Notebook: Memo from Manning to Maddox

It's probably being considered an Instant Classic by the folks at the classic sports station, but Steelers Coach Bill Cowher almost turned off Monday night's game between the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Bucs. <br><br> "I was a tired man," said Cowher, who watched the Bucs take a 35-14 lead on an interception return for a touchdown with just over five minutes remaining in the game.

"I wanted to see how this quarterback comes back after throwing an interception for a return. I've been seeing those myself," Cowher said. "Then I saw one of the great endings to one of the great football games I've seen since I've been in this game."

Quarterback Peyton Manning directed the Colts to a come-from-behind win. It was the first time a team won a game it had trailed by 21 points with less than four minutes remaining.

"He just kept playing. To me, the bottom line is you never quit. Just keep playing, and he kept playing. It was a very, very impressive performance," Cowher said.

The topic came up after Cowher was asked about his quarterback, Tommy Maddox, who had another interception returned for a touchdown last Sunday. Maddox leads the AFC with eight interceptions. Three of those were returned for touchdowns and a fourth was returned to the Pittsburgh one-yard line.

"Tommy's going through some growing pains right now," Cowher said. "He knows it after the fact when he does it, and we talk about it going out. And I understand that. He's just got to continue to fight through that mental block and be able to, hopefully, at some point, it becomes the response that you just don't throw it or you throw it away or you hold the ball. That's still going to take place. He's still, I think, a relatively young quarterback when it comes to experience."

ABOUT THAT CALL…
The Colts finished off the Bucs with a 29-yard field goal after an attempt of 39 yards on the previous play had sailed wide right. Simeon Rice of the Bucs was penalized 10 yards for "leaping and landing on a teammate", even though replays showed that his feet landed only on the ground.

"Just his hands touched him," Cowher said. "How do you interpret landing on one of your players? I've got a feeling there's going to be a more definitive rule this off-season. I think it will be one of those plays that'll get talked about."

PLAYERS-ONLY MEETING
The Steelers held a players-only meeting Monday, with Hines Ward taking center stage. Cowher was asked for his reaction.

"I don't have much reaction to those things," he said. "A football team's like a family and sometimes you go through tough times and sometimes you say things out of frustration. I think it happens with everybody. You've got to recognize it and understand it and maybe sit back and have a chance to reflect a little bit afterwards. It's always good to get a lot of things out in the air, make sure you're not misunderstood."

Cowher expressed frustration of his own following last Sunday's game when he told reporters he would re-examine everything. Did he come to any conclusions?

"It's an ongoing process," he said. "I haven't really come to any conclusions. I mean, the conclusions you come to are the obvious facts that exist out there: We're turning the football over for returns; we're not scoring touchdowns; we're not coming up with plays at times in a game when momentum is there to be had; and we're not seizing that opportunity. In the three losses we have, we've already documented five returns for touchdowns. And I don't know if we win those games if you don't have those returns, but at least you have a chance. If you look at the three losses, we really haven't put ourselves in an opportunity to win those games."

FLOWERS PHONES HOME
Former Steelers safety Lee Flowers was allowed to return to the Broncos last week, following a four-week suspension for illegal use of ephedra last season, but he was instead cut by the Broncos, who'd signed Flowers as a free agent last off-season. Flowers called Cowher on Monday.

"He called me and actually gave me the news that he was released," Cowher said. "It was tough on him, not really being in that position before, so I just wish him nothing but the best."

QUOTABLE
Cowher on dealing with the mile-high altitude in Denver:
"I don't think you do anything. I know we tried in Cleveland. We went out there and practiced in Albuquerque for a week to try to get acclimated to it and we were still sucking air in the fourth quarter. I don't think there's anything you can do. I think a lot of it is what people make of it. A lot of it's a mindset I think. That's what I've always sensed. Even with Kansas City, going out there was never that big of an issue."

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