Colts Must Continue to Prepare on High Level as They Head Home, Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – As Peyton Manning sees it, what is next is what matters.
The time and site of the game? Not so much.
Manning, the Colts' 12-year veteran quarterback and the AFC's leading passer through three games, said while the Colts have accomplished what they sought in two high-profile, prime-time road games the last two weeks, those games mean nothing now that they are over.
The fact that they are heading to Lucas Oil Stadium?
And the game starting at a normal time?
All nice, Manning said, but none of the factors will influence Colts' fourth game of the season.
"It's good to be playing back at home again," Manning said Wednesday as the AFC South-leading Colts (3-0) prepared to play the Seattle Seahawks (1-2) of the NFC West at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.
"It's obviously more convenient that way, but you still have to have a good week of practice. Two of the good reasons for a couple of good wins is we've had good practices and good preparation. That will be key again this week."
The Colts in the last two weeks not only have won on the road in prime time, they did so against two teams that made the playoffs a year ago. They beat 2008 AFC East Champion Miami, 27-23, in South Florida on September 21, then beat defending NFC Champion Arizona, 31-10, this past Sunday.
The victories pushed the Colts' lead to two games in the AFC South, with Jacksonville and Houston each 1-2 and defending division champion Tennessee at 0-3.
"This is a game we have to have because it's the next one," Manning said. "It's still a challenge coming off that long trip (to Arizona). It's something we have to deal with.
"We have to prepare well this week. We have to have a good week of practice."
Indianapolis, which ranked in the Top 10 in the NFL total offense from 1999-2007 before ranking 15th last season, through three weeks is ranked fourth this season. Manning is the AFC's top-ranked passer, completing 66 of 96 passes for 983 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions.
Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne leads the AFC with 325 yards (20 receptions) and tight end Dallas Clark is fourth with 284 yards (18 receptions).
"There are still some things we can improve on," Manning said. "We had a couple of costly penalties the other day (against Arizona) that cost us some more yards. I didn't think we were very good on third downs. We made some big plays, but 3-of-11 on third downs – we need to be much better than that.
"There's still plenty to improve on."
Under the NFL's scheduling format, teams from the AFC such as the Colts play teams from the NFC once every four seasons. The Colts have not played Seattle since December 2005, when Seattle won, 28-13, in a game in which few Colts starters played after the first quarter.
The Colts are 22-7 against NFC teams since 2002.
"We're playing an unfamiliar opponent," Manning said. "We don't know a lot about their schemes or their personnel. They have some new players since we played them last, so we really need to prepare hard this week and get ready for them."
But while the Seahawks as a team may be unfamiliar, one element will not be:
Running back Edgerrin James.
James, the fourth overall selection by the Colts in the 1999 NFL Draft, played seven seasons with Indianapolis, leading the NFL in rushing in 1999 and 2000 and making the Pro Bowl in 1999-2000 and 2004-05. He spent 2006-08 with Arizona and signed with Seattle shortly before the season.
This will be James' first time playing in Indianapolis since he signed with Arizona.
"It's always different when you're playing against a guy," said Manning, who said he was looking forward to seeing James, who with Manning and wide receiver Marvin Harrison formed Indianapolis' version of the Triplets from 1999-2005.
"Everybody's very competitive. I'm happy the fans will get to see him. When we've had some former players come back, our fans always have given them a warm reception. . . . I have to believe it will be one of the most memorable ex-Colts coming back to play here in recent times.
"I know the fans will be excited to see him. It will be good to have him back in Indianapolis."
Manning said James' addition was critical to the Colts' offensive development. The team went 3-13 in 1998, then 13-3 in his rookie season.
"Edgerrin was the key to our running game, and really our offense kind of becoming what it was," Manning said. "They had to play the run every single play. All of a sudden the buzzword kind of got out about our play action. We had these great fakes and all these plays down the field.
"It was because No. 32 was back there. It wasn't just because 'some guy' was back there. . . . He was really one of the pillars to getting the Colts turned around and helping us become a winning franchise and having teams respect the Colts more."