How do you stop Peyton Manning?
You usually don't. But there are ways you can limit the Colts quarterback's effectiveness.
"We just have to try to show him different looks, try to get a little pressure on him, send different people, and see what happens," said inside linebacker and co-captain Jerod Mayo.
Oh, yeah, sounds simple, right?
"He's a tough quarterback to try to confuse," linebacker Tully Banta-Cain pointed out. "He'll confuse you more than you'll confuse him. He's a guy you try to do your best to disguise stuff, but he's really good at what he does and picking out coverages.
"You can try, but it's still one of those things where you have tight coverage, good pass rush, and hope you disrupt the play somehow."
That could play to the Patriots' advantage this weekend. Given all the injuries Indianapolis is dealing with, Manning won't have his regular arsenal at his disposal. That could mean that the check-offs and audibles for which Manning is famous may not be so readily picked up.
Which could allow the Patriots to bring more pressure on Manning, in hopes that his outlets won't be there consistently. Particularly for a defense like New England's, which surrenders nearly 400 yards per game in total offense, disrupting Manning's timing with his receivers is critical.
"Because he's very smart and because he knows whatever you're in [defensively], he knows what can hurt that," added linebacker Rob Ninkovich. "He's a great quarterback. Anytime you can affect his timing, it's going to be good for you in that game.
"He's always had a good offensive line and he knows when to get the ball out. Anytime he's got pressure, you always see him throwing the ball off to an open receiver because he knows who's going to be open and he knows every route that going to be run so he can go through his progression and throw to somebody who's open."
"His pre-snap reads are amazing," Mayo said. "He pretty much knows what's going on before he snaps the ball. It's very difficult. He studies a lot of film. He's a great quarterback. We have to try, we have to try."
Due to injuries, there've been various wide receiver lineups throughout the season for Indy. But perhaps Manning will miss his tight end, Dallas Clark, the most. Clark is out for the season with an injury, and in his stead, the Colts have inserted a similar type player in Jacob Tamme.
"They're still doing the same things," Mayo noted. "Tamme's done a great job coming in when Dallas Clark went down and those guys on the outside as well."
Coming off a lopsided win in Pittsburgh – a win that followed their worst showing of the year in Cleveland – New England enters this latest edition of the Patriots-Colts rivalry with a 7-2 record and a head of confidence, it seems.
"There are a lot of teams that would want our record right now," said Mayo. "At the same time, we're not satisfied. If we start to play our best football now, we'll be hard to stop."
Thu 11/18 Practice Notebook
For news and notes from Thursday's practice, including an update on QB Tom Brady, please visit the PFW Blog.