Packers’ young defense readies for Broncos QB Manning
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Ready for the challenge of facing the NFL’s only five-time MVP, a stingy Green Bay Packers defense is looking to get some face time with Peyton Manning.
The Sunday night showdown in Denver between two of the league’s five unbeaten teams will be the first meaningful game for all but one of the Packers’ defensive players against the Broncos’ legendary quarterback.
”A lot of young guys in here,” linebacker Julius Peppers said in the Green Bay locker room Friday.
The 35-year-old Peppers, the team’s oldest player, was unaware he is the only current Packer on the defensive side who has played a regular-season or playoff game against the 39-year-old Manning. Then with the Carolina Panthers, Peppers faced Manning twice when the latter played for the Indianapolis Colts.
Manning last played Green Bay in a game that counted back in 2008.
Peppers believes the Packers could benefit with many of them getting a first-time look at Manning.
”These guys may be a little excited,” said Peppers, who has a team-high 5 1/2 sacks. ”When you can play against these (renowned quarterbacks) like Peyton Manning and (New England’s Tom) Brady, you’re excited to play. So I think it might help us.”
The Packers’ No. 1-ranked scoring defense also may get a lift: Veteran safety Morgan Burnett is probable to play after being able to practice since Monday, when Green Bay returned to work after its bye week. Burnett has managed to play only one game this season. A reinjured calf kept him out of the last four games.
”Six years of experience, that experience holds a lot of weight, especially in this secondary,” cornerback Casey Hayward said. ”He’s like the quarterback of our defense. Everything runs so smooth when he’s in there.”
Burnett has an interception of Manning to his credit. That came in a lopsided preseason win for Green Bay against the Colts at Lambeau Field in 2010.
Two years earlier in an in-season game at Lambeau, the Packers picked off two Manning passes and didn’t allow him to throw a touchdown during their 34-14 victory over the Colts.
Green Bay’s defense, which is allowing an average of only 16.8 points per game, is looking to add to Manning’s struggles this season. He’s completed only 61.6 percent of his passes and has 10 interceptions, three of which have been returned for touchdowns.
Green Bay has relied on steady pressure in the pocket to disrupt opposing quarterbacks and force mistakes.
The Packers have 23 sacks, ranking third behind Denver’s co-leading 26. They also have eight interceptions.
When the Packers last played, they gave up 503 passing yards to San Diego’s Philip Rivers in a narrow win over the Chargers that wasn’t decided until the final seconds Oct. 18.
”We’ll have our hands full,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. ”Obviously, I’m sure (Manning) hasn’t played up to the standard he sets for himself, but the reality is if he’s got time in the pocket he can step up and make every throw.”
NOTES: Three contributors on Green Bay’s defense are questionable for Sunday’s game: DT B.J. Raji (groin), LB Nick Perry (shoulder/hand) and rookie CB Damarious Randall (ankle). Randall didn’t practice Thursday after he said he rolled his right ankle in a team drill the previous day. He hopes to practice Saturday when the team arrives in Denver. ”I’m going to do everything I can to try to play in the game,” Randall said. . Coach Mike McCarthy hopes RB James Starks (hip) can play Sunday. Starks and rookie WR Ty Montgomery (ankle), who hasn’t practiced this week, are questionable. WR Davante Adams (ankle) is probable after not playing the last three games.