Dungy: We're Going To Need To Be Ready

Tony Dungy took a few minutes to chat with the media Tuesday as the team prepared for its playoff game with San Diego. See what Dungy had to say about the Chargers, the health of Bob Sanders and Gary Brackett, protecting the football, the pass defense setting an NFL record, and more inside!

"Looking at San Diego and having the opportunity to look at them over the last month, they're playing very well, very explosive on offense and defensively playing with a little bit more energy and probably more in tune with what Coach (Ron) Rivera wants them to do. We'll have our work cut out. I told them team, obviously it's a lot tougher to go back a second time and beat somebody in their place in a playoff atmosphere. They're playing with confidence, so we're going to need to be ready and I think we will be."

On if there is a way to gauge the momentum for this game:

"No, there really isn't. The playoffs are completely different. You're playing against good teams. Everybody you play is tough. You have to come out and win and what you did last week really isn't going to have a bearing on what you do this week. Hopefully we can go out there and get a postseason streak started."

On San Diego QB-Philip Rivers:

"He carved us up last year and made big plays. (San Diego QB) Billy Volek came in and made big plays. That's the thing that really hurt us. We turned the ball over offensively and then we gave up big plays on defense. We're going to need to make them get rid of the ball quicker and not let those receivers get up the field as deep catching those balls."

On if he feels the running game can turn it around in the playoffs like it did in 2006:

"We do, and the postseason, again, is completely different. You have to go in and get the job done. Our run defense (in 2006) we weren't playing great up until the Kansas City week (in the wild-card round), and we played better with just some good fundamental football. Our run offense hasn't been as good as we'd like it, but it's capable and we have to turn it up. Hopefully we can start that this Saturday."

On if the last nine weeks of this season raised the bar for QB-Peyton Manning:

"I've seen some stretches where he's been hotter, but how we've done it and the fact that they've been must-win games from November 1st on and how he's prepared, that's the thing that people don't see. As far as making the throws and being hot and putting up big numbers, we had a stretch in '04 that I didn't know if I'd see anything like that again and probably won't. But, for winning under pressure and doing it consistently when we needed it, this has been a great stretch."

On how big of a priority it was to him to protect the football when he came to the Colts:

"That was my number-one focus and probably always has been since I've been a head coach. I learned that from (former Pittsburgh) Coach (Chuck) Noll, that if you take the football away and you protect it you're going to be in every game and have a chance to win most of them. This team had been very explosive, but we hadn't taken as good care of the ball as we can. Getting everybody to buy into that was big, and it didn't take long. Guys started to believe in it and we have guys that do take good care of the football, starting with the quarterback, and that helps you. If you look at the playoff numbers every year, the teams that are plus are in there. We've been fortunate ever since that year one (2002), that was kind of our learning year, and since then we've been on the plus side."

On protecting the football being ‘Dungy Ball':

"That's what people didn't understand. We played to our strengths in Tampa, and so it was run the play clock down, rely on your defense, run the ball. We had two really good backs and we utilized that, so that became synonymous with it. But, the idea is don't give up big plays on defense, take care of the ball on offense and play to your strengths. Our strength here is our quarterback and our receivers. We've had explosive runners here and we've been able to move the ball. If you don't turn it over and the other team's playing from behind, whether running or throwing, whether you're going no huddle or running the clock down, that's kind of frills, but the idea is to have the ball more than the other team does."

On how tough it was to convince Manning to cut down on turnovers:

"It wasn't tough. The tough thing was to convince everybody here that we could still be explosive, we could still go after the big plays, we could still set things up but we could take care of the ball and being explosive didn't mean that you necessarily are going to have to have turnovers. That was the big thing, and also getting our defense good enough where we didn't feel like we had to take chances, that you could punt the ball and be OK. So, it was a wholesale thought process that really had to change, but our guys, they wanted to win and they wanted to do what we wanted done so they bought into it."

On if he would be surprised if Manning doesn't win the MVP:

"I'd be very surprised if he doesn't win based on how we played and what we had to do to get back in it and the performance he's had the last nine weeks of the year. I said after we left Pittsburgh (on Nov. 9) that I would vote for (Pittsburgh LB) James Harrison. If I was voting today, I'd vote for Peyton Manning."

On LB-Gary Brackett:

"Gary will not play this week, but he's making progress. We'll visit it again next week if we win."

On OG-Mike Pollak and C-Jamey Richard:

"They're not going to practice (Tuesday). We hope to get them in some practice as the week goes on. We'll just have to see. They're probably both 50-50 right now."

On who moves in the starting lineup if Pollak and Richard are out:

"Dan (Federkeil) would right now if neither one of those guys can play."

On if this team is better suited to win on the road than previous teams he has coached:

"Not any more so. We've always been a good road team. People don't always believe that, but if you just look at the facts and don't let the perception get in the way, we've won just about as many games on the road as we've won at home. I think we're well-suited to go on the road because our offense is a veteran offense. We can score points on the road. That's usually what you have trouble doing when you go on the road playing against good defenses and the noise, but we've been able to do that. I don't think we're any better off or worse off. We have done it this year. We've had to go win some tough games and games that we needed in tough venues, but in the playoffs everything starts over 0-0 and right now we have to win four games."

On if he is optimistic DB-Bob Sanders could play four straight games in the playoffs:

"Not necessarily. We think he's going to be there this week. That's kind of how we went into the '06 playoffs and he was able to play every one and be a factor in every game. If that happens, it'll be great. If it doesn't, someone else is going to have to pick up the slack. We've played games without him and won, and we think we can play without him and win, if it has to be, again this year."

On if LB-Tyjuan Hagler will start at San Diego:

"We'll let that play out. We're going to practice several different groups, and probably a lot of it will depend on how (San Diego) plays. They play a lot of two tight ends, they play a lot of three wide receivers, so it may depend on what groups we see from them."

On not making a big speech when the team was 3-4:

"Everybody's different. I don't make a lot of big speeches no matter what. For me, 3-4, I'd been 3-4 a lot so it wasn't that big of a deal. There was a lot of panic, maybe, other places, but we just weren't playing our style of football. We still had nine games, and I felt like we could do that and if we did we were going to be in good shape. I didn't know if we were going to have enough time and we certainly weren't going to be able to lose too many of those, but at 3-4 the thing we talked about was just being ourselves and stop beating ourselves and we'd be in good shape. Fortunately we did that."

On the OL only giving up 14 sacks this season:

"They've done a good job, and they have pass protected well. We've thrown the ball a lot. We've thrown it in situations where we pretty much had to throw, so to have those kinds of numbers in those situations is good. We haven't run it as well, and that's been not necessarily just the offensive line. There are a lot of factors going into it. But, they have pass protected well and they are an athletic group, so they should. That's why we drafted them. The young guys have learned the pass protection part of it and executed pretty well."

On the Colts defense breaking the NFL record with only six TD passes allowed this season:

"I hadn't even really thought about it until it was brought to my attention before we played Tennessee (on Dec. 28). You go through the year and don't even realize it. That's always your goal, not to let people have big passes, and we played better in the red zone this year, but it was kind of surprising to me when it was brought to my attention. That's hard to do in this day and age when people throw the ball so much. I think it's a tribute to those guys who are playing on the defense and not giving up many big plays."


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