Five keys to shutting down Peyton Manning and the Broncos

Brendon Ayanbadejo played for the Super Bowl winning Baltimore Ravens last season. In a previous article, he detailed how to defend Tom Brady in five key steps.

Seven of the last 12 Super Bowls have involved Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. If you throw Eli into the mix, it is a bona fide monopoly. The 2012 Baltimore Ravens beat all the aforementioned quarterbacks, with the cherry on top being Colin Kaepernick in the Super Bowl. In totality, we beat three of the four teams that remain in this year’s playoffs.

It certainly is going to take more than a Bolo tie to get the job done. And since I have been on the losing side every level of the game by Peyton. Here are five key elements the 2012 Ravens applied to contain the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

If I can digress, Peyton and Tennessee beat my UCLA Bruins in college twice – ‘96 and ’97. He beat my Chicago Bears team in the 2006 Super Bowl. To add insult to injury, we went to Hawaii right after that game, his AFC team beat my NFC team in the Pro Bowl.  That is $100K down the drain at his hand — no pun intended.

I sought out advice from multiple Super Bowl champion and defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, Dean Pees. Here is what he had to say about defending Manning:  “In my opinion the best way to play Manning is to play sound, fundamental football and try to out-execute them.  Change up your looks on defense but don’t try to invent a new scheme. Simply do what you do best.”

5. Omaha … Omaha … Omaha. Be ready to make adjustments when Manning runs to the line of scrimmage, barking out his calls. Be patient. Hold your water. When he is ready to snap the ball, he crouches down a good four to five inches deeper under center than when he is bluffing making dummy calls. Have an audible defense ready to go that checks you out of any blitzes and into a proficient pass defense when the Broncos align or shift into any empty formations.

4. Play exceptional coverage. When the Broncos shift and motion receivers, defenders need to stay close to their work, never getting out-leveraged, particularly to the flat. Communication is key as the pick-and-rub routes are coming. Fundamentally, the DBs need to be on different levels in any stacks or bunch sets to prevent being picked by your own man. He will complete the throw to the flat. Make the tackle and line up for another down. Don’t go for the interception, miss the ball, miss the tackle, and give up a TD.

3. The Broncos run every route in the passing tree and Peyton can make all of the throws. He will test your technique, communication and leverage skills. In the alley of the field, which is the hash to numbers, the seam route is his favorite throw to Julius Thomas and the slot receiver, often times Wes Welker. Defenders have to maintain inside leverage to prevent these throws from being completed.

2. Do not give away the defense. Just like Tom Brady, you can’t give Manning any inkling as to what the defense is — or isn’t. Vic Fangio, defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, who could potentially face the Broncos in the Super Bowl, echoed the same belief when I talked to him earlier this week. “You can’t let Manning get any indicators on what type of defense you are running, he knows the holes in every coverage.”

1. Four-man pressure. Pressure Manning with your front four. You can’t rely on blitzes to get home because that makes your secondary vulnerable. With big receivers such as Eric Decker, Demaryius and Julius Thomas, you need the added security blanket of seven men in coverage and pursuit due to their tackle-breaking capabilities. It often takes more than one man to tackle these guys. You have to have a relentless, four-man pass rush and make Manning as uncomfortable as possible in the pocket. Like any QB, Manning doesn’t like to get hit. But Manning really doesn’t like to get hit. If there is enough pressure Manning will lay it down in the pocket to prevent the big collision.