Share this article

print logo


Passes float through the air with the greatest of ease, from this daring young man in the Indianapolis Colts helmet.

Twenty-three year-old Peyton Manning leads one of the most potent offenses in the National Football League.

It starts with a solid running game embodied by Edgerrin James, which in turn opens up a dangerous passing game, hosted by Manning and wide receiver Marvin Harrison.

The key lies in Manning's uncanny ability to hide the ball when the Colts fake the run. Time after time, teams take the fake while Manning rolls out and completes the play action pass. And he often does it on first down.

Take the last time the Bills and Colts met, back in Week One when Indy earned a 31-14 win.

Second series of the game, first and 10, Manning rolls left completing a 50-yard pass to wide receiver E.G. Green.

Later, another first and 10, has Manning rolling right, hitting Harrison for a 43-yard gain.

Another first down brought a 15-yard completion to tight end Marcus Pollard.

Get the idea?

"They've got a good play action game and we got in trouble with that last game," said Bills' safety Henry Jones. "Our safeties have to play pass first, run second. That's the big key."

In order to give Buffalo's safeties the freedom to concentrate on pass coverage, the Bills' front seven needs contain the Colts' running game, particularly James and his NFL-leading 1,503 rushing yards.

Buffalo's first line of defense can also offer some pressure on Manning, but quarterback hurries or sacks will be few and far between. Manning has been sacked just 14 times in 504 pass attempts -- an integral key in the Colts' offensive success.

"We were watching some film (of the first meeting) and on one play I could not have come any cleaner on the pass rush and he rolled out and completed a pass," said Bills' defensive end Phil Hansen. "He's very good at not only eluding the rush, but feeling it coming while he's watching his receivers downfield."

But it's not just Manning's ability to elude the rush and deliver the ball. The Colts' offense revolves around the Manning-Harrison combination, which proves nearly impossible to stop.

"(Harrison) is extremely fast and quick. He and Manning are on the same page with all the routes and that's key," said Bills' safety Kurt Schulz. "When you get a guy like Harrison just by himself, he can get open, but to have a quarterback be on the same page and have a quarterback of Manning's ability to put it there, it's definitely a deadly combination."

There's another combination -- the one that merges a dangerous passing attack with a solid ground game. The Colts' offense is greater than the sum of its parts, which provides the Bills' defense a challenge in an otherwise ho-hum season finale.

"It's tough because you've gotta respect the run and you've gotta respect the pass," Schulz said. "They really stretch the field and you've gotta be responsible for a lot of different areas. That's what makes it so potent. I think they have a great scheme but they also have great people running the scheme. But you know, they're human, too."
There are still about 12,000 tickets left for Sunday's game which means the finale will be the only Bills game not shown on local television this season.
Linebacker Dan Brandenburg (lower leg), fullback Sam Gash (ribs) and defensive end Phil Hansen (ribs) are listed as questionable for Sunday's game and did not practice on Thursday. Neither did center Jerry Ostroski, listed as doubtful with a knee injury. Running back Jonathan Linton (back) remains probable.

There are no comments - be the first to comment