Indiana Daily Student

Colts ready to improve themselves

Colts still unproven in the postseason

INDIANAPOLIS ' Last season, quarterback Peyton Manning and a number of other key players helped Colts coach Jim Mora accomplish things he had never dreamed of. \nMora won his first AFC East division crown. He coached the Colts to a 13-3 mark, tying the franchise mark for most wins in a season. Finally, he led Indianapolis to a 10-game improvement from his first 1998-1999 season.\nHaving done all that, Mora, who has been coaching in the NFL for 13 years, still hasn't accomplished one feat most coaches with his amount of experience did years ago. Despite all of his regular season wins, Mora still has never won a playoff game.\nAfter compiling the second-best record in the AFC last year, the Colts dropped a divisional playoff game to the Tennessee Titans, 19-16, at the RCA Dome in January. Despite the successes and disappointments of last season, Mora is not concerned about what people will expect of his team.\n"My approach will not be any different, nor will the team's approach be different," Mora said. "Whether we come off a 3-13 season or a 13-3 season we coach the same. We expect a lot and are demanding. The players know what to expect of us and what we expect of them."\nPerhaps the biggest surprise for the Colts last year was the play of second-year running back Edgerrin James. As a rookie, James ran for 1,553 yards and 17 total touchdowns. Even though he had so much success on a personal level, James also felt the sting of a short post season and is ready for redemption.\n"We had a great season last year, but it is over now," James said. "We just have to accept it as a learning experience because it is over."\nBesides James, all of the key players return for the Colts. The spark plug that starts and stops Indianapolis' success will be Manning. About to begin his third season, Manning has become one of the best quarterbacks in the entire NFL. Last year Manning was named to his first Pro-Bowl after throwing for 4,135 yards and 26 touchdowns.\nStill, Manning knows there is always room for improvement.\n"I'm a little older," Manning said. "I'm an old man now at 24. I know I'm going to see different defenses this year, and that's going to make it tougher, but I think I'm better prepared to handle that."\nMora agreed.\n"In order to be the kind of player that he is at this level, you have to be good both (physically and mentally)," Mora said. "You have to have the physical assets, which he does. There is no question about it. He is also very strong mentally. He has the preparation, the attitude and the leadership."\nThe other key weapon for the Colts is wide receiver Marvin Harrison. A Syracuse graduate, Harrison had his best year yet in 1999, with 1,663 receiving yards on 115 reception, including 12 touchdowns. \nWith his rise to one of the best receivers in the NFL last year, Harrison knows he is going to be opposing defenses' number one target.\n"That comes with the territory," Harrison said of the extra attention. "There have been receivers who have been marked men for 10 years or more, guys like Michael Irvin, and they kept doing the job. We have an offensive scheme to put me into different situations that will get me the ball."\nOn the defensive side of the ball, there is one unquestioned leader in the form of linebacker Cornelius Bennett. With 13 years of NFL experience and four trips to the Super Bowl under his belt, Bennett relishes his role as the emotional leader of the Colts.\n"That is part of my being here," Bennett said of helping younger players. "I still play pretty good, but I am more of a teacher."\nBennett showed he can still play last season. After coming over from the Buffalo Bills, Bennett led the Colts with 114 tackles and also pitched in five sacks. Bennett finished the decade by being named to the 1990's All-Decade second-team.\n"It's a great honor," Bennett said. "I don't know if it means I'm an old man or what. If I don't ever play another down, I guess I've made a mark."\nThe other key ingredient team president Bill Polian brought in last year through free agency was defensive end Chad Bratzke. Bratzke led the team with 12 sacks and accumulated 81 tackles.\nThe Colts defense rose to the top half of the AFC in a number of statistical categories. Bratzke figures the defense to be even stronger in 2000 after having had a season to get acquainted with one another.\n"Last year, we came cold," Bratzke said. "We had a new coordinator, a new defense, and, really, none of us knew it. Now, the rookies don't know it, but all the veterans do."\nFor the Colts, 1999 was a good season and they hope 2000 will be a great season. A good regular season won't suffice.\n"There is only one team in the NFL that should be satisfied with their season, and that is the St. Louis Rams," James said. "Every team's goal is to win the Super Bowl. If you don't reach that goal you can't be satisfied"

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