Battle for Peyton Manning’s “Spot” Moves to Santa Clara
At this juncture in the season, the element of surprise has dissipated. No hidden vulnerabilities remain, as the weaknesses have been laid bare.
Opponents are well aware of these shortcomings and are diligently preparing to exploit them to the best of their abilities.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos are en route to Santa Clara. Still, their passing offense enters the Super Bowl with notably limited firepower, departing from recent Super Bowl standards.
Excluding a remarkable 34-yard completion, which WR Emmanuel Sanders secured after intercepting a pass intended for him, courtesy of Patriots CB Malcolm Butler’s ill-advised in-game leap, the Broncos’ passing game struggled, with the potential for a sub-150 yard performance, particularly evident during a lackluster second half.
These are the circumstances that tantalize Super Bowl defensive coordinators.
As previously analyzed in prior discussions leading up to the AFC Championship Game, Manning relies heavily on his “spot” to execute his throws downfield, especially given his current stage in his career.
This necessitates a pronounced emphasis on interior pass rush action to disrupt the offensive line’s front segment and collapse any potential pocket.
The Patriots’ performance serves as a helpful blueprint that the Carolina Panthers are likely to emulate, particularly considering the formidable talent they possess in defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short.
The primary focus should be maximizing pressure, employing stunts and strategic maneuvers within the interior line. The emphasis in the pass rush game plan should mirror the approach taken by New England, as illustrated below.
When it comes to the Panthers’ defensive strategy, they will employ diverse four-person front configurations, yet inevitably, there will be an interior player facing a one-on-one block.
This individual is the key figure responsible for disrupting the opposing offense.
In a similar context, during the Patriots’ encounter with the Broncos, DT Alan Branch capitalized on such opportunities, effectively overwhelming Broncos center Matt Paradis.
This resulted in Manning attempting a pass that resembled a shot out of the sky, as seen in the following.
This approach prioritizes forcing errant throws over securing sacks, aiming to disrupt the opponent’s passing game. Manning was fortunate that this particular throw wasn’t intercepted.
The expectation is that the Panthers will center their efforts on sowing confusion and penetrating through the center and guards to generate similar opportunities.
Carolina has built a reputation as one of the league’s leading teams in capitalizing on such passes and converting them into turnovers.
Star Lotulelei has honed his skills in the “step up when singled” approach to dislodge pocket quarterbacks from their comfort zone, a tactic exemplified in multiple instances during the Arizona game, as illustrated below.
This play underscores the significance of the individual responsible for generating initial spot pressure, even if they don’t ultimately receive credit for the sack statistic.
The formula may not be groundbreaking, but the Panthers are fortunate to possess exceptional talent and experience in applying pressure precisely where Manning is most vulnerable.
While edge rushers will have their chances, Manning has consistently demonstrated the ability to allow them to pass by as long as he can step up in the pocket.
For the Panthers’ defensive line, the mission is straightforward: Prevent Manning from stepping up and, in doing so, secure a championship ring.