New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has been around the halls of Gillette Stadium since 2004, so naturally he knows a thing or two about Peyton Manning and what the 36-year old Denver Broncos quarterback is capable of doing.
In his weekly conference call on Tuesday, Patricia downplayed any talk of Manning losing arm strength through the first four games this season.
"I haven't seen any issues with that whatsoever," Patricia said. "He looks like he is throwing the ball extremely well, [he is] extremely confident, and getting it into some really tight locations. I think it's building every week. I think he's just doing a tremendous job out there."
Manning has a few of his former Colts teammates to throw to in Denver in wide receiver Brandon Stokley and tight end Jacob Tamme, but his top targets are Tim Tebow-era holdovers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Similarly, Patricia sees a blend of both old and new in Denver's offensive system.
"Obviously, when you have Peyton Manning, there's going to be a strong influence from that," Patricia said. "I think Peyton is doing a good job of running things that they're asking him to run, and some of it happens to be real familiar with the stuff that he did previously. I think that there's a good mix of the Denver offense and a lot of that has to do with Peyton Manning as a quarterback, but the skill players really fit into a good role for him and what they're trying to do in the run game and throwing the ball. There's definitely some things there that look just like Peyton Manning."
While past chess matches with Manning have involved former defensive coordinators such as Romeo Crennel or Eric Mangini, this is Patricia's first time as New England's defensive coordinator (in title) that he will attempt to devise a plan to stop Manning's offensive attack.
"Anytime you try to play Peyton Manning, you're trying to figure out what the best thing to do is, and how to go up and challenge it. He's an extremely smart, intelligent football player," Patricia said. "I think he has a good idea of what you're trying to do at all times. It certainly makes it challenging."