Sunday night, the Patriots pass rush will try to do one of the most difficult things in sports: sack Peyton Manning.
On the 322 plays he has dropped back to pass, Manning has been sacked seven times. The rate of 2.2 percent leads the NFL, and it owes more to Manning than his offensive line.
“He gets rid of the ball,” coach Bill Belichick said. “He throws it away. The only way to sack him is for somebody to come that he doesn’t expect – the guy’s blocked and he beats a block and Peyton’s not thinking about him or for some reason he just doesn’t see him. If he sees him coming, he’ll get rid of the ball. And he has a quick release anyway.
“Historically, we’ve seen people blitz him, and the blitzer comes clean from the center guard gap or right from the line of scrimmage, and he still gets rid of it. And sometimes for big plays.”
“It’s not so difficult getting to him,” linebacker Tully Banta-Cain said. “It’s getting to him before he throws the ball. He has a quick release. We watch film, you see him getting hit almost every time. But he’s getting the ball off and completing it. It’s a tough task.”
While the Patriots may not be able to sack Manning, his quick release does not negate the importance of applying pressure. According to the web site Pro Football Focus, Manning has a 108.5 passer rating when not facing pressure and a 91.2 rating when he does.
“He’s a very poised guy in the pocket, but he can get happy feet,” Banta-Cain said. “The more you can get him to move around and have him stumble around the pocket, that buys time for guys on the back end to stay on their coverage.”