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While some quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Robert Griffin III possess the extra dimension of mobility, the game is still dominated by the pocket passer.
Even after four neck surgeries, defenses continue to have their hands full the most when they prepare to play a Peyton Manning offense.
In Super Bowl XLIV, the New Orleans Saints infamously devised a different defensive game plan for each quarter against Manning’s Colts.
However, for most games, teams do not have that much time to prepare for this offense, which is always among the best in football.
No matter which offensive line combination is in front of him, you cannot sack Manning, as evident by his 3.13 sack percentage, per Pro-Football-Reference.com, which is the second-best in NFL history. He just always seems to find a way to get rid of the ball within three seconds.
This comes from years of mastering an offense that is not the league’s most complex, as analyzed by Smart Football, but none run more efficiently because of the work put in by Manning and his teammates.
The pre-snap ritual Manning goes through has become legendary, as defenses try to figure out what is a legitimate audible and what is just for show. When a defense tries to do the same to Manning, he will often just go to the quick snap.
The no-huddle offense has always allowed Manning to call plays at the line, giving defenders few opportunities to catch their breath or substitute. Since so much of Manning’s offense uses the “11” formation as the base offense, his need for substitutions is not that high.
With the thin air in Denver, Manning can use the no-huddle offense to an even greater home-field advantage than what he had in Indianapolis.
Not only does Manning challenge defenses before the snap more than any other quarterback, but after the snap he’s pretty good, too.
He will spread the ball and find the open receiver. He once completed a record 143 receptions to Marvin Harrison in 2002. Two years later, he became the first quarterback ever to have three receivers with over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns each.
With Wes Welker now in Denver, Manning will continue to spread the ball around to his deep receiving corps, attacking the slot, seams, underneath routes and still stretching the field vertically with one of the best play-action fakes in NFL history. His fakes continue to work even in the absence of a running game.
A lot was said about Manning’s arm strength last year, but he returned to form during the season on deep balls. With another year to heal from his significant neck surgeries, his arm strength should be even closer to what it once was.
Manning may be down to the final few seasons of his NFL career, but he still challenges defensive coordinators and perplexes star defenders with the same offensive system he has dominated in for years.