EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher knows Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning better than any opposing coach in the league. As the coach of the Tennessee Titans, he faced Manning's Indianapolis Colts 19 times, including the postseason.
In those games, the Titans were 6-13. Along the way, Fisher said he tried just about every tactic one could think of to slow down Manning and his offensive directives.
"It’s like playing a computer," Fisher said. "That’s what he is. He runs that offense. He’s going to put them in the best possible position. He’s nearly impossible to fool and is hard to get down. If you rush more than four, the ball's coming out and he’s not going to take the hit. That’s just how he is. He puts that offense in the best possible position every snap. If the run’s not there, then he’s going to pick it up and he’s going to change and he’s going to put the ball down the field. He’s prepared. He’s prepared week after week, year after year. Again, like I said, I think he’s playing his best football right now.”
That's a scary thought for any defense or coach, but especially one who has seen him so many times over the years when Manning was on his way to league MVP awards.
On Thursday evening, Fisher offered an anecdote about a solution they tried in Tennessee in an attempt to keep Manning from so easily picking up on what they were doing from down to down, series to series and quarter to quarter.
“There were years when our whole defense wore wristbands and we changed every quarter because we couldn’t talk, because he recognizes your terminology and your calls and things like that,” Fisher said.
According to Fisher, each wristband had a number on it that represented a different defensive call. The call would come in just as a number. At the end of a quarter, the defense would change the wristband and the individual number would mean something different.
That begs the obvious question: Did it work?
“No," Fisher said, laughing. "It may have for a quarter. I don’t know.”
The reality is, there isn't one simple solution to slowing Manning. The best might be to keep him off the field completely.
"Every time that Peyton’s on the bench, that certainly is important, their offense is on the bench," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "Certainly have played him a lot of times. The times we’ve played well against him, going back to the days with the [New York] Jets … division playoff games, stuff like that, you win the time-of-possession battle. You stay on the field. I think the more opportunities we can do that by being successful running the football, throwing completions will help us do that.”