Colts' Approach for Game 15 Same as First 14, Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – As Peyton Manning saw it Wednesday, there was nothing new.
And that, he said, was how it should be.
While questions surrounded the Colts about playing time, approach and history, Manning – in his 12th season as the Colts' starting quarterback – said as the team began preparing for their 15th game of the season, things were strikingly similar to the first 14.
And just because the Colts won all 14, nothing was different.
The focus within the team was still, well, focus. No talk of unbeaten seasons. No talk of resting or not resting.
Just talk of focusing on what is necessary to win.
"(Colts Head) Coach (Jim) Caldwell's instructions were the same as they have been each week: this is what we need to do to win the game, please go out and do 'em, if you will," Manning said Wednesday afternoon as the AFC South champion Colts (14-0) prepared to play the New York Jets (7-7) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
"That's kind of what he's instructed us to do, asked us to do, what he has focused on all season, and it's extra imant this week is to focus on the preparation."
The Colts, who last Thursday extended their NFL-record regular-season winning streak to 23 games with a victory over Jacksonville, on that same weekend became the NFL's lone unbeaten team when the New Orleans Saints lost to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Colts, who this season won their sixth AFC South title in seven seasons, two weeks ago clinched the AFC's No. 1 seed, meaning they will play at home as long as they play in the AFC playoffs. That left the Colts as a focus of national media attention, with a primary question being, "Who will play Sunday and for how long?"
Caldwell, as was the case Monday, said the approach will be similar to what it was last week, when all healthy players started the game and health was the primary issue determining playing time throughout.
Caldwell also said health can include ensuring players are rested.
"It will be all-inclusive," Caldwell said of the decision-making process. "This time of year, we don't have one guy who doesn't have some issues. In this league, that's just the way it is. We take all those things into consideration."
But Caldwell said to make no mistake:
The Colts' preparation and motivation will be the same as it has been so far this season.
"It's one of those things where every week we try to approach it the same way," Caldwell said. "Every week, winning is important. You don't take the field with anything other than that in mind."
Manning said that approach is necessary considering this week's opponent.
The Jets, after winning their first three games, have lost seven of their past 11, but with first-year Head Coach Rex Ryan – formerly the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens – Manning said they are a difficult team and defense for which to prepare.
"This is a team that you really can't prepare enough for," Manning said. "They always play hard, but they'll be playing with all on the line. You'll get a good effort from them, and we need to match that intensity and effort. We need to help our chances by having good preparation."
The Jets rank No. 1 in the NFL in total defense and scoring defense, and feature the player many believe to be the NFL's best cornerback, Darrelle Revis.
"It's a lot of the old Baltimore Ravens stuff," Manning said. "They give you the full gamut of defenses to prepare for, so it's a mental challenge all week. But that's what we've got practice for. We need to have a good week and hopefully we can take that onto the field on Sunday.
"They're better than pretty good. When I see a good defense, they have the players to line up in the same defense every play and be efficient. But combine excellent players with multiple, multiple looks and formations and a very sound, solid scheme and you're putting a lot together."
The Jets lost control of their playoff destiny with a 10-7 loss to Atlanta at home Sunday. But while that prompted Ryan to say afterward they were out of the playoffs, they still have postseason hopes if they win their final two games and several other teams lose.
The game will be the ninth in succession since November 1 for the Colts against a team still in contention and playing for a playoff spot.
The Colts have rallied to win six of the previous eight games in the fourth quarter, and the last eight games have been decided by a total of 44 points.
"You could kind of see that coming when you looked at our schedule," Manning said. "You know you're getting their best effort, but when it's all on the line you have to be prepared for some of the extremes – the fakes and the onside kicks. When the schedule came out in April, I didn't think the NFL did us any favors as far as who we were playing and when we were playing. It's proven to be true. It's been as tough a schedule as we thought it would be.
"That's why it has felt good to win some of the games we've won, and that's why a lot of them have been close as we thought we'd be."