Once a week, we’ll take a spin around the NFC East to check in on what’s going on with the Eagles’ division rivals.
DENVER — Billy Davis‘ scheme worked well enough in the first half to at least keep Peyton Manning in check. He threw for 169 yards and a touchdown in the first 30 minutes of play. Good, but not crippling. The Eagles were within eight at the break.
But Manning caught fire in the third quarter, turning a once competitive game into a blowout.
The 37-year-old went 15-of-17 for 158 yards and tossed three of his four touchdowns in the quarter. When the smoke cleared, the Broncos held a 42-13 advantage.
“We played him the same way throughout I think,” said Connor Barwin. “Our different looks were working in the first half. The guy is good at what he does, man. He can kind of figure a little bit of it out and was able to adjust in the third quarter and make some plays on us.”
“He made adjustments. Clearly they made adjustments,” added Cary Williams. “They saw something, somebody was tipping something off, I don’t know what it was.” Read more »
This was last season when Davis was the linebackers coach and Cleveland was prepping to take on the Manning-led Broncos. The defensive coordinator was Dick Jauron, who was on Philadelphia’s staff when the Eagles beat Manning and the Colts 26-24 during the 2010 regular season. Manning was 31-of-51 for 294 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in that game. Sean McDermott‘s defense registered six quarterback hits and sacked Manning three times.
So what worked?
“They executed well, and within their scheme I think they presented Peyton some looks that he wasn’t familiar with, and I think it slowed him down a little bit,” said Davis, who is in the midst of prepping this defense for a big test against Manning in Denver.
“I’ve studied that plan thoroughly, implemented parts of it.”
Things did not go quite as well for the Browns as they had for the Eagles. Manning threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-12 loss to Denver. Just because something works once against him doesn’t mean it will a second time.
This will be the third time that Davis has faced Manning as a defensive coordinator. When he was with the Niners back in ’05, his unit held Manning to 255 yards and came up with a pair of picks, but the team lost 28-3. When he was the DC in Arizona in ’09, Manning hung four touchdowns on the Cardinals in a 31-10 Colts win.
Davis has gone against the veteran signal-caller as a coordinator and a position coach; has analyzed other teams’ methods of attack. His conclusion?
“I think the biggest thing about playing well against Peyton Manning — it’s a real simple thing — is the execution of your techniques within your call,” Davis said. “He has seen every coverage you can throw at him. He has seen disguises and people holding onto their two-shell and dropping down late every week. Everybody’s always got something. The teams that beat him execute at a very high rate and they get the turnovers. If you’re going to have success against a Peyton Manning offense or slow it down at least, turnovers are a huge part of that equation.”
This is where personnel comes in. Both of Manning’s interceptions back in ’10 were thrown to Asante Samuel. Is there a playmaker in the secondary that can step up in this spot? Can this safety group — which may be without Patrick Chung (shoulder) — hold up? And can the front seven generate the same type of pressure that McDermott’s unit did a few seasons back?
There is plenty of room for doubt. But Davis said his group is eager to give it a shot.
“One of the great things about coaching or playing in the NFL is these challenges,” said Davis, “when you’re playing against the best quarterback on the planet right now, the high efficiency they’re playing at. And the players and coaches both, we have pretty solid egos ourselves, and we’re not going to back down from any challenge. Our players in the locker room are very anxious to accept the challenge, and let’s go see what we can do against a great offense.”
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“I am 1-0 against Peyton Manning, I am,” he said, drawing laughs.
It’s true. The Eagles beat the Manning-led Colts 26-24 back in 2010. McCoy ran for 95 yards in that one. Michael Vick accounted for 292 yards of offense and scored twice.
The 2013 version of the Eagles comes in as the No.2 ranked offense in the league, averaging 462 yards per game. McCoy is the league’s leading rusher, DeSean Jackson the second most productive receiver. Chip Kelly‘s attack was all the rage, particularly before a down performance against the Chiefs on Thursday. In this matchup, however, it is being totally overshadowed by the juggernaut on the other side.
Denver, behind a blistering hot Peyton Manning, boasts the top offense in the NFL. The Broncos are averaging 42 points a game — 10 points more than the Packers, who are second in that category.
“We can’t worry about that,” said McCoy of Denver receiving all the hype. “I have a lot of confidence in our offense. [The Broncos] will put points up — and I have tons of confidence in the defense — and I think we’ll put points up.”
The question, of course, is whether they can put up enough to hang. The 3-0 Broncos come in as double-digit favorites against the 1-2 Eagles.
“Well if I was a betting man, I’d take the Eagles,” McCoy said. “I don’t get wrapped up in point spreads and being the underdog; that’s why you play the game. I’m sure they’re preparing to win the game, we’re preparing to win the game. I think it will be a good matchup. I’m excited.”
Health-wise, McCoy said that the right ankle he injured against the Chiefs is still sore. He left late in the first half against Kansas City after getting hurt on an 18-yard carry. He explained that the pain he felt was similar to when he broke his ankle in high school, hence why he reacted emotionally. X-rays came back negative, and McCoy was able to return to the game and produce. He finished with 158 yards and a touchdown.
“I’ve been doing tons of treatment so I feel a lot better. I’ve been practicing, haven’t missed any days, working hard. It’s still a little sore. The swelling is gone, so I feel good,” he said.
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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.”
From Mike Klis of the Denver Post:
After Peyton Manning dissected the Oakland Raiders for a 37-21 victory Monday night, the Broncos quarterback waited more than 40 minutes before holding his press conference. Why?
Because with a shortened week before the Broncos play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Manning started up his usual weekly preparation with a 30-minute “cold tub.” This helps aid in body recovery. Ordinarily with a game on Sunday, Manning would take his cold tub on Monday.
When Manning did meet with a diminished group of media (most of the printed press was upstairs trying to make deadline) he seemed to be out of breath as he talked. He was actually still shivering from the cold tub.
With the Eagles off since Thursday, Manning is in catch-up mode. And he doesn’t sound particularly happy about it.
“We’re coming off of a short week – it was nice of the NFL to give Philly  days and give us six,” Manning said. “So we’ve got to handle that.”
Kelly was informed of Manning’s comments, and was asked if he had any thoughts in response.
“No,” he said.
Is that a nice edge to have?
“Scheduling,” said Kelly. “When do we go play? If we’ve got to play in a parking lot, we’ll play in a parking lot. We don’t care. We played three games in 11 days so, I don’t care. We only worry about what we can control and we don’t control the scheduling.”
Kelly said that he watched the Broncos last night and again this morning. He and his coaching staff met all day on Monday and began implementing the game plan. They have already broken down the Broncos’ preseason games and their first two regular season games. The Eagles got a head start, and they’ll need it. Manning is on fire to start the season, completing 73 percent of his passes for 1,143 yards with 12 touchdowns and no interceptions for the 3-0 Broncos.
“Offensively, very difficult when you see a quarterback playing at that level right now,” said Kelly. “He’s got a lot of weapons. You’ve got [Wes] Welker, [Demaryius] Thomas, [Eric] Decker, in whatever order you want to put them in, three really good running backs, so it’s a tough challenge for us this week.”
Chung sits out practice
Patrick Chung was unable to practice Tuesday because of a shoulder injury he sustained against the Chiefs. His status for Sunday is unknown. Earl Wolff will hold down his spot until he returns. Injury aside, Kelly said that there are no plans at the moment to change the starting personnel on defense.
Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy are both healthy, according to the head coach.