When Tennessee and Indianapolis play, Colts QB-Peyton Manning Says Records Mean Nothing
INDIANAPOLIS – The standings and circumstances change nothing.
Peyton Manning, the Colts' nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback is off to the best statistical start of his 12-year career. The Colts are unbeaten through four games for the fifth time in seven seasons, while their opponent this week – the Tennessee Titans – have started 0-4 as defending AFC South champions.
None of which Manning says changes a few key facts:
The season is still very, very young.
The Titans-Colts rivalry is very, very intense.
And the Titans, despite their record, are very, very good.
"It's no different this year," Manning said Wednesday as the AFC South-leading Colts (4-0) prepared to play the Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday at 8:20 p.m.
"It's two good AFC South teams playing against each other. What our record is and what their record is is really irrelevant. We know it's going to be a close game and we know it's going to be a tough game, especially playing down there."
The Colts, who beat the Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday, 34-17, have made the postseason the last seven seasons, winning AFC South titles from 2003-07. The Titans are the only other team to have won the division since its 2002 inception, winning the title in 2002 and 2008.
The Colts made the playoffs as a wild card in each of those seasons.
Since the South's inception, the Colts lead the series, 9-5, but the teams have split each of the last three seasons. Last season, the Titans beat the Colts, 31-21, in Nashville in late October.
"We like to think most of the games have been exciting," said Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher, the team's coach since 1995. "There were a few years there where we struggled and weren't as competitive as we would have liked. I think there is a great deal of mutual respect between both teams. It's usually a very exciting game."
Because of that history, Manning said focus should not be an issue this week.
"It's not something that is very much of a concern, because we know how good of a team that they are," said Manning, who set a franchise record this past week when he passed for more than 300 yards in a fourth consecutive game. "When you watch the films of the games, you certainly don't think about their record. You see a couple of balls that are tipped and are going the other team's way. That may be the result of the ballgame. They are an excellent football team, still, and it will be a challenge for us on Sunday.
"I do know that they always play us tough. They have a good familiarity with us. I don't think there is a lot that we do that is going to surprise them. It's tough to move the ball against them through the years. You just have to be very solid what you do execution-wise.
"That's really all what we're preparing for, try to be real sound: try to have some kind of balance if we can in the run game and the pass game. I think they'll play well on Sunday, and I really feel like their record is not really indicative of how good of a team that they are."
The Colts, who won the AFC South all four previous seasons they have started 4-0 this decade – 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007 – lead the division by two games over Jacksonville (2-2) and Houston (2-2) and by four over the Titans. Sunday's game is the first division road game of the season for Indianapolis.
The Colts beat Jacksonville, 14-12, in Indianapolis in the season opener.
"It's a big game, because of who we're playing and where we're playing, down there, but also because it is a division game," Manning said. "We've always understood the significance of division games. It's certainly a game that you want to win. I'm not saying that you don't want to win the other ones as much, but there is special emphasis on these division games because of what they'll mean down the stretch."
The Titans not only enter the game without a victory, they have sustained several key injures on defense in recent weeks. Nickelback Vince Fuller is out with a forearm injury, and Pro Bowl cornerback Cortland Finnegan missed last week's game against Jacksonville with a hamstring injury.
Cornerback Nick Harper, a former starter for the Colts, left the Jacksonville game with a rib injury.
"I think you have to be careful," Manning said when asked about the Titans' injuries. "You look at all of our injuries, maybe Seattle or some teams that have gone against us say, 'Hey, (cornerback) Kelvin Hayden is out; (linebacker) Gary Brackett is out; (defensive end) Dwight Freeney might be out.' I think that was something that might happen in college. In the NFL, if there is somebody on their roster there has to be a reason. It's hard to make a team in the NFL.
"Whoever is in there, I know they will be ready to play. It's up to us just to execute. No matter who is over there, we still have to do our part. That's what it really comes down to."
And Manning said the simple truth of the Colts-Titans rivalry is that records and number of starters out always seem to matter little.
"I can't tell you what any of our records playing against the Titans, or what their records have been through the years," Manning said. "It's a healthy rivalry. It's always been a close game for the most part. There's a lot of familiarity between the players, and they have most of the same players back.
"I'm sure there's a lot of inside battles amongst players and between some of the guys on the field. But we certainly have a lot of respect for the way they come to play every single Sunday and the way that Jeff Fisher prepares them. They're always very sound in what they do.
"You can see a lot of the things that are emphasized to us as players are emphasized to them. It's a healthy respect, although both teams really want to beat each other."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell announced on Wednesday that the Colts have re-signed running back Chad Simpson and waived linebacker Jordan Senn. Senn played in the previous two games with the Colts, totaling seven tackles and one special teams tackle.
The Colts issued the first injury report of the week on Wednesday with DB-Bob Sanders (knee) listed as limited participation in practice. DE-Dwight Freeney (not injury related-rested), WR-Anthony Gonzalez (knee), DBs-Kelvin Hayden (hamstring) and Marlin Jackson (knee) and OT-Charlie Johnson (knee) were listed as did not participate in practice.