He may have traded the blue and white for blue and orange, but if the first two weeks are any indication, Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning. Despite his three first quarter interceptions Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons, Manning has thus far been everything the Denver Broncos could of hoped for. Which is why when the Houston Texans travel to Denver this Sunday to face their old nemesis, it could come with weeklong nightmares.
In the now ten seasons the Texans have been an NFL franchise, they’ve played against Manning 18 times when Manning was with the AFC South rival Indianapolis Colts. As any diehard Texans fan will surely tell you, Manning and the Colts won 16 of those 18 matchups. Manning’s career passing stats against the Texans look something like this: a 67% completion percentage, 5,122 yards through the air, 42 TD passes, and an overall QB rating of 105.2. It’s easy to see that Peyton has dominated the Texans during their entire existence.
However, Manning has never faced this Texans squad, the team that won the AFC South a year ago while Peyton sat out the season with several neck surgeries. When the Texans head to Denver this Sunday, Peyton won’t recognize the team stepping off the plane, especially the defense. In Manning’s last season with the Colts, the Texans’ D ranked 30th in total defense and dead last against the pass. Just one year later, the Texans had the second ranked defense, vastly improved under then new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Gone are the days of Peyton bullying the Texans’ defense, the roles are about to reverse.
For the first time all season, the Texans play against a quality opponent and this, coupled with the Peyton factor, will put the Texans in the national spotlight for the first time in 2012 (despite their dominating 2-0 record). The national audience is about to see something very different in the Peyton vs. Houston rivalry.
As a quarterback, Manning is a creature of habit and repetition, which is why in the early goings of the Broncos’ season have been a bit shaky as he develops a rapport with his offense. For now, Peyton is limited and even though you still see him making several checks at the line of scrimmage and go through his typical pre-snap antics, it’s still not producing the same output the Colts offense did. It would be asking a lot of the Broncos offense to expect that after just two regular season games with Manning at the helm.
Since Peyton’s crew isn’t at the top of it’s game yet, one thing should be pointed out. The sign of any good quarterback, especially Peyton Manning, is that they pick up the blitz before the snap and attack it. A lot of Peyton’s pre-snap calls are identifying these holes in the defense and sending receivers to the spots on the field that will be vacated by the blitzing defenders. Manning has diced defenses by doing this his entire career.
Unfortunately for old Peyton, he isn’t going to see a whole lot of blitzing from the Texans, that is more than a four or five-man rush, but the Texans’ front is still going to be in his face early and often. If you can get pressure on a QB, you always have a chance to win. When you can do it without sending the house, you’re in great shape. Similar to the New York Giants’ dominance of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady, the Texans are going to be able to get to Peyton without having to send extra defenders, which won’t leave huge holes in the coverage for Manning to pick apart. To reiterate, Peyton has never played against THIS Texans defense.
Sunday’s contest in Denver is going to be must-see TV, featuring an old (albeit) lopsided rivalry renewed. This time around however, expect the Texans and their defense to have the upper hand and finally get the best of their old friend Peyton Manning.
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