The Jets thought they were ready for Peyton Manning, feeling every bit as confident as their head coach, Rex Ryan, heading into last year’s AFC title game. And then Manning, the Colts’ Hall of Fame-bound quarterback, picked apart their defensive scheme with ease – and the Jets were left scrambling.
“He called out everybody and what they were doing,” cornerback Dwight Lowery said Wednesday. “It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced as a football player; for a quarterback to call out what every single player’s doing – he’s blitzing, he’s dropping, he’s doing this, he’s doing that.’
“It’s like, ‘OK….what …should …I do? I was just thinking, ‘Well, here goes nothing.’”
The Jets had no choice but to adjust on the fly and hope for the best -- and, well, we all know how that ended.
“He was exactly right,” Lowery said of Manning, who called out defensive players by number. “…You just have to play football from there and understand that he knows what you’re doing and minimize how they’re going to attack.”
Manning’s ability to deconstruct -- and remember -- different schemes and packages during the game set him apart from other QBs in NFL.
“It’s like he has a photographic memory,” said Lowery.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine believes the Jets new-and-improved seconday is better equipped to handle Manning this time around, given its depth and the improved play of Drew Coleman, Kyle Wilson and Lowery. But confusing Manning is close to impossible.
“He’s such a gym rat that he’ll go back and I’m sure he’s watched every one of our games this year and studied and gone back to his notes from a year ago,” said Pettine. “So we have to walk that fine line of doing what we do well and also changing some new things up.
“You don’t want to go to a totally new package against him, cause now you’re out there playing things on a short week for us that we’re not familiar with. But at the same time we don’t want to line up in our same old same old and have him be able to easily identify it and go from there.”
Conventional wisdom says blitzing Manning isn’t the smart move, given his ability to expertly read defenses and throw passes with pinpoint accuracy (see Tony Dungy). But Pettine said he doesn’t buy into that way of thinking.
“You have to be calculated with your pressure,” he said, “but we have to be who we are.”