Colts Turn Focus to Surging San Diego
INDIANAPOLIS – Come Wednesday, all remains the same.
Peyton Manning, in his 13th season as the Colts' quarterback, said that's the only way to approach an NFL season – that the results of the previous week must be put in the past quickly.
That is the Colts' approach following victories.
So, Manning said that remains the approach this week, three days after a loss moved the Colts into a first-place tie in the AFC South.
There's a new, difficult opponent waiting.
And on Wednesday, that meant focusing on the San Diego Chargers – and only the Chargers.
"I think everybody will be prepared to do that," Manning said Wednesday as the Colts (6-4) prepared to play the Chargers (5-5) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 8:15 p.m.
"That's what we have to do. It's an AFC game, it's a home game, it's the next game. Lots of reasons to be focused and ready for this one. I think the big key is having a good week of practice during this week.
"It's Thanksgiving, so we have somewhat of an altered schedule, but we've always been able to have good practices during this week, and I think that will be imant."
The Colts, after losing the regular-season opener, have won six of their past nine games, losing to the New England Patriots in Foxboro, Mass., 31-28, when a late, fourth-quarter rally fell just short.
The loss moved the Colts into a first-place tie in the AFC South with Jacksonville (6-4), which will visit the New York Giants Sunday. The Colts and Jaguars are a game ahead of Tennessee (5-5) and two games ahead of Houston (4-6) in the South.
"Last year, we were 10-0, and now we're 6-4," wide receiver Pierre Garcon said. "It's new from last year, but we still have an opportunity to make the playoffs.
"That's the No. 1 goal. We didn't expect to go 16-0."
Focus on Wednesday was more on the Chargers than the standings.
The Chargers, after a 2-5 start, have won three consecutive games. In recent seasons, they have been one of the NFL's best teams in November and December, winning at least four consecutive games at the end of each season to win the last four AFC West titles.
"This time of year, they always seem to be functioning extremely well at a high level," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "This year is no different. They always seem to be able to get their feet up underneath them in the home stretch."
Said Manning, "It will be a challenge. They are playing really well. It looks like they've got a number of guys back that have been injured or just haven't been with the team. They got their left tackle (Marcus O'Neill) back, got a receiver (Vincent Jackson) back.
"Their defense has really been playing well all season long. Statistically, they are tops in just about all the main categories. They'll be tough to move the ball against. It will be a challenge."
The Colts, who played this past Sunday in New England without linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Session, running backs Joseph Addai and Mike Hart, cornerback Justin Tryon and safety Bob Sanders, announced on Tuesday that Sanders and wide receiver Austin Collie will miss the San Diego game.
Collie, who missed the Colts' November 14 victory over Cincinnati with a concussion, will be held out as a "precautionary measure," the team announced.
"I think you always want to know who's going to be available and play," Manning said. "The thing I've always liked is whoever's going to play that they are able to practice the whole week. Hopefully, we can have a number of guys practice who are going to play and maybe get some other guys back who have been injured.
"It will be tough without Austin, but Blair has done an excellent job when called upon."
Blair White, a rookie free agent, played Collie's role after the latter left the New England game. He caught two touchdown passes in the Colts' fourth-quarter rally. Manning said players such as White, running back Javarris James and other players playing for injured players can improve with time during a season, and have done so this season.
"I do think you can see improvement with the new guys the more practices and the more games you have," Manning said. "I do think game reps are important and obviously it takes time, but each game we play, hopefully we can improve each week."
The Colts have won all four of their home games this season, beating Houston, the New York Giants, Cincinnati and Kansas City. Houston and Kansas City were in first place when the Colts played them, and Kansas City and the Giants are currently over .500.
Manning said San Diego could be as tough a challenge as the Colts have faced this season. The Chargers not only have won three consecutive games to move to within a game of first place in the AFC West, they are ranked first in the NFL in total offense and defense. They also have scored 33, 29 and 35 points in their last three games and have been held under 20 points just twice this season.
"You do understand that we're hopefully going to have to play well on offense and score some points because their offense is so explosive," Manning said. "We know what kind of challenge our defense is in for going against their offense with all of their playmakers.
"Sure, you feel challenged to do your part and keep your defense out of tough situations. Hopefully, you can put some points on the board, but against this defense, that will be tough."