Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs vs. Broncos: Using Colts’ Game Plan To Beat Peyton Manning

Any conversation about how to stop the 2013 Denver Broncos should truthfully begin and end with a discussion on how to stop Peyton Manning.

That isn’t meant to be a slight against Manning’s teammates, because the Broncos do boast an extremely talented roster. More so, it’s a recognition of the fact that the NFL is a quarterback’s league, and this Broncos’ team would look a whole lot different without Manning at the helm.

Again, no offense to Brock Osweiler, but who would you rather face in the playoffs as an opposing defense? If you thought “Manning” to yourself, I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably delusional.

So, how does one stop Peyton Manning?

In 2013, only one team has been able to do it thus far, and that’s the Indianapolis Colts—ironically enough.

Firmly believing that a good coach or scout is also a great thief, I took a look at the film of the Colt’s 39-33 win over the Broncos back in October in search of a way to beat Manning and the Broncos.

My findings are below.


Bring Backside Pressure, Utilize Man Coverage With a 2-Deep Shell

Peyton Manning is arguably one of the smartest quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen. He’s a student of the game, and he can read a defense almost as if he’s reading a children’s book. It’s simply too easy.

Blitzing in the NFL is a double-edged sword. On hand-hand, it allows you to bring an extra hat or two to the quarterback. On the other, an extra player getting after the quarterback means there’s one less player in coverage. A good quarterback like Manning knows how to read those blitzes and exploit them to find the open receiver.

He’s the king of audibles, and like a great fighter, he has a counter for everything you throw at him.

On Sunday Night Football, the Colts found a way to bring pressure on Manning in a way he couldn’t counter—from his blindside. They run a base 3-4 defense just like the Chiefs, but below they’re in a hybrid look. Notice outside linebacker Robert Mathis coming off the edge in a 3-point stance. The coverage also seems to be man across the board with two high safeties over top. This takes away the immediate throw for Manning, but also limits his deep option due to the safety shell.



With the man coverage underneath and the safeties bracketing everything over top, a smart quarterback like Manning isn’t going to force the issue. Even his check-down is taken away by the man coverage on his running back:



Unfortunately,Manning doesn’t see Mathis coming off the edge, and that leads to a stripped ball and a safety for the Colts:



Even the best quarterbacks can’t stop what they don’t see coming, so Kansas City should focus on bringing pressure off the blind side. Whether it be Tamba Hali coming off a delayed blitz, or a stunt from the defensive line, attacking the left side of the Broncos’ line will be key. I would even suggest throwing a few secondary blitzes into the mix off that edge.

The man coverage underneath will negate the quick passing game, and give more time for the rush to find its target. With two high safeties over top, this is a great way to negate Manning.


Front Seven Must Play Strong Against The Run

Anytime you go with two high safeties, you’re basically inviting the offense to run the ball on you. In fact, a good offensive coordinator will pound the ball down your throat in an effort to get you to move a safety into box and give him a much more pass-friendly one high safety look.

If the Chiefs want to stop Manning, giving him two high safeties with tight coverage underneath would be a good option. But in order to do so, Kansas City is going to have to stop Denver’s run game as well.

Knowshon Moreno is a darn good back for Denver, but the Colts were able to hold him to just 40 yards on 15 carries.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

That’s a huge reason Indy was able to stay in a lot of those two-high looks, so Kansas City is going to have to find a way to replicate that success.

Dontari Poe is going to have to be a big presence, but also look for Derrick Johnson to play a huge role here. He’s been all over the field for the Chiefs, and he’s a great run stuffer.


Take Advantage Of Julius Thomas In Pass-Pro.

Julius Thomas is a pretty good tight end. So far this season, he’s notched 39 receptions, 451 yards and eight touchdowns. For as good as he’s been as a pass-catcher though, he has struggled as a pass-blocker.

When the Broncos leave him in-line, Kansas City needs to capitalize. Send the pressure, use a stunt. Do whatever they can to get pressure off of Thomas’ edge and hopefully collapse the pocket on Manning.

Case in point. Down 30-36 with just over seven minutes left, the Broncos found themselves with a first down inside their own 20. Getting a long drive here and scoring would have been huge for Denver, but they left Thomas in to block, and it turned into a disaster:


Thomas was able to work outside linebacker Erik Walden up field, and for a second, it looked like Manning had a nice pocket to work with:


Like all great pass-rushers do though, Walden was able to disengage and get underneath the block. Thomas did a poor job of planting his inside foot and keeping it up field of Walden, which would have forced him outside:


As a result, Walden was able to get a hand on Manning’s throw, and we see the result in picture No. 2:


The Chiefs need to be able to recognize when Thomas is staying in-line to help out, and force the issue with him. Get him moving up field and then rip underneath to a clear shot at Manning. If Kansas City’s rush can get their hands up and near his throw, perhaps the Chiefs can cause a few turnovers of their own.



Stopping Manning is all about pressure, and that plays right into the Chiefs hands. He’s too good of a quarterback and he doesn’t make mistakes often, so Kansas City will have to force the issue and force him into mistakes. The Colts were able to sack Manning four times that Sunday night.

