Victory a Good Way to Head into Bye, Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – In a very real sense, Peyton Manning likes the Colts' situation.
Manning, the Colts' starting quarterback and the NFL's leading passer through five games, said there are plenty of obvious positives around the Colts heading into the bye weekend. The Colts are 5-0 for a fifth time in seven seasons, and moved three games ahead in their division this past Sunday.
But Manning said this much is true, too:
The season is still young.
And just like a 5-0 start, a three-game lead means nothing. Yet.
"It always feels good winning the game before the bye week," Manning said of the Colts, who enter the bye week as one of two unbeaten teams in the AFC following a 31-9 victory over defending AFC South champion Tennessee (0-5) in Nashville, Tenn., this past Sunday.
"We've had a couple of times around here where we've lost the game heading into the bye week. It does kind of throw a little bit of a damper on your bye week."
Manning, speaking shortly after the Colts' lone practice of the bye week, said he felt good during the session and called the speculation early in the week over a blow he sustained to the knee this past weekend "a non-issue."
"It's fine," Manning said of the knee.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell also said Manning in practice Wednesday showed no "ill-effects" from the blow to the knee delivered late in the first half by Tennessee defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch.
"He performed well," Caldwell said.
Manning, who through five games has completed 133 of 181 passes for 1,645 yards and 12 touchdowns with four interceptions for an NFL-best passer rating of 114.1, said more concerning to him this week is the return to health of the rest of the team.
With the victory over Tennessee, the Colts joined Denver as one of two unbeaten teams remaining in the AFC. The New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings are unbeaten in the NFC. Indianapolis currently leads the AFC South by three games over Jacksonville (2-3) and Houston (2-3) and five over Tennessee, which last season won the South to snap the Colts' streak of five consecutive AFC South titles.
The Colts also started 5-0 en route to division titles in 2003, 2005 (13-0), 2006 (9-0) and 2007 (7-0).
"I think it's up to us to make it a positive bye week," Manning said. "We had good work today. I think the idea is to get some rest, obviously, and get some guys healthy. We have a long stretch, starting with St. Louis next week. . . .
"Hopefully, we'll come back playing at a high level after the bye – that's the main thing."
The Colts this past week played Tennessee without not only wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (out the last four games with a knee injury), but also left tackle Charlie Johnson (knee), cornerback Kelvin Hayden (hamstring), safety Bob Sanders (knee) and cornerback Marlin Jackson (knee).
"Certainly offensively, we'd love to get Charlie and Gonzo back," Manning said. "You certainly want to be at full strength for the core of your season. The key is staying healthy for these next 11 games. I think everybody would kind of like the bye to come about Week 8, right down the middle. It's fairly early, but we have had some injuries early on, so if this bye helps some guys get back that wouldn't normally be back this soon that's a positive."
The Colts on Wednesday also announced that they had signed veteran kicker Matt Stover, and that kicker Adam Vinatieri will miss 4-to-8 weeks with a knee injury.
"I've seen Stover make a lot of kicks in his career," Manning said of the 20-year veteran who previously played with Cleveland and Baltimore. "Hopefully, it will work out for everybody."
Manning, who said he has yet to finalize bye week plans – "I'll be watching football somewhere," he said – said Caldwell delivered a message on Wednesday with which he agrees – that while 5-0 is a solid start, little imant has been accomplished thus far.
"That was a good win for us Sunday night on the road in the division, but it was one win," Manning said. "Coach Caldwell has addressed that the fact that we won five games doesn't guarantee anything. It's important for us to come back after the bye and not have any letdown, and hopefully get better in these next two weeks of practice and hopefully be a better team coming off the bye."