ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After years of quizzing defensive coaches around the league about trying to work in an NFL world where the objective at times seems to be to build a rules book that produces as many passing yards and/or points as possible, it’s clear the guys trying to stop all these quarterbacks don’t really have a long list of choices.
Sure, they can dress it up by moving players around the formation or changing things out just before the snap.
But in the end they can essentially choose pressure or coverage. The resources can be sent at the quarterback in hopes the extra rushers get there before the quarterback finds the hole left behind that choice. Or they can drop six, seven, or eight players into coverage, take away throwing lanes and create irregular traffic patterns.
Which brings us all to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. You know, the 37-year-old, surgically repaired quarterback who, according to many of those in the league who have tried to stop him on a football field over the years, has found a level of play even he had not reached before.
What to do with Peyton Manning? The sample size isn’t all that big, at just five games, but after charting the games to go with some help from the fine folks at ESPN Stats & Information, it’s pretty clear the Broncos’ first three opponents -- the Ravens, Giants and Raiders -- rushed Manning more aggressively than the last two (Eagles, Cowboys) did.
That’s probably because Manning made the first three teams pay so dearly so the Eagles and Cowboys elected to try something else. In the end, and 20 touchdowns later, not much has worked for anybody.
But the Ravens rushed five or more players at Manning on 14 or his 42 pass attempts in the opener and Manning threw for 192 yards and four touchdowns in those 14 attempts against the extra rushers. The Giants have had the most success with the extra rushers, having sent five or more rushers at Manning on 12 of his 43 attempts in Week 2. Manning threw for 70 yards and no scores on those 12 attempts.
Former Broncos defensive coordinator, and current Raiders coach, Dennis Allen has been the most aggressive against Manning. Allen and Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver sent five or more rushers at Manning on 17 of Manning’s 37 attempts. And ... Manning threw for 165 yards and two touchdowns on those 17 attempts.
In Weeks 4 and 5, the Eagles and the Cowboys have sent five or more rushers at Manning six times each in those two games. Manning was 6 of 6 against the Eagles on those snaps with two touchdowns and 5 of 6 against the Cowboys with a touchdown.
Most importantly, however, for the Broncos may be that Manning has not been sacked on any rush of five or more players from an opposing defense this season. So, pressure or coverage, Manning has had all of the answers so far.