QUARTERBACK PEYTON MANNING
**On if he still enjoys the preparation process
"I do. I feel like that's got to be part of it. I think if you're just dreading what you're doing all week, you probably ought to find something else to do. I think that's probably the challenge as you get older. I think everybody enjoys the football games but I've heard players in their late years say that they enjoyed the games but they didn't enjoy the preparation and kind of the offseason workouts and the meetings and all that. I still do enjoy that part of it. I think being in a new offense, being with a new offensive coordinator and having some new teammates, it keeps you stimulated and it keeps you on your toes. I'm constantly learning, each week, something new. That certainly helps but I think that's important to enjoy, like you said, the process, not just the outcome and the games."
On playing at home
"We like playing at home because our fans have been outstanding all season. I think anybody prefers to play at home and like I said, with their home fans. But this has been an excellent team—at home and on the road—that we're playing. We need to do our job on the football field from an executing standpoint and count on that. At the same time we know our fans will be loud and excited. We're certainly glad to be playing here."
On improving offensive execution
"We certainly felt like we left some points out there last week. That is something we have emphasized the entire season—finishing drives with touchdowns, not having to settle for field goals. [K] Matt [Prater] has been brilliant all season but we don't want to have to count on him to make 45-yarders and 52-yarders. We want to do our best to get into the end zone. That's an emphasis every single week and I think it's definitely a major point of emphasis this week as well."
On blocking out thoughts of the future
"I really don't think it's hard to block that out. As a matter of fact, I think it's probably even easier just to hone on in on what's taking place right now. I really felt that that has been my approach since the beginning of last season. Just when you go through a significant injury and a major career change, you truly do go one year at a time and you don't look past what's going on now because you are not sure what's going to happen. Tomorrow is not promised. I think it's a healthy approach for an older player to go all in for 2013 regular season, 2014 postseason. For a young player, sure, it can be easy to look ahead to maybe that new contract that they want to get or some career goal that they're trying to achieve. But at this point in my career, it's easy just to focus in on what's going on right now. It's been a healthy approach and attitude for me and it keeps you honed in on the moment."
RUNNING BACK KNOWSHON MORENO
**On not getting too excited
"It's definitely tough, but you're going to have enough time—especially on game day and the night before—to kind of get amped up and ready for the game. It's a little bit of a ways, but once those days come, you get back to work and get amped up for it."
On how his role has evolved this season
"Just basically learning each week and trying to get better each week. You never play a perfect game—definitely not me—and I just try to correct those mistakes and move forward each week and get better."
On the biggest impact QB Peyton Manning has made on him
"Basically just how to be a pro. He demands so much. He demands perfection. That kind of rubs off on a lot of guys—offensively and defensively and as a team. So I just try to go out there and do my best and make sure I'm in the right places."
On when just he and Manning are in the backfield
"It's funny. We're always talking back there, making sure me and him are on the same page. He's always making calls and we just talk and make sure if we're on the same page and then go from there."
DEFENSIVE END SHAUN PHILLIPS
On New England Patriots QB Tom Brady not getting flustered
"He's been playing long enough that he's past all that. But he does a good job of reading defenses and understanding his offense and understanding where guys are supposed to be. That's what makes him one of the best quarterbacks in the league."
**On his options in free agency last offseason
"It was a no-brainer for me. I don't think San Diego wanted me back. They weren't serious enough. It was just a good fit. When I walked in the door, those guys showed me so much love as soon as I walked in and made me feel like they wanted me on the team and wanted me to be a part of the team. That's why it was a no-brainer for me."
On how much QB Peyton Manning had to do with him signing with Denver
"It was people beyond Peyton mostly. It was the guys, the coaches and stuff. It was honestly [Head] Coach [John Fox], [Executive Vice President of Football Operations John] Elway, the Linebackers Coach (Richard Smith) and those guys. When I came in, they went over the defense with me right away and they were like, 'We want to use you here, we want to use you here,' and they stuck behind their word and used me everywhere they wanted to use me."
On whether San Diego not wanting him back was a chip on his shoulder
"Of course you do that. As a competitor, when you don't feel wanted, it's a fight-or-flight-type thing. And I'm a fighter. So therefore, I'm definitely going to compete a little bit more. I don't think I did anything different this year than I did any other year. Maybe I had a little extra chip going against San Diego to make sure I dominate those guys a little bit more, but for me, I always play with a chip on my shoulder. It's the only way to play defense and it's the only way you can keep an edge in this league.
On whether it was difficult to be a leader with a new team
"That's not what I was trying to do. I just came to be myself. We have a bunch of leaders on this team. This team was already good without me. I just wanted to come here and do my part. But, I also shared some of the knowledge that I've acquired through my years of playing football and I just speak to those guys. It is kind of a little bit in my nature to have a little bit of a leadership role. But, me being a little older and that I've played in this league for a while now—guys look up to me. I understand that, so I make sure I'm saying the right things and out there not only leading by talking but leading by example as well."
WIDE RECEIVER DEMARYIUS THOMAS
**On approaching this week as just another game
"It's just another game but like I said before, it's either win or go home. Our main focus is trying to go out, put up some good football so we can beat these guys. Because when we went to New England, they beat us. That's our main focus right now, trying to figure out a way to beat them."
On never having beaten the Patriots and whether it would be rewarding to do so
"I think so. Beating them and also making it to the Super Bowl, because I think they've beaten us four times since I've been here. I haven't won once. That's one thing I do want to do is beat the Patriots."
On whether that loss is a motivator
"Maybe a little. It's the next team in our way to get to the Super Bowl. It motivates us to try to just go out and win, because we want to make the Super Bowl and we want to win it. Whoever's in front of us, our main thing is trying to beat that team."
On the Broncos' defense overcoming injuries
"I'm impressed with them because the last couple weeks—maybe more weeks—they've been able to stop the opposing offense and get the ball back in our hands so we can put points on the board to help us out to get wins. I think every time we have somebody injured, there's always somebody stepping up. I think that's the main thing with our group of guys—everybody's capable of getting in and making plays."
On whether he understands how hard it is to get to the playoffs and win
"I do. My first season we had an interim coach—wait, it was [Head Coach John] Fox, right? With [QB Tim] Tebow? I forgot. That was a long time ago (laughing). But yeah, we made it in, we lost. Then we had last year with a bye and we lost also. So I feel like now it's not easy. You've got to go in every day. I think the work that we put in out here on the field, it helps us also. We've been going hard. We know what we've got to do to try to get over this edge and try to get the 'W' to get to the Super Bowl."
On whether players can understand how hard it is to win in the playoffs from hearing from veterans
"I think you learn for yourself because once you hit the field, you're out there by yourself doing your job. But you hear stuff from [QB] Peyton [Manning], Wes, [CB] Champ [Bailey]—all those guys that made it to this game for the first time. They'll tell you it's going to be a 60-minute game. It's going to be one play somewhere in the game, and somebody's got to make a play to change the game. That's the main thing they've been telling us."
On the AFC Championship Game potentially being more stressful than the actual Super Bowl
"It [does make sense]. I was kind of nervous at the beginning of this week. This is my first time being nervous at the beginning of the week. Because we want to make it to the Super Bowl and we also want to win. We don't just want to make it. But like I said, our main goal is to make it and win the game. I think it is a little pressure on us, on myself for sure because I was nervous at the beginning of the week when we started work."