St. Louis Rams a Challenge No Matter the Record, Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – As Peyton Manning sees it, the past is the past in the NFL.
And the Colts' nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback said on Wednesday that is true whether the past is the previous week, or the entire season.
So, when asked this week the imance of the St. Louis Rams' record, and the fact that the game is a match-up of an undefeated team and a team that has not won a game this season, Manning said the reality is that such things are far from his mind.
The NFL is about week-to-week focus and preparation, Manning said.
And that is just as true this week as any other.
"I just don't think about a team's record when you play them," Manning said as the AFC South-leading Colts (5-0) – one of four unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL – prepared to play the Rams (0-6) at Edward Jones Dome Sunday at 1 p.m.
"You study them. You study the Xs and-Os. You study the schemes, and you just try to go out there and beat those defenses, beat those schemes. Whether they won last week, lost last week, is really kind of irrelevant.
"It's what's going to happen on this Sunday in St. Louis. That's what we have to worry about."
Manning and Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell each spoke extensively Wednesday of the Rams' talent, with Manning saying, "They have a lot of players that are capable of making plays. Mentally, it will be a challenge as well."
Caldwell cited not only Manning's former college teammate, defensive end Leonard Little, but quarterback Marc Bulger and Pro Bowl running back Steve Jackson, among others. Little, Bulger and Jackson all have been to the Pro Bowl, and Caldwell said wide receivers Keenan Burton and Donnie Avery also are dangerous, as is tight end Randy McMichael.
"They have a lot of fine players," Caldwell said. "These guys present a great challenge. . . . We will have our work cut out for us. They are a handful in terms of what they make you prepare for."
Caldwell added, "They have a very effective offensive line. The core of their offensive line is tough, hard-nosed and big, with some speed and agility inside. They are going to present some problems for us."
The Rams will be the third NFC West opponent in six games for the Colts this season. Indianapolis beat Arizona, 31-10, and Seattle, 34-17, earlier this season. Since 2002, the Colts are 23-7 against NFC teams.
"We're coming off a bye week," Manning said. "We have some things we need to improve on. We need to get better this week. I haven't studied the Rams offense, but on defense, I tell you they give you a lot of looks. Their head coach (Steve) Spagnuolo came from the Giants, and you know the great things there. You see a lot of the similar schemes. It's a handful.
"Mentally, it's a challenge all week. Once again, it's an unfamiliar opponent, and that always presents a challenge for us."
The Colts, along with Denver the last remaining unbeaten team in the AFC, lead the AFC South by two and a half games over Jacksonville and Houston. They won the AFC South from 2003-07.
The Colts in this decade previously entered bye weeks with records of 7-0 (2005), 5-0 (2006) and 5-0 (2007). Indianapolis is 6-1 after the bye week since 2002, with the lone loss coming at home to Jacksonville, 27-24, in 2004.
"It's always a challenge for a team to re-establish some of the momentum you had going into a bye week," Manning said. "It really starts with practice."
Towards that end, the Colts practiced slightly longer Monday than they normally do on game-week Mondays. Caldwell said the longer practice was designed to get players re-focused following four days off from last Thursday through Sunday.
"I think you have to jump back in with both feet," Caldwell said. "I'm not looking for a graduated practice routine."
Manning said focus and productive practices have been the norm for the Colts this season, as well as a key to the team's success thus far. Through the first six weeks of the season, the Colts are ranked third in the NFL in total offense and seventh in total defense. Denver, New England, New Orleans and Pittsburgh are also ranked in the Top 10 in each category.
Manning, who threw for more than 300 yards in each of the first five games of the season, has completed 133 of 181 passes for 1,645 yards and 12 touchdowns with four interceptions for a rating of 114.1. He is second in the NFL in passer rating, fifth in yardage and third in touchdowns.
"One thing we have been doing around here is preparing well," Manning said. "We've had guys that have come into practice, whether it's the starters or scout team, and take care of their jobs. We need to re-establish that this week. Hopefully, it will only make us better."
The Colts issued the first injury report of the week on Wednesday with the following players listed as did not participate in practice: WR-Anthony Gonzalez (knee), DBs-Marlin Jackson (knee) and Tim Jennings (calf), G-Jamey Richard (not injury related-illness) and K-Adam Vinatieri (right knee).