*COLTS QB PEYTON MANNING *
Would you consider it a major disappointment not to advance to the Super Bowl?
"I haven't thought about it that way obviously here during the course of the week of preparation. All you are thinking about is preparing and trying to do whatever you have to do to get ready to try to play your best game and help your team try to win the game. So that is kind of where our focus is at this point, just focusing on trying to prepare for this Jets team and for me, the Jets defense. That is all I am concentrating on."
Does having been in this situation before [AFC Championship Game] affect you at all? You have been here before – does that matter?
"I can't prove it one way or the other. I have always felt that experience is your best teacher, as long as you use the knowledge that you gained from the experience. I think that is important. We have a lot of young players, a lot of rookies that are playing prominent roles for us this year; I know they will be excited. But I think all the veteran players, guys that have been in this game before, will be equally as excited. It's just a great opportunity."
How satisfying has this season been for you, to be an MVP in a season where you basically had to start from ground zero with two new wide receivers and some instability at running back? Talk about how gratifying this season has been.
"It has definitely been a different type of season because of so many changes that we had. Obviously with a new head coach, but certainly with personnel. It has been a change. There certainly was a lot of unknown to start the season. Certain guys looked good in practice, but you just don't know how certain players will respond once you get into game situations. It is one thing to look good in training camp, but do you look as efficient once the lights turn on? We had a number of young guys that really stepped up. The game never seemed too big for them. Guys like Pierre Garcon, Donald Brown, and Austin Collie and for some defense [Jerraud] Powers and Jacob Lacey. I think that was critical when those guys were called on to make plays for us and to fulfill some critical roles. You have to kind of go through the experience to see how they are going to respond. They have done a good job all season. They have gotten better. They have learned a great deal in their first season or second season. So from that standpoint, it has been gratifying to see these guys mature as players, become better football players, and to see how the veterans really helped those young guys come along."
How does the "check with me" offense feed your success in the two-minute offense and what changes from your normal offense when you go to the two-minute drill?
"I probably can't get too detailed. Certainly in the two minute-drill, we feel comfortable in the two minute drill because we do run a no-huddle style of offense for the majority of the game. So once we go to the two minute, it's not just a complete change of tempo, it's not a whole new offense if that makes sense. It is somewhat of the offense we have been running. Guys are comfortable with the calls, guys know kind of where to line up and we are able to run a lot of plays quickly. But it still comes down to the execution of it. Just because you know where to line up and you know the plays you still have to go out there and do it – get open vs. man coverage and protect. That is just a week to week thing where you just have to do it each week."
With all of Rex Ryan's time in Baltimore, is there anything consistent about it [the defense]?
"I don't feel that there is. I feel that any time you are playing a different team, different players, that is the film and that is the defense you need to worry about. You have to be very careful of comparisons to where other payers were on other teams, where other coaches were. This is the 2009 New York Jets, they have their own identity, they have their players that allow them to do certain defenses. So that is our focus is and that is where the preparation is."
Do defenses scramble in the two-minute drill and reveal themselves more easily you?
"I can't say that, no. Like I said, each week each two minute drill has its own identity and come teams play them different ways. You still have to read it out each time."
Can you talk about just how difficult it was adjusting to so many new people and still being so successful?
"It was just new. For so many years here, we had kind of a staple of personnel, especially at the receiver position. This year having to break in two – Pierre Garcon is almost a rookie, I think he had one catch in his rookie season, but for the most part it was his first year – so having to break two guys in that really were starters and a second running back Donald Brown, who was a rookie. That was all new. It's a challenge, and like I said a lot of credit has to go to them, a lot of credit has to go to receivers coach Clyde Christiansen, for getting those guys ready to play. Reggie Wayne has done a good job as a veteran leader of bringing those guys along. It does keep you in to every single practice and every single meeting because it's not a ten year veteran you are playing with, it's a guy that doesn't know this offense. So it keeps you involved and going over the small details of the offense. It has been very refreshing for me as well."
How much do you respect what Mark Sanchez has done as a rookie starting quarterback, getting all the way [to the AFC Championship Game] and the poise he has?
"Obviously he has done a great job. I think there whole team has. No question that is impressive."
How have you been able to start 16 games per year for that many years?
"I have had good fortune, good protection. I have had the same offensive line coach, Jeff Saturday as a center for the majority of my career, Ryan Diem has been at right tackle, [Ryan] Lilja has been at left guard for a number of years. There has been enough veteran presence to bring some of the younger guys along throughout the years, guys like Charlie Johnson. Like I said, I have had good fortune, good protection. Obviously you have to have some 'want to' to be out there. I have always felt a real accountability to be out there for my teammates at practice every day. Not just on game day, but to be there at practice, in the offseason. I have been fortunate. I take a lot of pride to be out there for my team every Sunday."
