That puts them in somewhat select company. Williams’ Ravens handed the Broncos a loss in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs, and Barwin’s Texans squad won a 31-25 contest in September.
So surely, the two veterans can share their secrets with their teammates and Billy Davis this week, right?
“There’s no magic formula,” Barwin said. “We just played the defenses that Wade [Phillips] called. All the defenses are built to slow these quarterbacks down. It’s just about execution.”
Added Williams: “We tried to show him different things. We tried to give him different looks. We tried to not give him an easy read on a lot of things. He’s gonna come up there. He’s gonna do his show, and he’s gonna try to get you to show what you’re doing. The thing is you’ve gotta try to stay as calm as possible in those situations and don’t give him anything. He can look at a stance. He can look at your eyes and tell if you’re coming. He’s been around the game so long, it’s tough to figure this guy out. You never know what’s gonna happen.”
On paper, the mismatch is obvious. Through three weeks, Manning leads the NFL in yards (1,143), completion percentage (73.0), yards-per-attempt (9.37), touchdowns (12) and passer rating (134.7).
The Eagles, meanwhile, got lit up a couple weeks ago against Philip Rivers and couldn’t get off the field in key situations against Alex Smith and the Chiefs.
But this is the NFL. And so the defense has no plans of mailing this one in just because it’s going up against an all-time great.
“If you don’t want to play the best, you don’t belong here,” Williams said. “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to play the best as well. You’ve gotta beat ‘em.”
Asked what the Ravens’ mindset was going into their two meetings with Manning last year, Williams added: “If I could tell you some choice words, I would. It was just, we go out there, we play together, we play as a family. And here we’re developing that and trying to get that built here, especially on the defense.”
Manning’s Broncos beat the Ravens, 34-17, in the regular season. In the playoff meeting, he still completed 65 percent of his passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns, but Baltimore picked him off twice.
As for Barwin, his Texans team held Manning to a 50 percent completion percentage (26-for-52), his lowest mark since Dec. 2009.
“We didn’t shut him down,” Barwin said. “We shut him down for about three quarters. And then I remember he kind of lit us up a little bit at the end, but it was a little too late.
“Obviously you’re playing a great quarterback, but it’s about what you do. You need to execute. Some guys you play, you make some mistakes, quarterbacks don’t find it. This guy, if you make a mistake, he’ll find it. So it’s important that we do what we do really well.”
The Eagles will install their game-plan Wednesday and Thursday. By the time Sunday rolls around, they’ll have had nine days in between games. The Broncos, meanwhile, played Monday night and will be on five days rest, something Manning recently complained about.
“That’s what Peyton said?” Williams asked with a smile. “That’s a mind game. I appreciate it, Peyton.”