sure would help give you a chance to play better."

On if he likes going into traditional football cities:

"Yes. I haven't thought a whole lot about that so far this week as much as I have just tried to get ready for this defense. They're good at home, great tradition, great history and they are playing well. Their fans will be fired up to have their team playing at home, so it'll be a great challenge for us and hopefully we can execute our offense, execute our defense and make a few plays on special teams and have a chance."

On playing a stretch of games against tough defenses:

"When the schedule came out, you knew what defenses were going to be tough and Pittsburgh hasn't disappointed our expectations. They're always stout against the run and always cause problems in the passing game, whether it's via confusion or just play making. There's a reason they're the best defense in the league."

On if the Colts have to run the ball against Pittsburgh:

"That sure would help. That's something that we continue to work on during the week of practice and try to find something that works a little bit. It's been a challenge for whatever reason, and this would be a great week to try to get a little running game going."

On if the Colts have to fix the running game to have success:

"That's what the coaches talked about today, that we need to find a way to run the ball better. I know that'll be a focus this week."

On if it felt better having both RB-Joseph Addai and RB-Dominic Rhodes in the game vs. New England:

"I think you always want to have all of your starters and your top reserve guys, so the healthier we can get all the way across the board, offensively and defensively, the better we'll be. It was good to have Joe and Dom. Those two guys being able to rotate in there is a positive."

On if he is in a better rhythm with WRs-Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne:

"We didn't throw the ball a whole lot (vs. New England). We only had seven possessions, so we just tried to take what the defense gave us. The guys did a good job getting open versus man-to-man coverage and made a couple of runs after the catch, which were good. We didn't really get down the field much because New England really wasn't giving us many opportunities. So, we took a lot of short stuff, got some big third-down conversions out of it and some positive first- and second-down plays, which allowed us to stay in 3rd-and-manageable. That was better. We need to keep that up."

On TE-Dallas Clark being more involved recently:

"I think it's always something that (Offensive Coordinator) Tom (Moore) wants to do. Everybody knows that Dallas is one of our best playmakers with the ball. On the first play of the game and another critical first down on our last series, he took about a four-yard pass and turned one into a nine-yarder and another a 12- or 15-yarder. So, the more we can find ways to get the ball in his hands and try to create mismatches, whether it's with the linebacker or whoever it may be, the better chance we have. He's doing a good job making plays for us when he gets the ball."

On if WR-Anthony Gonzalez is more relaxed in his second year in the offense:

"It would be hard for me to speak for him, but I would like to think that most guys in their second year in this system, they certainly would feel more comfortable. It is an offense that it helps to have experience. The more you get a feel of what the audibles are and the different defenses that you're going to see out of each formation, you recognize things quicker. That's how it was for me, and that's what other players have said to me from their first year to their second year. Gonz did a great job the other night (vs. New England). He made a couple of huge touchdown catches and made a real critical third-down conversion on that second-to-last drive which set up (K) Adam (Vinatieri) for the (52-yard) field goal. That was real positive to see. We need him to keep playing like that the rest of the way."

On Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense:

"They have good players. To me, that's what the key is to their defense. They have good players and they have an excellent front. That's what has given people problems up to date is being able to block their defensive line and block their linebackers, and they blitz quite a bit, as well. That's something we always try to do. We talk about trying to protect the quarterback, protect the football and protect the game. That'll be a goal this week, as well."

On how often Pittsburgh blitzes:

"I don't know the percentage of when they blitz, but they have their style of defense. They have multiple looks and it's different with various types of man-to-man blitzes and quite a number of zone blitzes. It's a great challenge, I'll say that. Playing on the road will make it even harder. We need to do some things to make it easier by staying out of the 3rd-and-longs, protecting the ball and not giving them short field position and just trying to convert some third downs when we have the opportunity. If we can have a little mix of run game, drop-back pass and play action, that sure would help, as well."

On if big plays are available against Pittsburgh:

"I think Pittsburgh's is a unique style of defense because of the players that they have. They do things that nobody else can do because of the players they have. They are very well coached, and that's why it's going to be tough, because of the players they have."

On if the team has to persevere when things aren't going smooth:

"I hope it all goes smooth. That would be the goal. There's a reason they have the top defense in the league, because they are good and they're tough to move the ball against."

On if it was hard to watch what happened with Phillip Fulmer at the University of Tennessee on Monday:

"Yes, it was. I spoke about it the other day. It was a sad day, Monday, for all people in Tennessee. He's made a huge impact on me personally and certainly on my football career. I know I wouldn't be in this locker room today in my 11th year as an NFL quarterback if it wasn't for the opportunity to play four years for Coach Fulmer at Tennessee. He's really the reason I chose Tennessee, and I'm saddened about it, disappointed about it. I talked to him (Tuesday) night, and he's in good spirits. He's going to coach these last three games, hopefully get to a bowl game, give it all he has and go from there. But, yes, Monday was a tough day."

On getting a winning streak started:

"That'd be nice, and that's what Coach (Tony) Dungy talks about, but we're truly taking them one game at a time. At this point, we've finished the first half of the season at 4-4, which is .500 football, and that's not the kind of football we want to be playing. We'd like to be a much better team in the second half. We have a tough challenge starting with Pittsburgh and from here on out the rest of the way. We are in a one-game-at-a-time mode. That was the approach last week and it worked for us, so we'll see if we can do it again this week."

On taking one game at a time:

"The approach we have is, ‘The next opponent we're playing, that is the most important game. Do whatever you have to do to try to win that game and prepare as hard as you possibly can.' I thought last week we really had a good week of preparation. We got a couple of guys back from injury, and we had a couple of guys we thought were going to play that didn't play, so some young players, new players, had to step up. We're going to have that same situation again this week. There will be some new guys having to play in tough circumstances, but everybody has to be focused on just the next team we're playing, do everything they have to do preparation wise, focus wise to go and play their best that week and see if that's good enough to help us win another game."


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