"It's fun for the players. You develop very much of a rapport with [the Colts]. We've played them every single year, sometimes twice a year, and this will be another one of those years. It feels like a division opponent, going back to the days when they were in our division. These games have counted for a lot, and this one is just as big as all the rest. So it's quite a rivalry. We haven't played in that stadium in a few years. We know how tough they are at home. It's exciting, it's exciting because five and a half months of football games come down to 60 minutes of football. The team that is most prepared and goes out and executes the best this weekend will be the team that moves on and represents the conference. I know there is mutual respect on both sides. I know their players have a lot of respect for us. I know we have a lot of respect for their players and their coaches. It should be just one of those classic games."
(on if the Colts are faster or play a bit different on defense at home)
"They've been playing pretty good. Obviously, the last few weeks they've been playing great. They're 8-0 at home. They play very well at home. They play very well on the turf. [Dwight] Freeney is fast everywhere. He was fast on our field, if you can imagine that, when it was that mud and painted dirt. [Robert] Mathis is good. All those linebackers are active and aggressive and the secondary is really playing well. Bob Sanders is on of the best is the game. So they have a bunch of very skilled defensive players, and when it is very loud in that dome I think they take advantage of that as well."
(on if the snap count is even more important against a team like this)
"Oh yeah, we use a silent snap count. There's nothing coming from my mouth that they could get a jump [on] or anything like that. The silent count, which most teams use on the road now... we're 8-1 on the road, so I think sometimes we might play a little better on the road."
(on his relationship with Peyton [Manning] and whether it's fun to go up
against a quarterback of that caliber)
"Yeah. We have a great relationship. We talked the other day. I think very highly of him as a player, as a person. [He's a] tremendous quarterback [and] tremendous leader. I see him play, he's always looking at other quarterbacks and how they play and I respect the way that he prepares and how he leads his team. He's a terrific competitor. He always gives that team a chance to win. It's always fun to go up against him."
(on if he feels like he has to be at his best when playing a quarterback
"Of course, yeah. You know that you have to go in there and play your best game because you believe Peyton is going to, as he [has] the last few times we've played him. He's played great."
|Colts safety Bob Sanders tackles Patriots RB Laurence Maroney (Winslow Towson/Getty Images)|
"I think he's very consistent, he's very tough, he's physical, he tackles well. You don't ever see him miss tackles. He's always in the right spot. He makes plays in the pass game and the run game. He's very competitive. I think he sets the tone for that defense. He and [Dwight] Freeney and Cato [June] are the big three there, but those other guys can all play too. Jason David is playing extremely well. The rookie, [Antoine] Bethea, is playing really well. Nick Harper had a big interception last week. They've put Rob Morris in there. [Gary] Brackett, he's been consistent. Booger McFarland is playing well. They've got a whole team full of guys that are athletic and fast."
(on the Colts not playing as well when Sanders is out...)
"He's one of the best players in the league. You put him into a defense, and they play extremely well."
(on his first impressions of Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell)
"My first impressions? I don't recall them too well. I remember Jabar came in halfway through the year and it was the bye week and he looked pretty much like he does right now - very good quickness, he's smart, he's experienced, he's very dependable. [He's] a lot like Reche. Reche is really... I'd say in the last five months [he's] made as much improvement as anybody in this offense. So they're two very dependable guys who have performed extremely well in the postseason and have performed well, really, late in the year. And I think that's why this offense has shown as much improvement as it has."
(on if there was a tipping point for them)
"I wouldn't say there was one point. I think it's just been steady progress. There's been a bunch of work. Those guys have come to work every day and really worked hard to make those improvements. We've been healthy -- knock on wood -- at that position. Those guys have stayed healthy and have been out at practice, and I think anytime you can put together, whatever, 110 practices, then you count the 22 games we've played this year, you can see why Reche has really progressed and why Jabar, at this point, has really taken those steps forward. The receiver position has become very much a strength of this team, and it needed to be in a game like last week where we needed to keep a back in and a tight end in to protect because of the pressure they were bringing, and [the receivers] really stepped up and made a bunch of great plays and that play to Reche at the end of the game was pretty awesome."
(on if he ever doubted if the team would get to this level this year)
"I think each year is very different and what was presented with us this year and the changes that were made to the offense, they really didn't all come about at the beginning of training camp-- we're dealing with changes throughout the year, and any time that happens, you find ways to adjust, but the important thing [is] you still try to find a way to win games and it's like win and move on. You just keep trying to improve and try to continue to put yourself in a position -like we have all year- to win those games. Much like last week-- it wasn't all perfect, but at the end we made enough great plays to win, and that's what it is going to take again this week."