- Herm Edwards, ESPN Insider
Sitting at 11-3 and currently the No. 2 seed in the AFC, the Denver Broncos have won nine games in a row. And with remaining games against Cleveland and Kansas City, they have the inside track on a first-round playoff bye. Peyton Manning is playing like the MVP of the league, and it seems like ages ago that people were questioning whether he could ever return to football coming off his neck surgeries.
Now that he's back and healthy, it's easier to remember that Manning has been under center in the NFL for 14 years. And while you can't truly stop a Manning-led offense, it is possible to slow it down if your team does a couple of things right.
Here are the keys to slowing down a Peyton Manning-led offense:
A full team effort
This is going to sound simplistic, but it's the starting point. The first thing to understand is that slowing down a Manning-led offense requires total focus from the entire team, not just the defense. Your offense can't turn the ball over. You have to run the ball effectively, stay on the field and convert third downs to chew up the clock. You want to limit the amount of possessions Manning gets. And your punter and kicker are critical to keeping Manning working with a short field on every possession he does get. Literally, anything that can be done to limit his ability to get into a rhythm helps.
Stop the run
On defense, the first thing you must do is to stop the run with a seven-man box. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Broncos have 184 rushes for 749 yards (4.1 yards per carry) in the first halves of games this season. John Fox knows how potent this play-action attack is from having faced it as an opposing coach for so many years. He is committed to running the ball, even if doing so only picks up small chunks of yards at a time. Fox -- and Manning -- know that the payoff will come in the second half.