Harassing Peyton Manning figures to be a huge key to the Buffalo Bills' success Sunday in their AFC East showdown with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Bills would love to pressure the Indianapolis Colts' quarterback like they did when he visited Buffalo in January.
He did not get sacked once. Yet he was forced to hurry throw after throw in the 31-6 Bills victory.
Quarterback pressures -- not necessarily sacks -- will be a prime goal of the Bills' defense.
"A pressure is definitely as good as a sack, especially this week," said Bills linebacker Sam Rogers. "He's so hard to get to. If you make him throw the ball away, you've accomplished the same goal as a sack."
The scary thing about the Colts' offense, besides the fact it's scoring 33.6 points a game, is that it can be lethal even when it's one-dimensional.
Jacksonville found that out in its 43-14 waxing at the hands of the Colts on Monday. The Jaguars held Colts star running back Edgerrin James to a mediocre 3.4 yards per carry in the first half (he had nine attempts for 34 yards). Yet Manning put three first-half touchdowns on the board.
So stopping the Colts isn't as simple as stuffing James. (And stuffing James is hardly simple, given the fact he's averaging 97 rushing yards a game in 19 career starts). It goes hand in hand with disrupting Manning's timing patterns.
By unofficial count, the Bills had 13 pressures and eight knockdowns of Manning last January. Nose tackles Pat Williams and Ted Washington were especially effective in getting pressure up the middle. Manning threw for just 163 yards on 18-of-29 passing. It was his worst game of the season.
"He's a great quarterback, he's got great rhythm, he's not going to hold onto that ball," defensive end Marcellus Wiley said. "You've got to try to get him out of his rhythm."
Manning was the least sacked quarterback in the NFL last season. Through three games this season, he has been taken down a mere three times in 119 pass plays.
"He's got that Dan Marino ability to be looking downfield at his receiver but to feel the pressure and still avoid it," said defensive end Phil Hansen. "That's a knack that some quarterbacks have. Marino had it. He definitely has it. And at this stage of his career, he's a better athlete than Marino. He can run with it if he has to."
"He really understands our protection schemes," said Colts coach Jim Mora. "Peyton understands where the problems might be from the standpoint of a pass rush, who the guys who might not be blocked are, who the hot receivers are. He's very well prepared every week. Plus, he has a quick release. He's gonna make a quick decision."
Manning was great at avoiding sacks from Day One in the NFL. In 1997, the year before he arrived, the Colts allowed 62 sacks. Four of five starting offensive linemen were the same in 1998, Manning's rookie year, and they allowed 22 sacks.
"For me to be back there holding the ball, I'm not doing much good," Manning said. "I'm big about being on time."
Jacksonville got no sacks on Manning but did get some hits on him.
"I've seen Peyton get hit a little more than usual," Rogers said. "I think it's a combination of things. At times he's waiting for the deep routes to develop, and I think teams are scheming a little better as far as getting a pass rush on him."
Wiley, who will line up across from Indy's best lineman, stellar left tackle Tarik Glenn, stresses that one can't separate the run defense from the discussion about pressure on Manning.
"The thing that helps pressure is you've got to shut Edgerrin down," said Wiley. "He's so sweet. He does a lot of things for their offense. You have to contain him. If we hold him to under three yards a rush, then all those play-action fakes don't make you bite. Once you get to the point where his fakes don't make you bite, then you can go straight at the quarterback."
Early inactives for the Bills announced Friday were Jay Riemersma, Corey Moore, Jon Carman and Leif Larsen.