Birds on how they beat Peyton

CLEM MURRAY / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Trent Cole pressures Peyton Manning during Eagles' win over Colts in November 2010.
CLEM MURRAY / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Trent Cole pressures Peyton Manning during Eagles' win over Colts in November 2010.
Posted: September 27, 2013

REMEMBER that time the Eagles played great against Peyton Manning and won?

Nate Allen, Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and Kurt Coleman certainly do. Manning, not so much, the Denver Broncos' quarterback indicated yesterday.

It was nearly 3 years ago - Nov. 7, 2010 - and Manning and the visiting Indianapolis Colts were disguised in dowdy white throwback uniforms with plain, dark blue helmets. But that was indeed Manning on the field, waving his arms and barking out seemingly random signals, while throwing a pair of interceptions to Asante Samuel in a 26-24 Eagles victory.

"We definitely got after Manning. We gave him a lot of disguises," Coleman, a safety, said yesterday. "Defensively, we played a pretty solid game against him . . . at the end of the day, Peyton Manning's seen every disguise, every coverage, every blitz in the book. So it's not like you're really going to fool him . . . what you want to do is get him to hold the ball just long enough for the defensive line to get there or the blitz to get there, and you've got to do your job covering."

Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis, who made the same point yesterday about not being able to fool the 15-year veteran, wasn't with the Eagles in 2010, but he knows about the game, watched it last December, when Davis coached the Browns' linebackers.

"We talked a lot about that last year in Cleveland, with coach [Dick] Jauron, who was on that staff," Davis said. "We put a plan together largely off of what they did in Philadelphia with [then-Eagles coordinator] Sean McDermott. I studied that plan thoroughly and implemented parts of it" in a 34-12 Dec. 23 loss to Denver in which the severely overmatched Browns trailed only 14-6 midway through the third quarter.

Manning, 37, the most meticulous planner of his generation, a QB Davis called "a coach on the field," gave the impression yesterday he really hadn't had much time to look into the Eagles yet this week, given that the Broncos played the Raiders on Monday night. And 2010, in Manning's view, might as well have been the days when those All-America Football Conference throwback unis were current.

"It's really hard to make any comparisons," Manning told a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters. "Different coaches, different teams. This is the Broncos vs. the Eagles. Not a whole lot of relevance to that game."

Allen was a rookie that day, a starter then as now. "I remember we were moving around a lot, back in the secondary," Allen said. "As far as what kind of coverages, I can't remember. Scheme's different now. Front, everything's different."

Cole had one of the Eagles' three sacks of Manning. "We did get to him. We were hitting him," Cole recalled.

Graham remembers watching Manning make those famous checks at the line, which on that day didn't produce any extraordinary results. Manning completed 31 of 51 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating against the Birds was 67.0, about half his current 134.7 for the first three games of 2013.

"The attitude, the want-to-win was great," Graham said. "That's what I feel this week is all about - the attitude of how we're going to bounce back [from back-to-back losses], how we're going to play against him."

Davis said that defenses experiencing success against Manning typically don't do anything real exotic, they just execute their schemes very well, detail their work. This is where Davis' unit might find its biggest challenge - the coordinator acknowledged yesterday that his defense is "too inconsistent in every little phase right now. We're in the growth process."

Davis also faced Manning as the defensive coordinator in San Francisco and in Arizona. "It basically came down to, when we executed our coverages the way they're supposed to be executed, we succeeded," Davis said. "When we didn't, he finds your mistakes. I think that's his greatest attribute, finding where you go wrong."

Is it, in fact, impossible to fool Manning at this point?

"I can't say that," Manning said. "I still feel like, the quarterback position, you're always learning. Year 2, Year 8, Year 16. There's always things you can learn . . . I'm learning a new offense [with ex-coordinator Mike McCoy coaching the Chargers now]. We've got some first-year starters . . . we're still trying to get on the same page, trying to iron out any kinks that we have."

The kinks have been kind of minimal so far, with the Broncos averaging 42.3 points per game.

Samuel's two picks, including the one that shut down a last-gasp Colts drive, were crucial to that 2010 Eagles victory.

"Turnovers are a part - if you're going to have success against a Peyton Manning offense, you slow it down at least, [and] turnovers are a huge part of that equation," Davis said. "He hasn't turned the ball over yet" this season, via interception. Manning lost a fumble Monday night against the Raiders, one of five fumbles the Broncos have lost in three games.

The Eagles are 10 1/2-point underdogs Sunday in Denver; their 30th-ranked defense is widely seen as a blank canvas for the artistry of Manning and the NFL's top offense.

"They deserve all the credit that they're getting," Allen said, when asked if it grated that the whole country seems to anticipate Manning setting records Sunday. "You can't argue against their stats . . . we just look at it as a huge challenge."

On Twitter: @LesBowen


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