FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Certainly a defense can attack Peyton Manning. But will that do anything to stop him? Probably not. Fear not Jets faithful, as many teams have failed to contain the half-man/half-machine that is the 4x-MVP. On the other hand, teams have succeeded at slowing down Manning, but it takes efforts from both sides of the ball.
Rex Ryan may have a personal score to settle with Manning, but this year’s supporting cast gives him the best chance to do so. His QB rating of 91.9 is his lowest since 2002-03 season (88.8) and lower than his career average (94.9). His interception total (17) might not be as unsightly as brother Eli’s 25, but is his highest total since 2002-03 (19).
Injuries to some of Manning’s favorite targets (Austin Collie, Dallas Clark) have forced younger to step up in their absence. While they have developed from their time with Manning, it is still a point of attack.
“Experience, I think is still your best teacher. Those guys have been thrown into the fire and it’s Tamme’s [first year of playing] and White is a rookie.” Manning said Tuesday.
Despite a depleted receiving corps, Manning managed to complete 450 completions, throw for 4,700 yards and recorded his sixth season with 30+ TD passes. More than ever, the kudos goes to quarterback that’s the most feared home-run hitters in the league.
With the Colts three-headed backfield, the running game has been effective enough for Manning to utilize his deadly play-action fake.
“We have a little bit more consistency with our running game. Dominic Rhodes has been a nice addition. Donald Brown has [become] better through the season. We’ve had Joseph Addai back the past two weeks, so that certainly helps,” Manning said.
So how do the Jets stop a quarterback who has put together a Hall-of-Fame career pulling apart defenses? Control the ball on offense. Remember that Mark Sanchez that went the first five games without turning the ball over? The Jets need that Sanchez to show up Saturday.
Forget the Sanchez that heroically heaved the ball to Santonio Holmes for three straight weeks. Say hello to the dink and dunker. Sights like LaDanian Tomlinson getting the ball in the flats and Dustin Keller across the middle should be regular happenings. Runs from Shonn Greene to wear down a very fast Colts defense.
Against a fast and aggressive Cover 2 defense like the Colts, bubble screens and check downs in the middle of the field can pick up chunks of yards and keep the clock moving. Anything to keep Manning off the field.
“It could be Dustin, it could be LT or Braylon [Edwards]. Nothing different than any other week. [The Colts] do such a good job in the back end that you have to be patient, spread it around and not just focus on one guy,” Sanchez said.
Stopping Manning when he has the ball is a bit more difficult. With a thin defensive secondary, don’t be surprised when the Colts spread the field and try to find a hole. In the loss to the Patriots, that’s what Tom Brady was able to execute to near-perfection.
To combat this attack the Jets pass rush needs to be present, especially up the middle. The combination of Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito has been admirable in stopping the run, but pressure must be created up the gut. Sending either Bart Scott or David Harris to disrupt Manning’s timing and getting in his face may force a quick decision. With former o-line anchor, retired center Jeff Saturday, gone the middle can be exposed.
During the Colts three-game losing streak (against New England, San Diego and Dallas) Manning threw 12 interceptions, 4 interceptions returned for touchdowns and 22 passes defended. Jason Taylor’s long arms have served him mightily over the years at swatting QB’s balls down at the line.
All three teams feature an above-average pass rush and a secondary that took advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves.
The Jets big name players (see Revis, Darrelle and Cromartie, Antonio) must show their superior skills. Role players (see Coleman, Drew and Wilson, Kyle) must stick to their assignments and not allow themselves to be picked on like in game’s past.
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