Colts QB Payton Manning spoke with the press about their upcoming game against the Pats this Sunday.
Q: It has been a far cry from when you walked off the field here as a rookie with your coaches arm around you, do you remember that?
PM: I try to forget it. I see that highlight every now and then and it takes me back to a dark night.
Q: It was a dark night, I don't know how many interceptions you had but…?
PM: I lost count after three I think.
Q: Now you are riding a high of Pro Bowl appearances and a very hot start?
PM: Certainly as a team we have come a long way since 1998, going from 3-13. That was a tough year, but like I have said before instead of just feeling sorry for ourselves the entire year we tried to use it as a learning year and we tried to get better from it and really use that off season to learn from the mistakes I made as a rookie and the interceptions that I threw and just the overall game situations. I just feel that my experience that year really paid off. In my second year I felt a little bit more confident and comfortable and it resulted in having a better year. I have tried to improve each year, each off-season. I think experience is your best teacher, but you have to sort of take some of those bumps and bruises as a rookie or as a first-year starter. Especially early-on in my rookie year, the New England game up there like I said was a tough night, but one thing I have always said about that is that coach [Jim] Mora kept me in there. I think if he would have pulled me, as he told me later that kind of would have been the easy way out. It's tougher to stay in there and to try not to throw your fourth interception, to try and hang in there and sort of deal with the pressure. I really feel I learned a lot in some of the second half's in some of those losses.
Q: Talking to Bryan Cox today he said your offensive coordinator is one of the big reasons you do what you do and have the stability of all the good players that have been around for three years?
PM: Well there is no question about that. Everybody says, 'Why are you all better this year, you have the same players coming back?' Well that is the exact reason. I think consistency and continuity are a big part of having a successful offense. Not many teams have that any more, with free agency now and certainly with injuries you see different players in the lineups. But here in Indianapolis, certainly for the past three years, we've had the same 11 guys in there running the routes, making the calls and hearing the audibles and that certainly helps for me. When I am calling plays at the line of scrimmage or calling them in the huddle, everybody is on the same page and that is a big part of being successful because when they here that play, boom they're right into into the routes, into the execution of the offense. I've been real fortunate to have the same offensive line and the same receivers thanks to Bill Polian keeping those same guys here.
Q: In today's game mobile quarterbacks are popular, but is there still room for the classic drop back quarterback?
PM: I certainly feel that way. You certainly hear a lot of talk about the scrambling quarterbacks, but I don't think it is really fair to call certain guys scrambling quarterbacks. I think all quarterbacks are drop back quarterbacks these days. It's just if the situation breaks down, if nobody is open, then you try to scramble and make a play. Some guys do it better than others. Certainly [Dante] Culpepper and [Donovan] McNabb are very fast with their legs, but those guys are drop back quarterbacks at first. I mean they are looking to throw the ball down field because that is what they are taught. I feel I am the same way as far as dropping back, trying to get the ball to the receivers on time. If something breaks down I am going to try to scramble out and make a play, maybe get a few yards. I am not going to out run anybody or run anybody over, but I feel I can get out and make a play if I have to.
Q: Do you think you would be where you are now had Jim Mora not been your head coach?
PM: Like I said, I go back to that first year where he just stuck with me and there was some real loyalty on his part keeping me in there. Throughout that entire season he never pulled me. He encouraged me the whole time. I mean he told me, 'Hey losing is not acceptable and turning the ball over is not acceptable,' but he stuck with me. I think he knew I was trying. I wasn't trying to go out there and throw interceptions or whatever. I certainly appreciated him sticking with me like that that first year and each year after that. I became more confident as a quarterback and a lot of that had to do with Mora.
Q: Do you know Tom Brady at all? What advice would you have for him quarterback to quarterback as he starts his first NFL game?
PM: Let's see, I met Tom before the game last year up there in New England. He came by while I was out there warming up. I shook hands with him. I certainly saw him play on TV playing at Michigan. One thing I've always felt like, even though he is making his first start, I've always kind of looked at where a guy played college football. Certainly I think playing at Tennessee helped me deal with a lot of pressures playing as a rookie, playing in front of 107,000 every Saturday. Tom is somewhat that way. He has been in the big games before and playing in front of huge crowds at Michigan. Obviously it is a different game. It is a different team. It's his first time playing in an NFL game, but I think when a guy played big-time college football that certainly helps the guys cause a little bit.
Q: Expectations are high for you guys. How important is it for you and more so coach Mora to get of the no playoff win slide? Making the playoffs isn't' enough for you guys this year?
PM: No, certainly not. But also, I mean just winning one playoff game would not be considered a success either. We are not just trying to just win a playoff game. We are trying to win a Super Bowl. We are trying to get to the Super Bowl, wherever it is, and win it. Certainly that is important, that is a motivating factor. The past two years we have had really good regular seasons and gotten in to the playoffs and haven't played well. We've had a chance to win both games, no question about it. We just haven't played as well as we could have. But the plan is to take care of business in the regular season. I think some teams just think: playoffs, playoffs, playoffs and they find themselves stretching at the end a little bit. So our job is to take care of business in the regular season. And I have learned this in three years, it doesn't matter whether you have home field advantage, whether you won the division or what. It's just about being hot in January. It is about playing well in the month of January and trying to keep advancing. So that is the goal again this year. Like I said, we are off to a good start being 2-0 with two big division games, but right now the biggest game of the season is against the Patriots.
