“Drop 11 [guys],” he said, laughing. “If they complete it, I'm going to be really disappointed.”
That's what it might take for the Chargers defensively to contain a Denver offense that has been pretty much unstoppable this season.
Denver's franchise quarterback is on pace to throw for nearly 5,838 yards and 58 touchdowns -- both would be NFL single-season highs. At 37 years old, he leads the NFL in passer rating (119.4) and completions (237) and is second to Philip Rivers in completion percentage (72.2 to 71.2).
San Diego's defense is tasked with figuring out a way to disrupt the machinelike precision of Manning and a high-powered Denver offense averaging a league-high 42.9 points a contest (the second-highest-scoring offense, Chicago, is averaging 30.0 points).
“You've got to get lined up and play defense because the minute he sees you're all out of whack, that's when he takes full advantage,” San Diego defensive lineman Corey Liuget said. “So, you have to be lined up in your defensive front and know your coverage calls.”
Although Manning's ability to quickly decipher defenses and accurately deliver the ball on time and on target is unmatched, he has shown a human side.
As with every other quarterback, Manning's play dips when he is moved off his spot and driven to the ground.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Manning has been hit/under duress on 40 dropbacks this season. In the Broncos' lone loss (Week 7 at Colts), Manning was hit/under duress on 13 dropbacks, including four sacks.
In 2012, Manning was hit/under duress on 63 dropbacks (4.2 per game). His season high was seven (Week 3 loss vs. Texans).
“You always want to hit him,” San Diego safety Eric Weddle said. "You want to hit any quarterback that you can. Sacks are always great from the outside looking at them, but if you're hitting him and getting him off of his spot and force him to run around by creating havoc, quarterbacks don't like that. Then that starts getting their timing off, and they feel like, if they hold on to the ball too long, they're going to get hit.
“So it's always important to get in his face, hit him as much as possible.”
The trick to slowing down Manning is being successful in playing that cat-and-mouse game of whether to bring pressure or play coverage. Manning has seen every blitz imaginable, so defenses have to do a good job of disguising their intentions so he doesn't pick you apart in his pre-snap reads.
And when San Diego does blitz, the Chargers have got to get home.
“He does such a great job of getting the ball out,” Weddle said. “He knows when pressure is coming -- maybe not all the time -- but he can feel it in his time clock. He goes through his progressions the best out of any quarterback you go against.
“If the flat is there -- if the first read is there -- he's going to take it no matter what. He's not overzealous. He's not going to try for the shot if it's not there. He's not going to hold on to the ball if it's not there. When he does hold on to the ball, it's because the coverage may be good and he really doesn't have anywhere to throw it.”
Pagano echoed Weddle's comments. Even though older brother Chuck's Colts defense was successful in containing Manning in Denver's only loss this season, John Pagano said he didn't put in a call this week.
Pagano already has a pretty good idea of what to expect from Manning -- and what his defense needs to do to slow down Denver's offense.
“Our theme of the week is disguise and disrupt,” Pagano said. “Disguise and show the different type of looks, and disrupt as much as we can -- whether it's in the run game or in the passing game.
“And you've got to be able to put pressure on this quarterback. If he sits in the pocket and has the comfort that he needs, it makes it a long day for anyone.”