The Washington Redskins’ defensive coaches and players will spend countless hours preparing for Sunday’s meeting with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. They’ll go over every strategy that the Indianapolis Colts – who on Sunday became the first team to beat Manning & Co. – tried and see what they can use to their advantage. But they admit that despite all their hard work, they likely will still enter the game at a disadvantage.
Manning is an expert at reading defenses, dissecting them and making adjustments pre-snap. Then, he makes seemingly impossible plays because of his mental and physical strengths. The Redskins know that a defense rarely shuts Manning down. Their goal is simply to try to limit his production.
“I don’t think you’ll ever be prepared for Peyton Manning – one of the greatest, if not the greatest quarterback ever to play the game,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “We just have to figure out a way to slow him down.”
Safety Reed Doughty, who is coming off of a concussion, joked that a matchup with Manning means, “More headaches. Something I don’t need more of.”
The key to slowing Manning down, according to Doughty will be “Confuse him. We have to play our best game. Defensively, we have to play our best game. This season, we’ve had moments and you can have moments just like the Colts did, but then he scores 21 real quick. But, they got the game with some turnovers. But, he can put it on you. You can play three good quarters and if you have one bad quarter, you’ll lose the football game. Whatever we do, we have to do our best.”
Doughty and his teammates acknowledge that it’s hard to confuse Manning, and so, more than anything, they must play technically sound.
“He’s was amazing out there,” said cornerback E.J. Biggers, who also could wind up playing some safety. “Making the checks and calls, and then watching it on film, it was like, ‘How did he know we were in that?’ That’s what he’s striving for, but you’re playing with technique and within the scheme and using everybody on the defense, you’ll be comfortable and confident.”
A strong effort up front will help the secondary. If the Redskins can get pressure on Manning and put him in awkward situations, they believe that will diminish the quarterback’s accuracy. Using a number of different looks and timing on their blitzes could help in this area.
“You can’t show your disguise at all pre-snap because he’ll see it,” said outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who leads Washington with 5.5 sacks. “That’s the challenge of facing him. If you show it early, you’re done for. The timing of [the Colts’] blitzes was really well done. They rushed a lot with the front four, with [outside linebackers Robert] Mathis and [Erik] Walden, and those guys were able to get some pressure on him. And then, a couple times, they brought [inside linebacker] Jerrell Freeman on a blitz, so they were able to get some pressure. So it was holding the disguise and then just executing.”
Manning is a tough enough assignment by himself, but he also has talented pass-catchers to work with. Wide receivers Eric Decker and Demaryus Thomas rank second and fourth in the league in receiving yardage, and Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas are tied for the NFL’s lead with eight touchdown catches apiece. Denver ranks first in the NFL both in yardage gained and points scored.
“You’re not talking about Bo-bo and Jo-Jo. You’re talking about Wes Welker, and D. Thomas is out there doing his thing, and Decker,” Wilson said. “It’s not like they’re nobodies. They’re great players, too. … You’ve just got to play ball. Everyone’s going to be stressed, but everybody has to step up.”
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● The Redskins practice Thursday at 1 p.m.
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