Manning Says Jaguars Tough Opponent No Matter The Record
INDIANAPOLIS – The theory doesn't hold with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, widely expected by analysts to contend for the AFC South title, are 0-2 entering their game against the Colts Sunday. An 0-3 team never has made the Super Bowl and only three times since 1990 has a team lost its first three games and made the playoffs.
So, the theory goes, the Jaguars will be motivated. And dangerous.
And Manning said it's true they will be those things.
Then again, he said, they always are.
"You would really expect that no matter what," Manning said Wednesday afternoon at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center as the Colts (1-1) prepared to play the Jaguars (0-2) at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
"Most of the time we've played them, it seems like it's been later in the year. Both teams have had really good records, but it's very early in the season. You go by what you see on film and what I see defensively is that same physical mentality, a lot of guys swarming to the ball. I just see good players.
"I really don't pay attention to their record."
The Colts, the five-time defending AFC South champions, lost their regular-season opener for the first time since 2004, then rallied from a 15-point, third-quarter deficit Sunday to beat Minnesota, 18-15. The victory left them a game behind unbeaten and South-leading Tennessee, but a game ahead of Jacksonville.
The Colts and Jaguars have played 12 times since the 2002 inception of the AFC South. The Colts lead the series, 9-3, in that span, having swept Jacksonville in 2002, 2005 and last season. Indianapolis beat Jacksonville, 29-7, in October last season, then won in Indianapolis in December, 28-25.
"We understand it's going to be a battle," Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "They know us. We know them. This game counts twice. We have to go out there and play ball."
The Jaguars, an AFC wild-card team in 2005 and last season, lost their opener at Tennessee, 17-10, then lost to Buffalo at home, 20-16, when they lost a six-point fourth-quarter lead.
"Definitely, we have a great chance to put some distance between us and Jacksonville," Colts middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "Typically, the last couple of seasons they were always at our heels later on in the season.
"Putting them three games behind would be huge for us."
Said Freeney, "That's kind of what we're going to be going out there trying to do, is get them in that hole and create some distance between us and them. We know they're going to be turning it around at some point, because they're a very good team."
The Colts, a week after a home loss to Chicago in the opener, produced just 100 yards offense and no points in the first 41 minutes against Minnesota.
They rallied with a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Joseph Addai with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter, a 32-yard touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Reggie Wayne with 5:54 remaining and a 47-yard field goal by kicker Adam Vinatieri with three seconds remaining.
The comeback came with Manning playing behind an offensive line made younger and less experienced by injuries. After offensive tackle Tony Ugoh left in the second quarter with a groin injury, the Colts' offensive line was right tackle Diem, Steve Justice at guard, rookie Jamey Richard at center, veteran Dan Federkeil at guard and Johnson at left tackle. Aside from Diem, the group has 12 regular-season NFL starts.
Manning, who missed the preseason with a knee injury, was under pressure much of the game. He completed 26 of 42 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. In the second half, he completed 13 of 21 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown with an interception as Indianapolis outscored the Vikings, 18-6.
Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said on Wednesday three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, who missed the first two games with a knee injury, could return Sunday, and Manning said no matter who plays where, the coming days are imant for a team with young, inexperienced players throughout the lineup.
"We hope to see some growth and development this week from these guys," Manning said. "Obviously, it (Sunday's come-from-behind victory) can add some confidence for these guys who have played. Jamey Richard started both games. Steve Justice had his first playing time and could play an extensive role this week. I always thought experience was the best teacher.
"I think the key is every practice, every walkthrough, all of those things really count when you have a young unit. Sometimes, when you have a veteran unit, you say, 'Hey, these things are somewhat routine,' which is not true, because veteran guys are still working hard, but with this young group we have, every little detail is important. We need to use the time to make these guys better."
Said Colts tight end Dallas Clark, "It's definitely easier to have a little momentum going in after a win than a loss. Everything still starts today with preparation. We still have to go out there and play and prepare the same we've done the last two weeks."
Earlier this week, Colts President Bill Polian said he couldn't recall a more courageous performance in Manning's 10 previous seasons, a span that included eight Pro Bowl appearances, two NFL Most Valuable Player awards and a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player performance.
"It was a good win," Manning said. "We've had a lot of good games throughout the time we've been here. In the middle of the season, it's really hard to get too reflective, especially when you've got Jacksonville coming here at home.
"Like Coach Dungy said, 'We did hang in there because our defense was holding them to field goals.' It gave us a chance in the fourth quarter. If your defense hadn't been holding them, we probably wouldn't have had a chance to come back. That's why it is a team game. It was one game and we need to get better from that.
"A team like Jacksonville, it'd be tough to win if we didn't play a little better."
Said Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson, "They're an upset football team right now. An upset football team is a dangerous football team. We know that coming into this game and we know we're going to have to step up to that high level of intensity that they will have."