The Notebook is finally back, and it’s been an eventful, emotional week, as the Colts and their fans prepare for a rather unique prime time matchup. Peyton Manning means a great deal to the city, the fans, and the Colts organization. He’s like an old friend, but when you play your friends, you still want to win. This week, the Colts will try to take down Manning and the undefeated Broncos as both teams try to shrug off the looming distractions and media hype.
Beneath all the Manning-Irsay-ESPN chatter, we may have missed a couple more enjoyable things, such as Tony Dungy opining that when Peyton Manning eventually does retire, he might make a better broadcaster than a coach because he’d be far too demanding as the latter (from NBC Sports): “He’ll be a much better broadcaster,” Dungy said. “He would be as a coach – I don’t think he could do it because he’d expect everybody to be at his level of preparation and he’d get so frustrated with guys that only want to put in 50 hours a week at work. I don’t think he’d last long as a coach.” That’s great stuff right there. Personally, he seems more like a future coach if he wants to remain involved in football.
Or Andrew Luck sounding unusually introspective while trying to deflect the types of questions he knew were coming for quite some time. “I never viewed it as replacing Peyton,” Luck said of following a legend in Indianapolis. “I just viewed it as an opportunity to play quarterback in the NFL. It just so happens one of the greats of all-time was here before me.”
We may have also missed Peyton Manning, cracking a joke: “I played against, somebody asked me earlier, is it the same as playing against Eli, and I said I guarantee Robert Mathis hits a heck of a lot harder than Eli does.” Okay, that last one was everywhere, but it was worth sharing one more time.
An Irsay Moment
And there was that Irsay thing, which we’ll touch on very briefly. Jim Irsay repeated some things he’s been saying for a long time (may not have been the best timing) and had his remarks blown out of proportion by the national media circus (not many good synonyms for that – broadcast overload, correspondence bedlam, thundering cascade of speculation).
Whether you agree or disagree with Irsay (and I’m not wild about what he said, myself), we’ve heard it before, and his timing notwithstanding, it didn’t need to be spun into some new, heinous controversy (Some have even tried to do the same with Manning’s predictable avoidance of the subject). Here’s a quick look at what Irsay was essentially restating, and then we will move on. From CBS Sports, July 2013:
"There was a conscious effort to make sure we had more balance and tighten the special teams up," Irsay said. "It was really a strong theme that I thought was important as Andrew came in and as we started this new era. When we can add that component [a tough ground game and a tough defense] to the Andrew Lucks of the world, I think you really have a chance to win more than one."
Controversy draws us in, even if even if we wish it wouldn’t, and controversy makes a more compelling story than a long-winded NFL owner who wants to have his cake and eat it too. Let’s set this aside, and enjoy some football Sunday night.
On to Football
Well, the Colts have a tough matchup. No, not against all the swirling emotions of the Return of Peyton – this team thrives on emotion. They have a tough matchup against the Broncos, top to bottom.
Denver has playmakers at every level on defense (though their secondary has struggled recently), they only allow 3.2 yards per carry in the running game, and their offense is crammed to the rafters with talent.
The challenge begins and ends with Peyton Manning and his ability to frustrate defenses to no end, even when they attempt to disguise their intent. “Yeah. You’re going to try to disguise. Everybody tries to,” said Colts Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky. “Eventually, he’ll hard count you and get you. Does it frustrate you? Yeah. He does a good job of studying the opponent and knows exactly what you’re in and he’s going to try to exploit the tendencies or whatever that you have. We got to make sure that we hold our water just like everybody does and try to confuse him a little.”
So, what’s the best way to try to confuse Manning (It feels strange typing that), to slow down the relentless scoring machine that is the Denver offense? Do you dare blitz him? Are they going to try to cover Manning’s targets one on one? According to Chuck Pagano, “If I told you that right now, I might as well fax our plan to Coach Fox and the rest of them,” he said before doing his best coach speak. “We’re going to do what we feel we need to do and what’s necessary. They’re going to make plays. He’s going to make plays. They’re going to move the ball. They’ve moved it on everybody. We know that. We’ll come up with the best possible plan that gives our guys the best possible chance to do well and win the football game.” Well said, Coach. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
OC Pep Hamilton on whether the drops last week are a trend or an isolated incident: “No, I think it was more so of an isolated incident. It just happened that way. We’ll make those plays. We’ve made those plays all season long. Drops is not an issue for our offense. It was never a topic of discussion until our guy brought it up last week of course (laughs).”
The always succinct Robert Mathis on possibly hitting his old teammate during the game: “He’s a quarterback, so that’s my job. I aim to do it.”
Mathis on how close anyone ever came to hitting Manning in practice: “If you come within two yards of him, you might get cut (smiles). That’s just the truth. You don’t want to hurt your quarterback. They’re the engine to the team. You can’t hit him.”
Andrew Luck with his take on handling the distractions of the upcoming matchup: “I don’t think there’s any problem for anybody keeping focused. It’s a football game. We’re not ignorant. We know who’s coming to town. We know it’s a great football team and a great challenge for us, a great opportunity for us. I don’t think there will be any problem keeping focus this week.” Go Andrew.
Kelvin Sheppard (hamstring) and Bjoern Werner (foot) did not practice yesterday. Darius Butler was limited with a groin injury, and Jerrell Freeman (concussion), Delano Howell (neck), and LaRon Landry (ankle) were all at full participation.
For the Broncos, T Orlando Franklin was held out of practice, De Robert Ayers and LB Wesley Woodyard were limited, and De Shaun Phillips, DT Sylvester Williams, CB Champ Baily, WR Eric Decker, TE Joel Dreesen, TE Virgil Green, G Chris Kuper, and WR Wes Welker all participated fully in practice.
A quick note: I will be attending the game as an NBC Sunday Night Football Fan of the Week, joining fellow Colts blogger Heather Lloyd of The Blue Mare and Pigskin ‘N Pearls. We’ll be tailgating at the SNF bus along with a couple very nice Broncos fans near the north gate entrance of Lucas Oil Stadium from around 5:30-7:00. Stop by and say hi, if you like.