Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Manning locked in on Texans
By Jeff Legwold
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- He's already been named Sportsmen of the Year by Sports Illustrated. He's the leading vote-getter among fans for the Pro Bowl to this point. Talk of a record fifth NFL MVP award is swirling around him. And there is a stack of fairly heady NFL records he could put his name next to over the next two weeks.
But with more than a few questions to him these days usually about trophies, history or some "trips down memory lane," as he calls them, don't try to keep Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning from his appointed rounds. And this week that means Houston and the 2-14 Texans.
"I think we've done a good job of treating all our opponents the same," Manning said following practice Wednesday. "... It's all about Houston, I think we've done a good job taking things week to week. I think we've prepared well each week. We haven't always played as well as would have liked. You like to transfer good practices to the playing field ... it's really all the focus is."
So Manning will discuss the Texans defensive personnel, especially their tandem at defensive end in Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt. He'll talk about the differences in having Wade Phillips in place as an interim coach than if Gary Kubiak were still on the job and how it essentially gives the Texans a "new defensive coordinator" with Houston secondary coach Vance Johnson now calling plays on defense.
Manning will talk about the Texans' pass defense, the role of the Broncos' running game in the offense and what wide receiver Andre Caldwell can do in the Broncos' offense with Wes Welker sidelined with a concussion.
But MVP award, records and the like? Not so much.
"It does not get heated up for me," Manning said of the award conversation. "When you're in the middle of the season ... That is plenty on my plate to focus on. I know that's probably not the answer you're looking for, but that is all my focus is on and that's the way it has to be -- getting myself ready to play and helping our offense get ready to play to go on the road to beat a team that's really played well on defense, I think."
With 47 touchdown passes in 14 games, a total that includes a staggering seven games with at least four touchdown passes, Manning is two away from tying his single-season career best of 49 (2004) and just three away from the NFL season record of 50 set by Tom Brady in 2007. Manning's 4,811 yards passing are the most ever after 14 games in a season and he's within shouting distance of Drew Brees' record of 5,476 yards, set in 2011.
But asked Wednesday about the potential to carve out a little more space for himself in the league's record book, Manning stuck to the Texans.
"We're trying to get a win," Manning said. "We were disappointed about last week's game -- didn't play our best game, got beat, got whipped in a lot of areas.
"I would hope we would respond to that loss with a better performance this week. It doesn't guarantee anything. There are a lot of teams that get mad when they lose and say 'we're going to play better next week.' And it doesn't happen. So it's about preparing and practice well and hoping we can transfer that to the playing field, and that's what I'm focused on."
Broncos head coach John Fox did weigh in at least some on those topics. Asked what his case would be for Manning to win a fifth MVP award -- Manning is the only four-time winner of the trophy in league history -- the Broncos head coach was more than willing to stand by his guy.
"I think it's fairly well documented a year ago -- no disrespect to anybody -- but I think he had that type of season a year ago," Fox said. "I don't think there's any question the kind of season he's having this year, and not just individual records, I think his win-loss record and team success speaks for itself. I don't think it's close, personally."