Bart Scott called Manning perhaps the greatest quarterback who ever lived, so he’s figuring on a long day, too.
And Darrelle Revis says he’ll study the tapes more than ever in preparation for the future Hall of Famer.
They all know that if you beat Manning, then you are almost certain to beat the Colts and advance to the Super Bowl for only the second time in franchise history. Now the question is how to go about it.
The Jets got a firsthand look at Manning during last month’s 29-15 win over the Colts, but they know they didn’t see the complete version. Manning was pulled with the Colts, who were 14-0 at the time, ahead 15-10 in the third quarter. The Jets beat up on poor rookie Curtis Painter the rest of the way.
How to stop Manning this time? The five ways it can happen:
1.) One of the big keys to the Jets’ 17-14 upset of the Chargers in Sunday’s divisional round was their unconventional approach at the start of the game. Rather than go right to man-to-man coverage, as they’d been doing all season, Ryan started out in a more conservative “Cover 2” zone. It’s an approach that allows offenses to complete shorter passes but prevents the big play by using two safeties to cover deep throws. But the scheme also confused Philip Rivers and the Chargers, because they weren’t expecting it. That element of surprise might not be there against the Colts, because they’ve studied it on film from last week’s game. But it will give the Jets an opportunity to study how Manning wants to attack the defense, as was the case against Rivers.
2.) Since coming into the league in 1998, Manning has never missed a start. One of the reasons: He gets rid of the ball so quickly, he rarely gets hit. The Colts’ offensive line has been terrific, allowing only 10 sacks of Manning all season. There’s no reason to think the Jets can get to Manning on a consistent basis, so it’s fine to put more men in coverage and limit the passing game that way. But there will be opportunities to send blitzers, and the Jets need to try it here and there.
Two suggestions: Send Scott up the middle on occasion, and send defensive backs from the edges. Kerry Rhodes had a huge sack and forced fumble against Rivers on Sunday, and there’s no reason that he or Dwight Lowery or Jim Leonhard can’t take the outside route. And if you really want to shake things up? Send Revis, who hasn’t blitzed all season.
3.) Even if the Jets do start out in a cover 2, they need to keep Revis in the vicinity of Wayne, the Colts’ Pro Bowl receiver. Revis has emerged as the best cover corner in the NFL, and Wayne is clearly the Colts’ best receiver, so it’s dangerous to risk Wayne going against the Jets’ other corners. On Sunday, Revis generally remained on the left side of the defensive formation, and thus didn’t shadow San Diego’s top receiver, Vincent Jackson, who flipped sides and went in motion to stay away from Revis. There are times when the Colts like to get Wayne matched up in single coverage on deep “go” routes, but Ryan will be able to accurately predict when those routes occur based on video study. But if Revis is responsible for the shorter routes in a zone coverage, the Jets’ use of “cover 2” will help defend the deep pass.
4.) Use “bracket coverage” involving safety Kerry Rhodes and linebacker David Harris on tight end Dallas Clark. As dangerous a weapon as Wayne is in the Colts’ offense, Clark is equally effective. He has wide receiver-type speed, so he’s a threat not only on shorter patterns, especially “dig” routes where he runs to a spot, turns and gets Manning’s passes on a timing basis, but on longer ones, as well. Clark is expert at running across the middle on intermediate and longer-range passes. The Jets have assigned Rhodes to top-flight tight ends, but he might need a bit more help with Clark. So if the Jets use Rhodes and Harris to bracket Clark by staying on either side of him, it’s an effective coverage tool. Even if Clark catches the passes, having two players in his vicinity will reduce his yards after catch.
5.) Force Manning into second- and third-and-long by clamping down on the run. You might not know it from their record, but the Colts have a problem on offense. It’s the running game, and it has been ineffective for much of the season. That was especially true in Saturday night’s 20-3 win over the Ravens in the divisional playoffs, when Joseph Addai and rookie Donald Brown totaled 33 yards on 17 carries. That put additional pressure on Manning, who threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns. He threw two interceptions, one of which was called back on a penalty. If the Jets, the top-ranked rush defense in the NFL, can play to form against Addai and Brown, it will force Manning into obvious passing situations and limit his effectiveness.
JETS DISMANTLED PEYTON'S COLTS IN 2002
If anyone would know what it takes to beat Peyton Manning and the Colts in the playoffs, it's Herman Edwards. In 2002, in his second year as Jets coach, the Jets manhandled Indianapolis, 41-0, in a wild-card game at Giants Stadium. Chad Pennington outplayed Manning, who completed 14 of 31 passes for 137 yards with two interceptions.