Friday, November 15, 2013

The Blueprint: Defending Peyton Mannning

The Chiefs won't have to go far to find tape on how to defend Peyton Manning. For 3 of the last 4 seasons, the Chiefs' defense has been responsible for his lowest scoring outputs. When facing the Chiefs last year, Manning only scored 17 points. And he only lead the Colts to 19 points in 2010. Today, I'll give 4 reasons why the Chiefs were so successful in defending against Peyton Manning: 1) Avoid constant blitzing 2)  Disrupt the timing of the receivers' routes. 3) Selective blitzing. 4) Force field goals in the red zone.

Only Rush Four

When breaking down what the Chiefs did against Manning last yr, one of the biggest things that stood out was that they only rushed four defenders. Let's go through a couple of plays to show what the Chiefs did to disrupt routes by rushing only four.


In the play above, the Chiefs are in a 2 deep zone with DJ playing a zone in middle of the field taking away anything that comes his way. The whole goal of this formation is to force Manning to throw the ball down the field, which is something he really doesn't like to do. On this play, Manning makes a good throw down field in between the corner & safety. But this tight window throw leads to an interception. Arenas did an excellent job of taking the ball away from Stokley for the interception. The concept of dropping 7 into coverage and rushing only four defenders is to take away the underneath throws. Manning loves to feast off of short throws. So forcing him to take some shots down field will take him out of his comfort zone.

The presence of Hali and Houston makes this concept work even better. Here's a good example of how the rush of four defenders caused this incompletion.


If you look at the play, Hali does a good job of getting pressure from Manning's blindside forcing him off his spot into a bad throw. The advantage of having two great pass rushers coming off the edge is that you don't have to rely on blitzing to get pressure on the Qb.  Let's view this same play from the coaches' tape.

via nfl .com

Because of the pressure by Hali, it forces Manning to miss this throw to Decker near the 10 yard line. The pressure also doesn't allow him the time to survey the right side of the field where he had two open receivers. With the emergence of Poe also as a pass rusher in the middle of the defensive line, expect the Chiefs to do an even better job this year rushing only four defenders.

Press the Receivers

While breaking down Chiefs games over the last 3 seasons against Manning, I've notice how often they press the receivers at the line of scrimmage.  Let's look at how the timing of the press coverage affects Manning in the pass game.


In reviewing the play, its clear Manning wanted Thomas on the out route. In this game, Jalil Brown was the guy Manning targeted the most. On this particular play, Jalil did a good job of jamming Thomas on the route causing an incompletion and forcing the Broncos to settle for a field goal.

Now let's look at another play where press coverage affected Manning's ability to execute the offense. This was a play action fake and Manning wanted to throw a slant route to Decker. Once again, Manning is trying to go after Jalil Brown, but again Brown does an excellent job of getting a good jam on the receiver.


As you can see, Brown is doing an excellent job of disrupting Decker's route. This leads to Manning climbing the pocket and getting tackled by Tyson Jackson after only a 1 yard gain. If the Chiefs can do an excellent job of winning at the line of scrimmage, this should lead to alot of Broncos 3 and outs.

Selective blitzing

The thing about Manning is that you don't want to blitz him too much because he's smart enough to identify where the pressure is coming from. His unique ability to recognize coverages and blitz schemes at the line gives him an advantage on where he needs to go with the ball. So you want to be very selective about when you blitz him. Let's look at this clip on how the Chiefs got after Manning.


On the play, the down and distance was 3rd and 12. The Chiefs rush 6 defenders collasping the pocket so fast that Manning had no time to plant his feet and survey the field. The key to the selectivity in blitzing Manning is understanding the down and distance. You can come after Manning but understanding situational football is the key.

This is another one of the only eight blitzes Romeo dialed up during the entire game.  The down and distance is 1st and 10.


As you can see, the Chiefs did a great job of dialing up a six man pass rush that lead to a sack by Houston. Having the extra defenders in the pocket took away lanes for Manning to slide causing him to take a sack on the play. The key to the Chiefs' blitzes was their randomness. The Chiefs did good job of showing blitz most of the game but only rushing four defenders. That strategy kept the Broncos off balance as to when extra defenders would actually come. Its a unique approach that the Chiefs would need to follow in order to be successful on Sunday.  My last point is simple.

Dominate in the Red Zone

In both games that the Chiefs held Manning to below 20 points, they dominated him in the red zone. When Manning was the quarterback for the Colts in 2010, he was 1 of 3 in red zone conversions. Then last yr, he was only 1 of 4 in red zone opportunities.  So let's face reality. The Chiefs are going to give up yards against one of the better Qbs of our generation. So what they must do is force field goals and prevent the big plays that lead to touchdowns.

 They're going to need a little better production from the offense than what they've had in the past. However, it's no doubt the defense is more than capable of slowing down the Broncos high octane offense. History has already proven that.