TODAY'S PAPER
63° Good Morning
63° Good Morning
SportsFootballJets

Jets' chances rest on containing Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts throws a

Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 17, 2009 in Jacksonville, Florida. Credit: Getty Images

There's one name that's been tossed around the Jets' training complex more than any other this week, one guy in particular who could wind up playing a Grinch-like role come Sunday afternoon.

Let's just say the guy wearing the No. 18 jersey, the one who's in more commercials than that talking gecko, is pretty darn good, and the Jets know they can't let the MVP of Super Bowl XLI shred their defense with his rocket right arm.

"I think it all starts with Peyton Manning," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "You have to make him as uncomfortable as possible. It seems like he can do it in his sleep. I have never played against the Colts before, but watching him on film, he makes everything go. He is calling plays and the protection at the line of scrimmage. He really is good. It is tough.

"If you just let him sit there and throw the ball, it will be an easy day for him."

Manning is in the midst of another one of his remarkable seasons. The Jets (7-7) understand that if they are to have any shot at taking down the undefeated Colts and keeping their playoff hopes alive, they must find a way to contain the Colts' passing game - provided Manning plays extensive minutes, of course.

Indianapolis (14-0) features the league's fourth-ranked offense and boasts the top aerial attack, averaging 297.2 yards per contest. Manning, a three-time NFL MVP, is tied for second in touchdown passes with 33 and leads the league in many of the important statistical passing categories. He's tops in overall yardage (4,213), yards per game (300.9) and completions (365).

Perhaps the most impressive stat of all, though, is this: 10. That's the number of times Manning has been sacked this season despite his 542 dropbacks, meaning he has been sacked less than once per game.

"He gets rid of it," said Jets coach Rex Ryan, who didn't have much success against Manning during his Baltimore tenure. "You can have a free runner on him, but he's still going to get rid of the football. You want to get a hit on him. You want to disrupt him some. You want to get him off his spot, but he knows exactly where he's going with the ball. I love the guy as a quarterback, but I hate him.

"When you play him, you have such great admiration and respect for him, but, golly, stay back there, take a hit, one of those types of deals. It's very frustrating to play against a guy like this."

Especially when Manning is so adept at reading coverages. He'll come up to the line of scrimmage and start pointing at the defense, often calling an audible because he's spotted a weakness in coverage. He's such a student of the game and has seen just about every kind of defensive alignment known to man.

That's why the Jets are fully aware they can't show their hand too early while Manning is barking out the signals. Otherwise, he'll light them up like a Christmas tree.

"It's critical, pre-snap movement," defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "We always use a phrase we had gotten from Mike Nolan years ago: 'You don't want to be an iron deer on the lawn.' You don't want to stand in one spot and let them know where you're going to be.

"We try to gear all of our calls where you know where you're supposed to be ultimately, but we can go ahead and move around. At quarterback, if he knows what you're in, you're in trouble.

"He's the best in the league, maybe the best in history of understanding defense and taking what a defense will give him."

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

New York Sports