By Kevin Ross II
For the first five weeks of the regular season, Peyton Manning delivered a heavy dose of “Shock and Awe” to the National Football League. Manning’s play was historically great and his offense glided through defenses like they were barely present. The Broncos scored over 40-points in all but one of their first five games, and the talks about an undefeated season had begun. And then things changed when the Jacksonville Jaguars came to town, yes the Jaguars.
The Jaguars quietly laid the foundation needed to build a sturdy game plan for defeating Peyton Manning. Some predicted that the Jaguars would lose by 70-plus points, but at halftime many were befuddled to see that Jacksonville was only down by two measly points. The Jaguars had the correct formula to beat the Broncos, but they didn’t have the talent to win the game. This set the stage for a more talented team to take out Peyton Manning, and that’s exactly what the Indianapolis Colts did on Sunday Night football.
The Colts didn’t have a very complex game plan, and they don’t have a defense with superior talent. But what they did worked like a charm, and the Redskins will need to emulate these three steps if they want to compete with the Broncos.
1) Establish a Physical Identity
Thirty-one teams in the NFL may have to thank Las Vegas for figuring out how to slow down the Broncos. Vegas assumed that the Broncos would crush Jacksonville and they set a ridiculous spread of 28-points. As a result, Jacksonville felt disrespected and played their most intense and physical football of the year. And that physical football involved punishing the Broncos wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, which disrupted the timing and rhythm that the Broncos offense needs to operate.
Defensive backs going against the Broncos cannot be afraid to mix it up and get nasty with the bevy of talented pass catchers that the Broncos put on the field. This approach is far more effective than trying to dial-up exotic coverage schemes to confuse Peyton Manning. The first step to beat Denver involves disrupting the rhythm of their offense by assaulting their receivers for a full 60-minutes.
2) Pressure Peyton Manning
After 16-years of playing quarterback in the National Football League, one could easily make the assumption that Peyton Manning can’t be rattled. That assumption however, would be incorrect. Just like any other quarterback Peyton Manning proves to be rather pedestrian when pressured.
The MVP for the Colts on Sunday night had to be Robert Mathis, who was a menace to Manning all day long. Mathis’s sack on Manning, which resulted in a safety, seemed to knock Peyton off of his game and helped the Colts build a 19-point lead. Manning was sacked four times by the Colts, and he ended up throwing a fourth quarter interception which sealed the game. If the Redskins want to replicate the success of the Colts, they will need the duo of Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan to dominate. If Washington has to blitz Peyton Manning in order to get pressure, then he will shred their secondary from the first snap on.
3) Score Points
As good as the Colts were on defense, Peyton’s Broncos still scored 33-points. To put things in perspective, the Redskins have only scored over 33-points one time this season, and that was against the Bears. Robert Griffin must stand as tall as Peyton Manning, and the Redskins offense has to be at its best. If the Redskins can’t score over 30 points, then they have absolutely no chance at beating Peyton Manning.
If Washington can play physical against Denver’s receiver, pressure Peyton Manning, and have a big day from Robert Griffin, then they can beat the Broncos.
Will Washington rise to the occasion? Many will say no chance, but that’s why they play the game.
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Kevin Ross is a freelance writer covering all things Washington Redskins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.