Colts QB-Peyton Manning Says Playing at Home Means Little on the Field
INDIANAPOLIS – Nearly a month later, the Colts are heading downtown.
They are heading, that is, to Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis where – because of a quirk in the NFL's early-season schedule – they haven't played in nearly a month, with the last game there being a 34-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on October 4.
The Colts since then have had a bye week and won twice on the road, finishing a difficult and unusual early-season stretch unbeaten, but Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said while that much is true, this much is, too:
While playing at home is great, location will mean little in terms of the outcome.
And in this case, the opponent is more imant than the site.
"It's nice, and it seems like it has been a while including the bye week," Manning said Wednesday afternoon as the Colts (6-0) prepared to play host to the San Francisco 49ers (3-3) at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m.
"It will be good to get back home. We're playing a tough team and another unfamiliar opponent. We've had a few of them here recently. They're a team that's 3-3 and could be 5-1 or 6-0."
The 49ers, who trail the Arizona Cardinals (4-2) by a game in the NFC West, have lost three of four games after starting the season 2-0, with the losses including one to then-unbeaten Minnesota on a last-play touchdown pass by quarterback Brett Favre and 24-21 loss to Houston this past weekend.
"Overall, they have some real solid weapons and they're a well-coached football team," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said.
The 49ers game not only will be the Colts' third home game of the season, it will be their fourth and final game this season against a team from the NFC West. The Colts earlier this season beat defending NFC and NFC West Champion Arizona (31-10) in Arizona, Seattle at home and the St. Louis Rams (42-6) in St. Louis this past weekend.
The Colts since 2002 are 31-7 against NFC teams in the regular season and since 2003, they are 29-5.
"You certainly have to study quite a bit," Manning said. "I don't know if it's necessarily any more than you would normally for a team, especially playing them the first time around. Sometimes when you play a division team the second time around, there's not as much new film to study. For this team, there are a lot of things to look for.
"Their system is in place, and these guys are familiar with it. They play the scheme well."
The Colts, meanwhile, have negotiated a difficult early-season stretch that included not only four road games in a five-week stretch, but three road games in prime time against playoff teams from last season. Indianapolis beat Arizona a week after beating defending AFC East Champion Miami (27-23) and two weeks before beating defending AFC South Champion Tennessee (31-9) on October 11.
The Colts are not only one of three unbeaten teams in the NFL, they are ranked No. 4 in the NFL in total offense after ranking 15th in the area last season. Manning leads the NFL in passing, and last week against the Rams, the team scored touchdowns on all three red-zone opportunities.
Indianapolis has led at halftime by at least 10 points each of the last four games, and has won those games by an average of 24 points, but Manning said Wednesday, "We want to get better every week."
"We have to be able to protect the ball and we have to be able to stay on the field on third down," said Manning, who has completed 156 of 215 passes this season for an NFL-high 72.6 completion percentage, 1,880 yards and 15 touchdowns with four interceptions and an NFL-best 114.5 passer rating.
"We have to protect the ball in the red zone and try to get touchdowns. Offensively, when we get the ball, we need to be efficient."
The victory over the Rams also extended the Colts' franchise-record regular-season winning streak to 15, a stretch that dates to a 31-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Nashville last October. The NFL record for consecutive regular-season victories is 21.
The Colts are also 6-0 for a fourth time in the last five seasons. The Colts started 13-0 in 2005, 9-0 in 2006 and 7-0 in 2007 en route to AFC South titles, and they currently lead the South by two and half games over Houston (4-3).
The Colts will play host to Houston on November 8, with the 49ers and Texans part of a three-game home stretch that concludes against New England November 15. They last had three consecutive home games in 1999, when they beat Cincinnati, Dallas and Kansas City on consecutive weeks.
"We're certainly not looking ahead, but it does feel good to come back and play at home," Manning said. "After playing four out of the first six on the road – it's just easier travel schedule-wise. It doesn't guarantee you anything. Playing home or away, it's whoever goes out there and makes the plays on Sunday.
"Our players always like playing in front of our fans. We know the place will be loud on Sunday, and hopefully, we can execute well."
The Colts issued the first injury report of the week on Wednesday with the following listed as did not participate in practice: RB-Donald Brown (shoulder), DT-Eric Foster (shoulder), DE-Dwight Freeney (knee), WRs-Anthony Gonzalez (knee) and Reggie Wayne (groin), DB-Marlin Jackson (knee) and K-Adam Vinatieri (right knee).