**Q: Tell me a little bit about your maturation process. You came into the league in 1998, I remember you walking up the runway here and your coach put his arm around you. I think it was a four-interception game…
PM:** I think it was just three [interceptions]. I lost count after three, but I'm pretty sure I cut it off after three.
**Q: We embellish a little. That's what we do…
PM:** I hear you.
**Q: Tell me about that process to where we are at today.
PM:** Well, it's funny a lot of people ask me about my younger brother Eli [Manning] and next year. What I think is best for him, whether to play as a rookie or to sit and learn. Obviously, every coach has their different philosophies. You've seen [Chad] Pennington sit for two or three years, and obviously he had a great year last year. In his first time, [Donovan] McNabb sat for a year. For me, I think the best way to learn is to get out there and play. My rookie year, obviously there were some bumps and bruises early on. New England was the highlight; I had a really tough game up there. But believe it or not, Coach [Jim] Mora, I always appreciate this about him, he never pulled me out of the game. When these games were over, we were getting beat 28-7 in a game, he kept me in there because he told me, 'It's a lot easier to come out and get on the sideline and sulk. It is tough to have to stay in there, battle it out, tough it out and try to score a meaningless touchdown.' You have to hang in there. In the process of that season, especially late in the season, the game began to slow down a little bit. I started to see some things. I think I definitely earned the respect of my teammates by taking every snap that year. Therefore, in my second year, we had the big turn around going from 3-13 to 13-3 and obviously I was much more comfortable. I really have felt more and more comfortable every single season. I've worked hard every off-season. I think this year my timing is as good with all of my receivers as it ever has been. Obviously, it has always been great with Marcus Pollard and Marvin Harrison, but the other receivers have kind of been by committee through the years. This year, finally, Reggie Wayne and Troy Walters, those guys have really elevated their level of play; therefore we are all on the same page and putting up some good numbers and having some wins so far.
**Q: You have a defense that makes big plays. That's got to make an awful lot of difference to your play as well?
PM:** I think in today's game you have to have all three phases contributing. In the past, there is no question here, we were somewhat one-dimensional at times. Playing really good offense, but struggling on defense and special teams. This year, every game is not going to be perfect for all three phases, but for the most part all three phases are playing at a higher level than they ever have. And to win close games and to beat close teams, your defense, your offense and your kicking game have to be playing at high levels.
**Q: You have always been productive since your second year, after that rookie year, but I've noticed this year your interception totals are way down. Is that a byproduct of having more weapons on offense?
PM:** Yeah, I certainly feel like we have more weapons to spread the ball around. Marvin [Harrison] has always been Marvin. He's the best receiver in the league. He's always getting open, and obviously he is drawing a lot of double teams and triple teams from defenses. But like I said, this year, I just have more confidence in these guys like Reggie Wayne, Troy Walter. They've been here in the off-season. They've kind of caught on to Marvin's work ethic and my work ethic, as far as, 'Hey I've got to be here in the off-season. I've got to work hard during practice. I've got to get some extra throwing in with Peyton.' And I've developed that confidence in them and instead of having to look for Marvin every single play, if he's double teamed just come off to the backside and just find Reggie Wayne. Our running game has improved in the past few weeks. Edgerrin [James] is back to 100 percent and that takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback as well.
**Q: What is your offensive coordinator [Tom Moore] doing wrong that you have to change the play every time you get to the line?
PM:** [Laughter] It's funny, all the experts out there say, 'Why doesn't Peyton just snap the ball and just run the play.' Believe me there are plenty of times when I would like to be able to do that, but that is simply what is required of this offense. There is a lot of responsibility on the quarterback to try to get us into a good play, but it has never been about trying to get us into the perfect play. It's just trying to keep us out of bad plays. If you watch a lot of NFL games, there are a lot of bad games. In certain games, I can remember a game against New England here in maybe 2000, I think we got the ball twice in the whole first half. So when you get the ball, every possession is so precious you want to try to do something good with it. It does take a lot of changing plays, changing protections and trying to get us into good plays. At the same time, I have never done anything at the expense of…In everything I'm doing, I'm out there working and trying to do something to try to help our team win.
**Q: I was joking on that too. One other question on that is that the Patriots have so many different looks, so much different personnel, does that present a more difficult challenge for you? Are you almost of the mind that 'Maybe I should just let things go this week, more than usual.'?
