It is Peyton’s Place … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

From Indianapolis

There will be 90 players in uniform on the field Sunday afternoon when the Chiefs put their 3-0 record on the line against the 2-2 Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Kickoff is just after 12 noon and can be seen on CBS-TV.

Also on the field will be another 20 or so inactive or injured players, a good three dozen coaches, another three dozen trainers, equipment guys and staff. Then there are the officials, the ball boys, the chain gang, photographers, media types and on and on. In all, there will be a couple hundred people standing on the field.

But only one man will be in the spotlight. Only one player really counts. The focus, spotlight and attention will be on No. 18 in blue, Colts QB Peyton Manning.

Football is very much a team game, where it’s almost impossible for one player to put a team on his shoulders and carry them with a host of three-point shots or home runs.

Almost impossible … over the last 10 years, Manning has carried the Colts on his broad shoulders, establishing himself as not only a sporting icon in the middle of Indiana, but around the country.

“Peyton Manning has always been the Indianapolis Colts,” said offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. “It all starts with him. He’s not just the leader of the offense; he is the leader of their team. Everything starts with him.”  

That from a guy who coached one of the most iconic sports programs in the country, and all in the same state of Indiana as Manning. He is a Jordan-like figure in the influence he has on the franchise, the league, his teammates and the outcome of games. He is quite frankly unstoppable. Opponents can only hope to contain him and his offense. Stopping them is not something that’s going to happen in any regular fashion.

“I think it has been proven over time,” said head coach Todd Haley. “I think it is easy to go in to play Indy saying we need to get to Peyton, we need to this or we need to do that. But when you look at his body of work over time, I don’t know what his average sacks per season or game is but I bet it is probably under one per game and it is probably in the .4 range per game. That is with everyone gunning for the same guy and not being able to get to him.”

Manning has started and played in 214 games over his Colts career in the regular season and playoffs. He’s been sacked a total of 243 times. Haley would have lost his bet, but he wasn’t far off the mark in talking about how hard it is for opponents to get him on the ground.

“Peyton is one of the best guys in the NFL and we know it’s a tough task,” said defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. “We hope that we can just disrupt him a little bit and know that it’s hard to get him on the ground. But if we can disrupt him and screw up the timing a little then maybe we can help ourselves.”

The defensive mentality always flows toward getting the quarterback on the ground. Since that’s not going to happen, opponents have to accept the fact Manning is going to get his yards. Contain him, not stop him.

“This guy is going to make plays,” Haley said. “He is a consistently good player that moves that team up and down the field and it is a rare occasion that he doesn’t. This offense is going to make plays.”

And the Colts win:

  • In 196 regular season games, Indianapolis won 133 times, a .679 winning percentage.
  • In those games, 172 times he threw at least one touchdown pass, or 87.8 percent of the time. He threw two or more scoring passes 58.2 percent of the time.
  • He’s thrown 377 TD passes or 1.9 scoring passes per game.

We could go on for hours with statistics involving Manning and what he’s done on the field and for the Colts. After awhile there is a certain redundancy as the movie plays over and over again. But here’s one last batch of numbers that puts this remarkable player into perspective. Since his first start on September 6, 1998 against Miami, Manning has not missed a start. In that time the other 31 teams have used 321 quarterbacks to start games. That number will rise to 323 on Sunday, when Max Hall starts for Arizona and Todd Collins goes for Chicago.

“He has total command,” Crennel said. “The thing that’s impressive about Peyton is that he runs the offense, they will let him go in with four or five plays and he decides which play he wants to run. Now that takes a lot of studying and a lot of time on his part. But he does it and he does a good job of it and getting them in the best play versus the coverage that he anticipates, versus the front he has to look at and see. They do a good job of it.”

Obviously, Manning is not unbeatable. Defenses have sacked him, they have intercepted him and they have made him uncomfortable. But to beat him, the Chiefs cannot rely simply on the defense to get the job done. It takes all three facets of the game to beat the Colts, especially at home:

– The defense must make Manning uncomfortable. They must get him to move his feet. When a quarterback starts doing the tango in the pocket, even one as good as Manning loses some of his accuracy. To make that happen, they must find a way to get pressure in his face. He’s used to guys coming from his outside, both left and right. Push up the middle is key ingredient for the defense.

– The offense can’t make mistakes. When it has the opportunities, it must score touchdowns. No team is going to beat the Colts with field goals. Opportunities cannot be wasted. Good field position must see the ball in the end zone.

– The kicking game needs to be at its best. From K Ryan Succop to P Dustin Colquitt, to the returners and the guys on coverage, there can be no leakage on special teams. The hidden yardage of the punting and kicking game are going to mean all the difference.

But here’s the thing about Manning – the Chiefs could achieve all three of those goals, and still lose. They must do the basics, and then they must raise the level of their game across the board. Indianapolis does have more players and more talent than just their quarterback. The pass rush of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis can be a killer because they come off both edges, something most teams can’t get done.

“When you’re game planning a team and you only have one dynamic defensive end it’s different than when you’ve got one coming off each edge,” said Weis. “It presents a whole bunch of problems for you because you can slide to one and shift to one but when you’ve got guys coming off of both edges that if they get to the passer, you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

Manning’s weapons are productive, guys like WR Reggie Wayne, TE Dallas Clark and RB Joseph Addai. Plus, young receivers like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie are making their marks as well.

This is truly the example of what Haley has been saying – he needs all his players contributing if the Chiefs are going to win.

Haley needs 45 to even match the one guy wearing the blue uniform.

2 Responses to “It is Peyton’s Place … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs”

  • October 10, 2010  - Butler says:

    AMEN !!!!!!!

  • October 10, 2010  - Todd says:

    It’s going to be a fun game! Win or lose, I pray that KC plays their very best today. I’ll be proud of them if that is the case. Go Chiefs!!!!

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