It’s an undeniable fact – Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL.
Just don’t tell that to the San Diego Chargers.
In nine games vs. the Bolts, including two defeats in the playoffs, Manning has a losing 4-5 record. In seven regular season games, he’s thrown for 12 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions, and his minus-4 TD-to-INT ratio is the worst against any single team in his career.
Understandably, Manning doesn’t want to hear about his past struggles against San Diego. For him, it’s all ancient history as he starts a new chapter against the Bolts as a division rival.
“You’re talking different times,” he said during Thursday afternoon’s conference call. “I’m on a different team now and it’s obviously different circumstances. Those were Colts versus Chargers games. This is a division game now. I have an appreciation of what a division rivalry means. I’m not familiar with this division rivalry. These two teams have a lot of history playing twice a year. I know it’s an important game within the division. It’s going to be a tough test for us going against their defense.”
So far this season, Manning has been outstanding, throwing for 1,499 yards and 11 touchdowns to just three interceptions. While he missed the entire 2011 campaign with a neck injury, according to head coach Norv Turner, Manning hasn’t missed a beat.
“He looks awfully good to me,” said Turner. “People can start that debate all they want but he knows how to play the position. He knows how to move the football and who to throw it to. You don’t get style points in this league for spirals or how hard or far the ball goes. You get points by putting drives together and scoring points.”
Even though Manning is now a member of the Broncos after years with the Colts, the Chargers defense still sees many similarities between the two offenses.
“They remind me of the Indianapolis Colts but in this division,” said
Turner agrees with Franklin, and said his staff has been busy breaking down tape of Manning’s years with the Colts in addition to this year’s Broncos offense.
“Our coaching staff, particularly John Pagano has been a big part of (facing Manning with the Colts),” he said. “I’m sure they are looking back at things we did against Indianapolis. Although I’m sure they have different things than they did in Indianapolis, a big part of it is very similar. It tends to come down to personnel match ups. I think they are extremely explosive with their wide-outs, they’re outstanding. We’re going to have to do a good job on the wide-outs.”
Pagano addressed the media on Thursday, and the task of stopping Manning was at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
“Peyton does a great job of reading team defenses, and you try to give him as many different looks as possible,” he said. “You try to disguise as much as possible. That’s with any quarterback in the National Football League, but this guy takes it to the extreme to where he really understands and studies this game. He studies every little look that you give him, so our players have to be real smart with him this week.”
Manning and Pagano have a long history together. The Chargers’ defensive coordinator was a defensive assistant with the Colts during Manning’s first four years in the league. Over that time, the two formed a strong bond that exists to this day.
“We have a great relationship,” said Pagano. “He’s a competitor. The way he approached the game, it taught me a lot. But he’s just a good guy to be around.”
Monday night marks the first time Manning faces a Pagano led defense, and the Broncos quarterback is impressed by what he’s watched on film.
“All I know is what I’ve seen on tape,” he said. “I’ve never actually played against this defense yet. Guys are flying around, they’re playing fast. He’s rotating a lot of guys. This tells you he’s got a lot of confidence in these guys that play which speaks a lot to their depth. They still have some veterans in there like [Quentin] Jammer, Franklin and [Takeo] Spikes to mix in with their young guys. He’s certainly got them playing hard and that really jumps out on film.”Clearly, the Chargers and Manning have a rich history, and their saga will only intensify now that he is in the AFC West. Whether or not the Bolts can continue their success against him will go a long way toward determining who comes out victorious on Monday night.