In case you missed it in our wall-to-wall coverage during the week leading up to today's AFC Championship game, I spoke with former Jets coach Herm Edwards earlier in the week to get his take on today's tilt.
He was vintage Herm. We talked about the keys to the game and what the Jets need to do to pull out a victory and head to their first Super Bowl in 41 years.
"The key, everyone is saying well Peyton Manning is the key," Edwards said, "yeah I get all that. "But really, the pressure is not so much on Peyton Manning. It's on his receiving corps -- are they reading the same thing Peyton Manning is reading. Peyton Manning, he can maybe figure it out when you disguise it, but are those receivers figuring it out? Because when they sre standing on the line of scrimmage and they release off that ball, if they are not seeing what Peyton Manning is seeing. They are not playing as fast and thats a problem. That's a problem. That’s what that defense does to you.
"It’s always giving you pre-snap looks when you think it’s this and then all of the sudden it’s that. So all of the sudden, if you are one of those receivers or tight ends and you are coming off the ball saying, 'Is this the coverage, is it not the coverage?' And here is the problem. Peyton Manning doesn't like to hold onto that ball. He wants to get rid of it. If you are putting pressure on him, he is holding onto the ball because the receivers haven't put it in their computer yet what the coverage really is. Then you have a a problem. That gets them out of rhythm."
Exactly what about those pre-snap looks? Can the Jets do enough to confuse Manning and his receivers since we know how uncanny he is about recognizing what defenses are doing? You know, all that presnap audibilizing he's always does?
"I think they do a good job of that, they do a a good job of disguising their coverage," Edwards said. "In other words, showing this picture, but really they are going to change. It’s all a matter of the clock."
That's when Herm jogged his memory, thinking back to the way he tried to get Manning off his audible game.
"How we did it when we played Peyton Manning, we always went on the 40 second clock," he said. "We made sure we held onto our disguise 'til about five seconds before that 40 second clock went off. Because he's sitting there at the line of scrimmage now, and he’s looking and looking and looking. But eventually, you have to be patient enough to sit there and hold your disguise.
"To us, it was always dictated by the 40 second clock. When that thing gets to five seconds, guess what? He’s going to snap the ball. He can't audible and go to something else. He’s not going to have enough time. So, I think the way you hold your disguise and the ability to show him one thing and do something else. But it’s like I keep saying. It’s not on Peyton Manning, it’s on the receivers. Do the receivers see what Peyton Manning is seeing. They've got to get it because if they don't get it, then all of the sudden, they come off the ball and think it’s this and it’s not that. So I think there is going to be a lot of cat and mouse played in this game."
Besides showing their defensive hand early, there's something else the Jets can't do in Herm's eyes.
Herm also thinks punter Steve Weatherford will need to have a solid day.
"He will play a big factor in this game," Edwards said. "He’s going to have to punt and make them play on a long field, try to make Indianapolis play on a long field. They are going to move the ball some, because that's what they do. But then, in the red zone, it’s going to be very important that they play great red zone defense, and the fact that you make them kick some field goals down there. If they are down there five times and you make them kick three field goals, you are in the game.
As for Mark Sanchez, Edwards has an idea of the number of times he should be throwing the ball if the Jets are going to have any kind of success.
"I think the formula is really 40-20," he said. "They are going to run it about 40 times or high 30s, and you are going to ask him to pass about 20 or so. What you don't want him to have to do -- what's critical for them on offense is first down. They want to be second-and-5 because then it’s the easy down for him on third down. They don’t want to be in uh-oh, second-and-9. That's not good. That bodes well for the Colts because all of the sudden, you are getting third-and-6, not third-and-7.
"Now they can do what they need to do because the thing about Indy is they are built to rush the passer. That's kind of their strength when you think about it. Their two ends are pretty good."
Speaking of pretty good, that would be a way Herm describes the Jets' chances of taking down the Colts today.
"They've got a shot," he said. "If I’m the Colts, I’m concerned. And they should be.... I said last week, 'Hey, this would not surprise me if they beat the Chargers.' It didn't surprise me one bit. Hey, I was involved in one of those, going down there and beating them Chargers. And last time they played Peyton Manning in the playoffs, it was 41-0. I always say things come in threes. This is third game, guess what? They win this one, they go back to the Super Bowl to where they originally went last time, with Joe Namath in Florida, in Miami.
"So guess what? Things just kinda work out, trust me. I won't be shocked at all if they beat Indianapolis. It would not shock me."