ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Early this week, Head Coach Josh McDaniels and his coaching staff gathered in the Broncos' Dove Valley headquarters to begin planning for Sunday's game against Indianapolis. In those meetings, the coaches made decisions that will guide their thinking through the closing seconds of the Week 3 contest.
Those get togethers are always important for success come game time. But against a savvy squad such as the Peyton Manning-led Colts, McDaniels said sticking to a plan takes on an added emphasis.
"Once you choose your strategy, you're not going to get into the game and then all of the sudden you don't have success with it on the first drive and you start panicking and say, 'Alright, we're going to change it and go back to something else,'" McDaniels said. "You better play what you practiced against this team and you've just got to play it well."
The Broncos have spent the week focusing on and perfecting their plan to attack the Colts in all phases of the game. After three good practices, the team feels ready to give the defending AFC Champions its best shot on Sunday afternoon at INVESCO Field at Mile High.
Denver knows executing the plan won't be easy. McDaniels said preparing to play the Colts is different than getting ready for almost any other team.
With a speedy defense and a potent offense led by one of the best quarterbacks in the game, the Colts have a history of starting games fast and finishing strong en route to a league-high nine straight playoff appearances.
McDaniels said there's a reason that coaches across the league have tried unorthodox tactics through the years to gain an extra advantage, such as New Orleans' onside kick to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV in February.
Even if teams don't resort to such extreme measures, the Colts personnel on the field provides them with built-in advantages for approaching the chess match that goes on between coaches during a game. The head coach said understanding that puts a premium on being prepared and ready to do whatever it takes to come out ahead.
"If you just play the game regularly against them, again, you're probably not thinking far enough along here to be ready for those situations when they present themselves," McDaniels said.
A large part of that is preparing for Manning, who
Manning has earned that respect with his consistent play in 13 NFL seasons. The veteran signal-caller leads the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns through two games this season.
McDaniels, who has coached against Manning at least once in each of the past seven seasons, said Manning's ability to understand and react to defenses makes it hard to beat him with defensive playcalling.
Tricking him with a defensive look might be even harder.
"You're being a gimmick to yourself if you think you can gimmick him, because he'll find it," defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale said. "The challenge is playing with discipline and just knowing that there are no gimmicks that are going to beat him. Every play counts, there are no gimmicks with him."
In last season's 28-16 loss in Indianapolis, the Broncos came away with three interceptions but still ended up with their third straight regular season loss to the Colts, dating back to 2006.
While it's been difficult for teams to have defensive success against the Colts in recent years thanks to a stable of offensive weapons that includes running back Joseph Addai, wide receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark,
"You've got to go after him," Ayers said. "You've got to make life difficult for him. You can't give him the easy things. You've got to be physical, tough and try to get after him."
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos offense has spent the week trying to stop speedy defensive backs
"I think that most of the time in the NFL, it's definitely a race between the rush getting to the quarterback," Lloyd said," and this is a faster race than most teams because of the way that these guys get to the quarterback."
Throughout the week, McDaniels has pored through his thousands of notes for success against the Colts. He's installed a game plan and feels good about the way his team has practiced it -- despite missing
And even so, the head coach knows he'll likely face some tough decisions down the stretch if the Broncos hope to go above .500 for the first time in 2010. That responsibility just comes with the challenge of playing the Colts.
The players will decide the rest.
"We’re going to make the choices we think are best," McDaniels said, "and then try to put great faith in our players to go out there and execute and win the game themselves."