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Colts Changing Game Plan


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Sat Jan 8, 8:13 AM

- INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Peyton Manning will replace the headset with a helmet, Edgerrin James expects a full workload, and Marvin Harrison should be catching passes well into the second half.

The Denver Broncos will see a very different Indianapolis Colts team Sunday.

``I don't think last week has anything to do with this week,'' Manning said. ``It was just a game where we didn't make enough plays.''

The reason might have been that the Broncos weren't playing the ``real'' Colts.

Just one week after the Broncos (10-6) clinched the AFC's final wild-card spot with a 33-14 victory over the Colts, the two teams meet again under rather different circumstances.

Instead of snowy Denver, this game will be played in the controlled setting of the RCA Dome. And instead of the regular season, this is the playoffs, with the winner moving on to a game against New England or Pittsburgh.

The Colts (12-4) will look like a team that's added some ringers. Knowing they were likely to face a rematch with Denver, Colts coach Tony Dungy opted for a vanilla game plan and a makeshift lineup.

Manning and James departed after three plays, Harrison stuck around for the first half only, and tight end Marcus Pollard sat out with a sprained ankle. The Colts also started three rookies in the secondary, held out middle linebacker Rob Morris (concussion) and limited the playing time of their top pass-rusher, Dwight Freeney.

``It was tough, something we wrestled with,'' Dungy said. ``It goes against your nature and your players' nature and it's difficult to play in and coach.''

Quarterback Jake Plummer took advantage of the Colts' inexperienced secondary by throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. Reuben Droughns and Tatum Bell each topped 75 yards rushing, and the Broncos dominated the watered-down Colts in the second half.

With the stakes higher this week, even the Broncos don't expect a repeat.

``From watching film, we saw them play more man coverage than they usually do,'' Plummer said. ``Whatever they do, we have to adjust to it. Obviously, we have to be ready for anything.''

So how much did the Colts really hide?

Sunday's matchup will be the fourth meeting between the two teams in little more than a year. They also played in the first round of last season's playoffs.

Routs have been the norm.

In 2003, Denver dominated Indianapolis in a 31-17 regular-season win and two weeks later lost to the Colts 41-10 in the playoffs.

``It wasn't a good way to end the season, obviously,'' Plummer said. ``But you've got to learn from it, you've got to learn what you've got to do to keep that from happening again.''

One twist this time around: How will the Colts react to a hit Pro Bowl safety John Lynch put on tight end Dallas Clark last weekend? Lynch said he wanted to send a message to the Colts; he was fined $75,000 by the NFL.

Throughout the week, the Broncos said Indianapolis' receivers are soft. But the Colts didn't take the bait.

``I don't really have a verbal response to that,'' Manning said. ``We just have to go out and make plays.''

Denver has seen Manning do that all too much before. In last year's playoff game, he threw for five touchdowns and finished with a perfect passer rating of 158.3.

And the Broncos' recent playoff failures raise another issue: Can they win without John Elway? Since Elway retired after back-to-back Super Bowl victories in 1998 and 1999, the Broncos haven't won a postseason game.

``We know not much has been happening since he left,'' Plummer said. ``Obviously, we want to get a win real bad.''

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