Q: The Patriots have lost Drew Bledsoe to injury, but he has been a pretty durable guy. You haven't missed any games?
PM: It is one of those things that I have never felt real comfortable talking about. Well let me just say this about Drew, Drew has always been one of the toughest quarterbacks around. He's always been there for his team every single Sunday and I have always appreciated that about him. On Sunday, I mean some people just see the highlight and say 'What a tough lick.' People ask themselves why didn't he get out of bounds? Heck, he was trying to win the game for his team. It was a crucial situation in the game. He was trying to help his team win the game. So I have always admired that about Drew, being a competitor. I mean it just goes to show you just how good these defensive players are. I had a running play in our game where I probably should have gotten on the ground and I tried to get an extra yard or two and took a pretty good shot. It was a little bit sore on Monday. I am fine now, but it is just one of those things. I mean these defensive players are taught when they get a clean shot at you to put a little extra in there. They are going to hit a quarterback harder than they are going to hit a receiver or a running back. So it was kind of a good lesson for me to just get a little taste of that realizing that…I mean you can be a scrambling quarterback in this league, but you are going to take some shots and it is important to try to be there for your team on Sunday. Like I said, Drew just got a tough hit right there and hopefully he'll be back as soon as possible.
Q: On the surface this would appear to be an easy game for you guys, but do last years games make you realize that it might not be as easy as it looks?
PM: Well we never had an easy game. I think people look at the Buffalo game and say, 'Boy it looked easy.' We felt like we really worked hard to prepare for that game and really executed well. So, I've never been in an easy game before and certainly never against the Patriots. It's a division rivalry and it's a lot of the same players we've played in the past. So the players have a lot of respect for one another. It's always been a close game against New England whether it's in Foxboro or here in Indy so we are expecting the same thing on Sunday. As far as what has happened the last two weeks, it really doesn't matter. All you have to do is look at the Jets game. They only gave up 10 points, so the defense is obviously doing their job.
Q: You mentioned the importance of experience, is there any way you can explain in a simple way why you are a better quarterback than you were a couple years ago?
PM: I just feel a lot more comfortable when I drop back in the pocket now. I have 100 percent confidence that something good is going to happen, that I am going to throw it to a receiver accurately and have a positive play out of it. Whereas my rookie year I guess hope would have been the word. I was hoping that the receiver I was looking at was going to come open and I was hoping I was going to set my feet and throw it to him accurately. It's just part of the transition. Like I said, I felt as prepared as anybody coming out of college. I played in a lot of games in college and felt like I was ready to make the transition. Early on you are just going to struggle, that's just part of it. I had some good games early on too, but just over the long haul you are going to face some bumps and bruises. You are going to get blitzed. You are going to have zone coverage. You're going to get zone blitzed. You are going to get the full gamete. You have to kind of be in there and face the bullets. Obviously consistency of playing with the same receivers helps out. You are out there throwing to new receivers. I will tell you one thing that I guess kind of hurt me early on. Our defense wasn't too good my rookie year and as far as in training camp and in mini camps I was going against our defense and throwing pretty well against them. I was kind of telling myself, 'Hey this isn't that hard.' Then I was suddenly playing Miami and New England right off the bat and said, 'Wow, there is a big difference here.' So that is something that maybe can come into play as well.
Q: Do you feel as confident as you ever have in terms of protection when you do drop back, that you are not going to get hammered on every play?
PM: Absolutely, but that is something that I have really felt since I have been here. Protection is our number one priority here. Whether five guys are blocking or eight guys are blocking for you. It all comes down to protection. Of course Howard Mudd our offensive line coach does a great job, but also the five guys we have in there that are playing really battle and really do a good job of protecting me as well as our tight ends and Edgerrin [James] do a great job in protection as well. It is certainly hard to play quarterback when you are dropping back there worrying about a defensive end hitting you in the back. When you drop back you have to be looking down field and trust your protection and I have always trusted my protection.
Q: So when you don't have the protection it does get in your head? Does it affect the way you play?
PM: Well, it is one of those things that is easier said than done. I mean you tell yourself if you get hit in the back then you will be fine the rest of the game. But it is just sort of common nature if Jevon Kearse is on the left side and hits you in the back three times, you kind of naturally might start drifting to the right a little bit. You just can't help it. Certain games, I mean against New England last year we had a busted protection and the defensive end hit me in the back. Bam, back to back, but it was a protection breakdown and something you try to correct. But like I said I have 100 percent confidence in my offensive line. To give up a sack every now and then, that is no big deal. You have to just come back and play the next play.