Defense To Match Manning's Tempo


For years, Peyton Manning has run one of the league's most efficient no-huddle offenses, a scheme built off a fast pace to tire out defenses and keep them off balance.

One of the keys to stopping Manning and his no-huddle, now a key part of Denver's offense, is to simply keep up with him and not let Manning catch any defender off guard.

"We've got to play sound technique and make sure we're in the right place because if you're out of place by a half-yard, you're going to pay for it," head coach Mike Smith said. "He's got a very good understanding of how you're trying to defend him. If you give him pre-snap reads, he's going to know where to go with the football."

Players describe Manning as a ruthless and cunning player, keyed in on any weakness a defense shows. Keeping up with Manning's no huddle is critical because once a defender slows down, Manning's offense will exploit it.

For the Falcons against Manning, maintaining an uptempo style on defense will be important.

"It's all about matching his tempo," linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. "I think it comes during the week with everyone working that way. We're going to work as if we're not going to be able to huddle. I think that'll help us once we step out there. We're going to go out there and match that tempo the best way we can."

Conditioning against Manning's quick attack will also be important. Linebacker Mike Peterson, a former teammate of Manning's and AFC South rival during his time with Jacksonville, said you have to be in shape and prepared to beat Manning on defense. He pointed to Pittsburgh, Denver's Week 1 opponent, and the TV clips of them visibly tired late in the game as Manning methodically led the Broncos down the field.

Safety Thomas DeCoud agrees, saying body language will be an important indicator to Manning and they'll have to be aware of their own.

"He'll pick up on things like that and pick the pace up even more," DeCoud said. "He'll think he's got you on your heels and pick it up. Just have to stay calm out there, make sure we get lined up and don't look frantic or hurried. That could help out and slow their own tempo down as well if they try to speed it up."

After a tough first half last week against the Chiefs, the Falcons clamped down on D and put Kansas City away. Weatherspoon thinks the lessons learned in that contest about remaining calm, staying disciplined and not forcing a play to happen will help them keep their composure against Manning. They expect Denver to make some plays against them, they just know they have to be ready to bounce back on the next play.

"They're moving the ball and they're getting the momentum, that's when the tempo starts to pick up," Weatherspoon said. "As a defense, you're giving up yardage, you're going to get a little more tired than what the offense is. They're going to be excited about the next play. We have to have the mindset, even when he gets us, we have to bounce back and be ready on the next snap and ready to play and take it one snap at a time. I think the main thing is just matching his tempo and not tipping our hand."

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