Focus This Week Will be Same as Past Weeks, Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – New week, same approach.
And if Colts quarterback Peyton Manning knows it's a bit of a cliché, and if he knows has said it before – and he said Wednesday afternoon he knows he said "one-week-at-a-time" often in recent weeks – he also said he won't stop saying it anytime soon.
Not with the Colts needing victories to secure a Wild Card spot.
And not in the wake of a six-game winning streak.
Manning, the Colts' eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback, said on Wednesday the Colts have become one of the NFL's hottest teams in the last month and a half by taking a basic, focused approach each week. And he said there's no reason not to do so this week.
"All we're looking at is what we see on film and getting ready for the Xs and Os part of it," Manning said Wednesday afternoon as the Colts (9-4) prepared to play the Detroit Lions (0-13) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.
"That's what we did last week, and that's what we have to do again this week."
As was the case with other Colts players Wednesday, and with Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy, Manning – in his 11th season as the Colts' quarterback – said the Lions' record won't be an issue.
"There might be in some situations, but in our case, the pressure is really to keep winning and to stay in the playoff hunt," Dungy said. "I think that will be our concern more than anything else. . . .
"All in all, I think we'll know what's at stake for us to stay in front in this Wild Card race and continue to play better. That's what we're looking to do."
The Colts currently hold the No. 5 position in the AFC postseason standings, and although they cannot improve that spot, Dungy said the focus now must be on holding the position through the final three weeks.
The AFC South champions from 2003-2007, the Colts were eliminated from division title contention Sunday and still need victories to ensure a seventh consecutive playoff appearance. Manning said that scenario gives this December a decidedly different feel from holiday seasons past.
"No question, they're extremely imant, all of these games are," said Manning, who has begun to be mentioned in some national circles as a Most Valuable Player candidate with 22 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions.
Manning, the MVP in 2003 and 2004, has played in the last six Pro Bowls, and this season – after missing the preseason and training camp after offseason knee surgery – he threw three touchdown passes and four interceptions in the first three games.
In the last 10 games, he has 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions, and he has thrown two or more touchdown passes in eight of the last 10 games.
He also has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in five of those games.
The Colts are 8-2 during that span, and Manning said the games in the last month have had a must-win feel.
The Colts' winning streak of six games is the league's longest.
"We really feel like since we were 3-4, we felt like we had to win every single game just to give ourselves a chance," Manning said. "We still feel that same way. The thing is, we haven't looked beyond the upcoming opponent, which has been the right philosophy and something everybody has bought into.
"That's the plan this week, just trying to take care of Detroit."
The Colts hold the No. 5 seed over Baltimore (9-4) because of a superior conference record to the Ravens and a head-to-head victory at home against the Ravens in early October.
The Colts and Baltimore lead the New York Jets, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, who are tied atop the AFC East at 8-5. One of those teams likely will win the division. Denver (8-5) leads the AFC West by three games over San Diego and can clinch the division with a victory Sunday, and Pittsburgh (10-3) leads the North by two games.
Four division champions advance to the playoffs from each conference along with the non-division winners with the best record.
The Colts will play host to the Detroit Sunday, and will visit Jacksonville (4-9) the following Thursday night before finishing the season at home against Tennessee.
And Manning said while the Colts have enhanced their playoff positioning in recent weeks, the coming weeks are just as important.
"We started out in a hole this year, which is new for a lot of the players around here – some of our young players," Manning said. "It's truly been that one-week-at-a-time mentality. I know I've been repeating that, but that has been the philosophy and that's how it was last week. That's what it has to be this week. That's what we're talking about, is Detroit. With some of our new players, our young players playing, how can you think about anything else, but trying to get your team ready to play and to go out and play another good game on Sunday? . . .
"We're really focused on a lot of the things we're doing, trying to improve our offense, defense, special teams. That's what we're focused on – improving our team and doing whatever it takes to try to get a win."
The game against Detroit will be the Colts' second in as many weeks against a team that has been eliminated from playoff contention, but Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said film study this week has revealed a team better than their record, a stance with which Manning said he agreed.
"What I've seen on film from their defense – their defense plays hard," Manning said. "They should have won the game against Minnesota. They created four turnovers on defense, and had chances for a couple of more that barely went the other way.
"They played hard Sunday, and we know they'll play hard Sunday. That's what we have to get ready for."