PM:** Like I said, every game plan can be a little bit different. Every opponent presents a different challenge. The Patriots obviously have great players on defense. It starts with players then you combine that with a great scheme, and like you said multiple looks, multiple blitzes. It certainly presents you with a lot of problems. I still think it comes down to execution though. Whether I change a play or check to a play, if we can't block them, if we can't play pitch and catch, it doesn't matter what blitz or what play you change to. That's what has been winning it for us this season, I've called audibles and changed plays but for the most part we've protected well, we've had some good running games the past few weeks and guys have been getting open and I've been getting to them on time.
**Q: How has life in the NFL changed you? Has it hardened you somewhat?
PM:** I don't know if hard is the word. I had pretty thick skin coming in. I think you have to have thick skin, especially at the quarterback position. I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into after growing up in New Orleans, being the son of the popular quarterback in town still today. Then four years at Tennessee in the national spotlight, being the first pick, I certainly had my share of praise but had my share of criticism as well. I've tried to stay pretty level headed, every single week and every single year. Obviously you can't please everybody, but this is not for the week. This position is not for the week. They describe tough quarterbacks and you see the ones out there throwing blocks and butting heads with lineman. That's not really my style. I've taken a lot of pride in the fact that I have started every single game and I've only missed like 50 snaps in my entire six-year career. I've really prided myself in being in good shape every offseason, and trying to keep myself healthy and being there for my teammates on Sunday. At the same time, when the criticism comes your way, just being tough with that and try to play better the next week.
**Q: We hear a lot around here about being able to get into the head of a certain quarterback. He's in [Drew] Bledsoe's head. He's in [Peyton] Manning's head. What do you think about that?
PM:** I don't know if I would agree to that. I've had some pretty good battles against Coach [Bill] Belichick. I guess I've played against him eight times now, I think I'm right. Four times when he was coordinator of the Jets and then four times when he was head coach at the Patriots. First Romeo Crennel was the coordinator the last two times I've played him, but I think I'm 4-4. It's funny, I've had some wins when the statistics have been ugly. I had a perfect rating, whatever that means, I don't put a lot of credit in the rating system. I don't really know what it means. I don't know how it works, but somehow it comes out a perfect rating. We've had a win against him. Then again, I've had some days when it's been tough. You've got guys all over you. I have the utmost respect for him as a coach and certainly as a defensive mind. It's kind of like what happens here, people think that Tony Dungy is the coordinator here. He's not, Ron Meeks is. I think Romeo Crennel is an excellent defensive coordinator and would probably be an excellent head coach as well. It still goes back to the players, Coach Belichick has always had excellent defensive players on the teams that he has been on that I've played against. You combine that with great schemes and how well coached they are, it's always a great challenge. It will be a great challenge this Sunday.
**Q: In the games where Romeo or Bill have done well against you, has there been a common denominator in the days that you have struggled against them?
PM:** Like I said, it's always been a division game. This will be the first time I've played against them where it's been a non-division game. Obviously, a lot of things are on the line. You are trying to compete for a division championship. The familiarity of the opponent. Good players verse good players. We move the ball well at time, we've turned it over at times, which has hurt us no question about that. We've had penalties. We've got behind, certainly last year, we got behind early, I remember last year we moved the ball decently down here, we played here. But next thing you know it's 21, 26-0. [David] Patten had the trifecta, caught one, ran one and threw one. So certainly, it's important for our defense to play well and for us to try score points when we can and keep the game hopefully somewhat even and have a chance to win it in the fourth quarter. Because when you play the Patriots, one thing they do a great job of is they never beat themselves. Anything you get against the Patriots you have to earn and that's always tough. Sixty minutes, you have to earn everything you get and that will be the great challenge on Sunday.
**Q: Just aside to that, the last three times against the Patriots, you are over 70 percent completions and you had that perfect rating during those three games series. So you've had a lot of success those last three times out?
PM:** Still, like I said, whether you have great numbers or what, the fact is it's all about whether you win or lose the game. It is an understatement to say how big of a game this is. We are in a five-game stretch here, where we are competing for the AFC South. The Titans, we are both 9-2 and every game is so important. Playing an AFC team this week, against the Patriots, it is an unbelievably big game. Pretty, ugly, whatever it is, it is going to be just doing what ever it takes to somehow find a way to get a win.
**Q: Do you have a chance to watch other quarterbacks, specifically Tom Brady? His uncanny ability to bring his team back. I think he is 7-0 in overtime.
PM:** Somebody told me that. That's a very impressive statistic. I think that's a great credit to Tom. Having some early success, certainly made everybody around him believe in him. If you win your first overtime game, then everybody can refer back to that one and say, 'Hey we were here against Oakland. We can do it again.' And has a great drive pulling it out against Houston last week. That's a very impressive statistic and he's playing really well right now