KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton know there is no stopping Peyton Manning.
Not completely, at least.
So as they prepare for Sunday’s monumental clash with the Denver Broncos on Sunday night, they have one simple focus in regard to defending Manning.
“You have to somehow come up with enough pressure to make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson says. “If you give him time, he will pick you apart, obviously. But you have to get bodies in front of him and around him.
“You may not sack him, but you may be able to disrupt him and make him throw off his target.”
Johnson and the Chiefs know a little about this approach to defending Manning. Even though as a team the Chiefs were horrible last year, the defense held Manning to 285 yards passing last year and 17 points in a Chiefs loss at Arrowhead. The defense also picked him off once that game.
In 2010 at Indianapolis, in an ugly 19-9 win over the Chiefs, Manning had just 244 yards passing, no touchdowns and one interception.
“He’s a good quarterback — I mean, excuse me, a great quarterback, obviously,” Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali says. “When we’ve had some success, it came down to getting him to move around a little and get out of sync. I think you just have to keep the pressure going all the time and don’t let him make his easy throws. He’s going to get his yards, but you have to try to limit it.”
Sutton, too, has had some moderate success against Manning when he was on the defensive staff of the New York Jets.
In a 17-16 playoff win in 2011, the Jets limited Manning to just 225 yards passing. Two years before that, Sutton’s defense held Manning to 192 yards passing and no touchdowns.
“There is really no secret,” Sutton says. “… You look on video, and there’s not that many (one-on-one) wins against him. He just dissects defenses so well.
“I think the key is you just have to stay tough-minded throughout the game. He’s going to get his wins. You don’t stop competing. You just keep fighting and hopefully get off the field. Work to get off the field.”
But beyond toughness and determination are three mandatory steps for any team that wants to stop Manning.
Step No. 1: Have bodies flying around Manning or in his vision.
“It’s not so much about sacks with him, it’s about affecting his throws,” Sutton says. “You’re not going to get sacks because of the way he gets rid of the ball and the reads he makes. But you can hurry him or make him throw at a different angle.”
Step No. 2: Ignore all the barking Manning does at the line of scrimmage.
“You never really know what percentage of dummy calls or dummy audibles he’s making,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson says. “I think if you’re a defense, you just pay attention to what you’re doing and not him.”
“Myself, personally, I don’t pay attention to what he’s saying,” Hali says. “His tendencies are his tendencies, and you can’t really pay too much attention to that or you get caught up in his game. We have a game plan, and we just want to execute our game plan.”
Step No. 3: Blanket Manning’s receivers.
“You have to stay close to the receivers,” Johnson says. “Even if you’re in zone coverage, you have to blanket the guy that comes into your zone because (Manning) is looking for gaps, any kind of small gaps to get the ball in there.
“So if you’re playing zone, you have to tighten the second you see a guy come in. Defend it. Contest every throw.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done.
The Broncos have big targets for Manning — 6-foot-3 Demaryius Thomas and 6-3 Eric Decker. And while you’re trying to post up those big boys, sneaky and speedy Wes Welker can burn you on a crossing route.
“I don’t think I can ever remember preparing for a team that had such balance among their receivers,” Sutton says. “They have three receivers with nine touchdowns apiece. It’s tough to pick which one to focus on.
“The fact you have the statistics spread around tells you how much Peyton takes advantage of matchups. He’s not just about one guy.”
Step No. 4: Oh, and while you’re at it, stop the run.
Stopping Manning isn’t just about stopping the pass. The Broncos also have running back Knowshon Moreno, who has 521 yards rushing and a healthy 4.2-yard average.
“That’s the thing about their offense,” says Chiefs lineman Mike DeVito, a former Jet. “They have balance. The offense (Manning) is running now is so much like the one he ran in Indy. You just can’t forget about the run.
“Yeah, it’s great to get pressure. But you have to stop the run and be aware of that. There’s no one way to stop him. No one really has. You just keep competing and don’t quit.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.