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What They're Saying: Pagano, Luck


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Amidst the swirling canvas of excitement and storylines surrounding Sunday night's showdown in Indianapolis, Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano's focus remains straightforward: getting his team back on track after a 19-9 loss to the Chargers on Monday night and readying the AFC South-leading Colts for the task of facing the undefeated Broncos.

"To be honest with you, our whole focus right now – you know we just had a disappointing loss obviously on Monday Night Football," Pagano said on Wednesday morning during a conference call with the Denver media. "Our whole focus right now is on the Denver Broncos and going out and having the best possible week of practice that we can have and get better – individually, as position groups, offense, defense, special teams – and hopefully have a great week of preparation so we can go out and play well on Sunday night and give us the best possible chance to win."

After the Colts ceded nearly two-thirds of time of possession and totaled just 267 yards of total offense against the Chargers, Pagano noted that his attention is solely transfixed on rebounding from that performance and having his team ready for Sunday – with anything else surrounding the game ultimately bearing little importance to what transpires on the field.

"At the end of the day, when all that stuff is over with, they're going to kick the ball off and then it's going to be 60 minutes – three hours and whatever minutes – of football played between the white lines," Pagano said. "That's where our focus has to be."

His second-year quarterback, Andrew Luck, echoed those thoughts.

"I think for us, it's a football game," Luck said. "Obviously, there's some excitement around it, which is great for the game, great for the sport. But we're preparing as an offense to go against a great defense. Our defense is preparing to go against a great offense, and what a challenge."

And while parallels inevitably have been drawn between Luck and his Broncos counterpart, Peyton Manning – who compiled a storied 14-year tenure with the Colts before his move to Denver in 2012 – Luck noted that his approach to preparing for the Broncos has been no different than any other week.

"Honestly, I think the only difference is having to answer a couple more questions about the opposing quarterback," Luck said lightheartedly.

Luck has compiled a 15-7 record as a starter in regular season games since he entered the league, and the quarterback has thrown for 1,346 yards and seven touchdowns against just three interceptions this season. And, in succeeding Manning in the lineage of Colts quarterbacks, Pagano noted that Luck's maturity and dedication to developing his football abilities and acumen have been the most important attributes the quarterback has exhibited.

"I just think Andrew's mature beyond his years. I think he fully understood coming in here whose shoes he was filling," Pagano said. "We didn't have to have any lengthy about that. Andrew's whole focus and mindset and those type of things are on how to be the best quarterback that he can be and how he can help his team win. That's what makes him special."

But while Luck's leadership has been wholly evident after he helped guide Indianapolis to the playoffs in his rookie season, the quarterback was quick to point out that he doesn't consider the Colts as 'his team.'

"I would not say they're my team," Luck said. "I would say it's a team of a bunch of guys in the locker room. I've always believed football is such a great team sport. I know, on offense, I look to (WR) Reggie Wayne as our leader. We have (LB) Rob Mathis – what a great role model, leader for this community he's been. (K) Adam Vinatieri – there are a bunch of guys in the locker room, so not one person's team."

And on the subject of Manning, Luck expressed his respect for the legendary quarterback, remarking that Manning's excellence on-and-off the field set an example for other quarterbacks. 

"He did so many great things on the football field and they had such a great winning culture here for the past decade or so," Luck said. "But what he did off the field is incredible, as well, with the children's hospital and everything you learn about his involvement in the community. I think he definitely had a great impact both on-and-off the field in this city, and really a great role model for a young quarterback of sort of how to operate on and off the field."

As far as Manning's on-field performance with the Broncos this season, Pagano – who saw his share of Manning during stints as secondary coach of the Browns from 2001-04, defensive backs coach of the Raiders in 2005-06, secondary coach of the Ravens from 2008-10, and defensive coordinator of the Ravens in 2011 – remarked that the quarterback is playing at as high of a level as he has throughout his entire career.

"He looks better, you know?" Pagano said. "He's playing as good or better than he ever has. We know that there's nothing that Peyton has not seen. You've got to try to do the best – put a plan together to give your guys the best possible chance to go out there and play well. Guys are going to have to win their matchups."

Pagano also noted that the impact of returning Broncos linebacker Von Miller cannot be ignored. After serving out a six-game suspension, Miller returns to the field for his first regular-season appearance since recording 18.5 sacks in 2012 – and Pagano pointed out that Miller's presence looms large for Sunday's game.  

"It's huge, just look at his numbers. When you look at the numbers, tackle-wise and from a pass-rush standpoint, the guy's a game-wrecker," Pagano said. "He's an unbelievable talent, he's an unbelievable football player. So we have to make sure that we know where he's at all the time and do our very best (to) manage him, tend to him."

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