Manning Says Week of Preparation for Third Preseason Game Imant
INDIANAPOLIS – As Peyton Manning sees it, the importance of the week is obvious.
The importance of the game is, too.
Because while the Colts' game against the Detroit Lions Saturday is a preseason game, it is more like a regular-season game than any of the team's four preseason games. The Colts prepare as if it is a regular-season game, the starters play more, and there's even some game-planning involved.
So, no, the game does not count in the standings.
Still, the Colts' nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback said it has a lot of meaning.
"So far today, it's just like what a normal (regular-season) Wednesday would be for us from a preparation standpoint," Manning said Tuesday as the Colts (1-1 in the preseason) prepared to play the Lions (1-1) at Ford Field in Detroit Saturday at 1 p.m.
"We're studying Detroit just like we would the (Jacksonville) Jaguars (who the Colts play in the regular-season opener September 13)."
And Manning said there are certain goals:
• To win. "That's first and foremost," he said.
• To move effectively offensively.
• To protect the ball better. "I'd like to not fumble," said Manning, whose sack/fumble ended the lone drive of three on which the Colts' starters did not score a touchdown in a 23-15 victory over Philadelphia this past Thursday.
• Score touchdowns.
Mostly, Manning said it's similar to any preseason game in that he hopes to see multiple situations – and to get quality experience in those situations.
"It would be ideal if we could get a little bit of everything – get a two-minute drill before the end of the half, get a couple of third-and-ones, a little red-zone work," Manning said. "The main thing is we want to try to move the ball, get some different guys in there playing – some different receivers that are playing, different running backs, tight end – just get everybody comfortable before the season opener."
Manning said working with young receivers such as second-year veteran Pierre Garcon, rookie Austin Collie and second-year tight end Jacob Tamme also is important Saturday.
"We want them to feel comfortable hearing the audibles from me," Manning said. "The more times you do it, it's going to pay dividends for you. It's such an evolving offense and constantly changing. (Wide receiver) Reggie (Wayne) and (tight end) Dallas (Clark) are used to hearing everything, but these young guys, you can't take for granted just how important each repetition is to them."
Manning said the preparation for the Lions is a bit limited because Detroit changed head coaches in the offseason. But he said there were similarities between the Lions and Tennessee, where Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz spent the last eight seasons as defensive coordinator.
"It's a little limited what you can study film-wise," Manning said. "You just have two games, but there are some similarities to what the Tennessee Titans did, but it's a new scheme and new coaches."
The Lions, who went 0-16 last season, enter the game with not only a new head coach, but an uncertain quarterback situation. Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, started in the NFL for the first time past week, completing 5 of 13 passes for 34 yards and throwing an interception on his first attempt in a 27-10 loss to Cleveland.
"I remember how uncomfortable it was in my third preseason game (a 33-3 loss to San Diego in 1998)," Manning said. "I don't recall the stats, but I remember they weren't very pretty. I threw two to the Chargers. I know that. I think if you don't play, you're going to have that uncomfortable game whenever you do. I think the sooner you do it, the better off you're going to be in the long run. But every coach has a different plan."
And for the Colts, a team with an established veteran quarterback and an established system, Manning said the third preseason is still important for various reasons, even if it does not count in the standings.
"I think it's good," Manning said. "It's good for the young guys to see what the routine is like, and it's good for the veterans to get you back into the routine of what you used to do in the regular season."