If the Chiefs can get pressure on Manning and utilize the two-high shell look with man coverage underneath, there’s a good chance Kansas City can walk out of Denver 10-0.

Note: Video via NFL Rewind. All markings are my own.

Next Chiefs Game View full schedule »
Saturday, Aug 2323 Aug7:00Minnesota VikingsBuy Tickets

Tags: Denver Broncos Derrick Johnson Dontari Poe Indianapolis Colts Kansas City Chiefs Knowshon Moreno Peyton Manning Tamba Hali

  • berttheclock

    Fine, then, we follow the game plan of the Rams to defeat the Colts.

    • Winston Collier

      Why bother? If the Chiefs want to game plan to give up 33 points, why would a Broncos fan want them to do anything else?

  • berttheclock

    BTW, that strip sack by Mathis you show above really slowed down PM for quite a spell. He did recover late in the game and threw sharply, But, that strip caused problems to the arm of PM. Reminded me of the days of DT attacking Elway. By far, the very best friend of any corner back.

    • Winston Collier

      Problem is, DT attacking Elway still resulted in Elway winning more often than not.

  • steve james

    Thanks for the class today. Seriously I appreciate the breakdown.

    • Andrew Kulha

      Hey no problem. Perhaps I should start charging ;)

  • Larry Devore

    Hit the receivers coming off the line. disrupt the timiing that Manning thrives on.

    • berttheclock

      One other point not shown. Vontae Davis had his biggest game for the Colts since he arrived from Miami. He was akin to a glove on receivers. PFF gave him a huge grade.

    • freshmeat62

      My thoughts also. I think the key is shutting down the Bronco’s receivers. If the Chiefs can jam and out physical them, that will give the rush more time to get to Manning. I loved what New Orleans did w/ Dez Bryant yesterday.

  • Chris Tarrants

    They have to get in a jam the WR’s within that 5 yard window, throw off all those timing routes and give the edge rushers another second to get to manning. The way he was hobbled yesterday if Houston gets a really good pop on him or god forbid if Poe is able to sandwich him to the ground then I firmly believe that Peyton’s game will be off for a good chunk of the game. That will be the ey IMO. If we can’t upset the timing routes then it will beca long day

  • redmid17

    You had me until you had the words “great pass rusher” and “Erik Walden” in the same sentence. He’s horrible at rushing the passer.

    Either way, this is a great overview, though it might be glossing over some obvious stuff that could be thrown in. Not every team has someone who can routinely beat the LT and possible help off the blindside. The Chiefs do, but emphasizing that Tamba Hali is a great pass rusher never hurts. I’d also avoid stunts. Those are just going to give Manning more time to throw.

  • JDInOregon

    Appreciate this post about actual football strategy and not all about psycho-babble like on the tee-vee! Sure, there’s room enough to talk about emotions, motivation and all that, but I can’t wait to see how this turns out. Makes the game way more interesting to read things like this.

    I’m just some schlub on the couch, but I kind of wonder if a savvy receiver like Welker can work free a bit on the Chiefs. He sure is a heck of a receiver.

    • Winston Collier

      Welker will be getting 1 on 1 coverage. Corners have Decker and D.Thomas, Berry gets the TE J.Thomas (do not want FS on him too big, nor a LB on him too fast). So FS gets Welker. Welker seems to always find a way to get open underneath or with separation on an out in that kind of 1-on-1 coverage. (LBs get Moreno, leaving 5-6 to rush) Did it for years with Brady. It all comes down to pass pressure. Because without it, one of those guys will get open eventually, and Manning will find him.

  • Mike Hawthorne

    KC needs to be aware of the screen pass, though. That negates the heavy pass rush and often gets Manning a nice gain each time. Gotta stay tight with the backs that start to block, then slide out for a wide open screen.

  • Modesto Koczwara

    To be successful, they will have to disguise covers and bump their WRs. If that doesn’t happen, Manning will have a field day with the Chiefs.

  • Selena G

    Hush lil baby… lol

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Poe’s going to be so key to winning this game. If he can take advantage of his matchups and penetrate, it’ll disrupt both the run and the pass. I like two high safety and man underneath though.

    • Winston Collier

      Problem for that is, Broncos C Ramirez is playing at an All-Pro level, and they just got back a regular start for the O-Line (J.D. Walton, who handled Poe last year). the key will be Hunter and Hali against the Denver LT on Manning’s blind side.

  • Guest

    FYI – following the Colts game plan means Manning will get 33 points. How does that equate to a win for a team with an anemic offense that couldn’t score a TD against the Bliis?

  • Winston Collier

    Just one point: Didn’t the Broncos score 33 points against “The Colts Plan”? How do you “plan” to get 34+ points without a passing game like the Colts Andrew Luck or Cowboys Tony Romo? Even with a couple of D/ST scores, the Chiefs could not get that many points against the Bills. 34+ from an offense that could not even score a single TD against the Bills? 16 TD in 9 games is less than 2 TD a game. So even with the D scoring 1, that means holding the Broncos to less than 21 points.