Can you talk about how you and Dallas Clark have developed over the years?
"Dallas is obviously a very talented tight end that causes match-up problems for a lot of defenses. Do you put a linebacker on him, a safety on him, or a cornerback on him? It is because of his versatility, his speed, his quickness, and his size that cause those problems. He has developed every year. His route running has improved. He is a great runner with the ball after the catch, which I think is important. Teams that are playing soft zone coverage, you can throw short passes to him and have him turn a three-yard gain into a 12-yard gain, which is then a big play. He has been pivotal for us this season, and I think he will just continue to get better."
Do you find it is easier to read a defense after playing a recent game like you did against the Jets?
"Not necessarily. Obviously you do that when you play division games and when you play a team a second time in the playoffs. But going back to what I said in the beginning, each game kind of takes on a new identity. Sometimes there will be an injured player back that didn't play the week before, sometimes they will play an entirely different defense. So you just never know. You truly have to prepare for the game plan and be prepared to adjust throughout the game, and you better be on top of it every single play."
How does Darrelle Revis rank against the best cornerbacks that you have played?
"I don't know if I ever really rank them. Let me just say that obviously he is a very talented player that has played very good football this year. Let me also say that their other corners are very good cover guys. Sheppard has been around for a long time, played in a lot of big games, I think he is a good cover guy. Lowery does a good job; Strickland does a really good job. Their safeties are good cover guys as well. They have a number of guys that cover in their different packages. Revis certainly gets a lot of the attention, and he certainly deserves it, but I think the other guys are excellent cover guys as well."
Can you revisit your decision when you were at Tennessee not to come out for the draft after junior year because it was apparent that the Jets were going to take you at that point?
"Let me be clear because your question is a little misleading. The reason I decided to stay had nothing to do with who had the first pick. My reasons for staying were based purely on the fact that I wanted to be a senior in college. I kind of rushed through my first three years of college, taking maximum hours – I took 18 hours my [sophomore] fall, by my junior fall 22. I had been starting since I was a freshman and really just kind of been on the go in a hurry for my first three years. I wanted to have that one year to slow things down and really enjoy the college experience, and I really did that and had a fun senior year. Obviously I think I became a better player in my senior year, I got a year stronger and got a year more of experience. There is no telling how it would have turned out. Bill Parcells was there. He and I had visited a couple of times thorough the years, and there is no guarantee they would have taken me with the first pick. They could have drafted someone else; they could have made a trade, so we will never know. Obviously the decision was a tough one for me but it was one I am truly happy that I made because of the memories that I created for myself as a senior in college.
Can you say that 14-0 surprised you this year with all of the changes?
"Absolutely, there is no question about it. Certainly with the young people we had, and [especially] if you look at our games. Look at some of the games we had, we were fortunate to win a number of those games. We had a number of come from behind victories. We possessed the ball for I think 14 minutes against the Miami Dolphins. To me you earn the breaks. You still have to go out there and make the plays. With 14 minutes of possession we still find a way to make the plays to win the game. Guys have made the critical plays at critical times, and different guys have made the plays all year. I don't think anybody saw that coming, and I certainly didn't.
Does that make the MVP award more special for you?
"I don't factor that into this season. Although I do accept that as a team award, because so many guys worked hard this year to do their job at a high level and bring along some of these younger players. So I am very grateful for the help that I have had from all of my teammates and grateful for the work ethic of these younger guys and obviously I have had some excellent coaching throughout my years and certainly this year as well.
No regrets about going for the unbeaten season?
"It is old news in my opinion. It is something we addressed at the time, and we have truly moved on from it. I think it is one thing our team has done a good job of this year is putting the past behind us no matter what happened – whether it was a huge come from behind win like we had against New England, but as soon as it happened it was over with. With regards to your question, It was a number of weeks ago, we have moved on, and that is something that has served us well throughout the season and hopefully will again."
Have you been around Rex Ryan much?
"I haven't been around him a lot. I have certainly played against him a lot. He was in Hawaii a couple of years ago with one of the Ravens players and I had a chance to visit with him. He is just an outstanding football coach, and he was an outstanding defensive coordinator, and obviously has done a great job this year as a head coach. You knew it was just a matter of time before he became a head coach. Like I said you really have to be careful with comparisons to previous games, and I haven't really put a lot of stock in what's has happened in previous games against the Baltimore Ravens because it was a different team."