Patriots

Peyton Manning said preparing for Bill Belichick, Patriots’ defense ‘exhausted’ him

"It's a pain. I'm not gonna lie."

Deatrich Wise Jr. Josh Allen Patriots
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) evades New England Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise (91) as he escapes pressure during the fourth quarter. (Photo by: Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
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Half the fun of Monday Night Football these days is tuning into ESPN2 and listening to Peyton and Eli Manning nerd out about football on the “Manning Cast.” The Patriots got their turn to be under the Mannings’ well-trained eyes during the team’s physical win over the Buffalo Bills, and it didn’t disappoint.

Both Peyton and Eli have had their share of high-profile tussles with Bill Belichick’s squad in the last 20 years. So naturally they have some solid insights into what it takes to beat a Belichick-coached Patriots defense.

The most important key? Be ready for anything.

“They give you multiple defenses on any given play,” Peyton said on the broadcast. “They can be in a 4-down even front, a 3-down odd front. Every single play, you are working. Every time I played the Patriots, I was exhausted after the game, because on a 1st-and-10, 2nd-and-1, you were having to identify what the front is: ‘Hey, it’s an odd front, it’s an even front, who’s the “Mike” [linebacker]? It’s a lot.”

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The former Colts and Broncos legend, who played the Patriots 19 times in his career (6-13) and frequently vied with Brady for supremacy among NFL quarterbacks, even revealed his teams would often practice the same play multiple times to simulate the different looks Belichick’s defenses might throw at him.

“They do it on purpose. They do it because they can do it,” the elder Manning added. “They have the flexibility…But they also do it because it makes you think a lot during the week and it makes you repeat each play you run in practice twice, once against even the even front once against the odd front…It’s a pain. I’m not gonna lie.”

Eli had a bit more success than his brother in foiling the Patriots, stealing Super Bowl titles in 2007 and 2011 as a heavy underdog with the Giants. But like Peyton, he acknowledged preparing for that undertaking was no easy task.

“They do a good job,” Eli said. “They’re very multiple. They mix it up week-to-week. You can game plan for certain things. But you might get something totally different on game day.

“They have smart players. They’re obviously well-coached. But they can do a lot of multiple things. They find out what your strengths are and try to stop those things.”

Belichick and the Patriots have proven that more than ever this season. After starting the year playing a lot of man coverage, they have since switched to a heavy zone-based scheme to take away deep throws and rely on their front four to generate pressure.

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But with the awful weather conditions in Buffalo Monday night, the Patriots crowded the line of scrimmage and challenged the Bills to beat them in man coverage on crucial downs. The result: 10 points allowed and two late red-zone drives turned away to preserve the win.

No matter what defensive scheme New Englend has deployed during this seven-game winning streak, it’s worked to devastating effect.

Maybe it’s no wonder Mac Jones has been playing such solid football to start his season: he has to practice against the toughest defense in the league every day.

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