How Not To Beat Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning has had among the best starts in NFL history, having thrown more touchdown passes in the first 5 games than any other quarterback while leading the Denver Broncos to a 5-0 record.  His team has averaged 46 points per game which is by far the most in the league.  Coaches and commentators have been looking for ways to stop his offense and to beat the Broncos.

While watching NFL Countdown today, which was previewing the games, the commentators were discussing how to beat the Denver Broncos.  They unanimously agreed  that what the opposing team (Dallas in this case) needed to do was to score more quickly and speed up the pace of the game.  I believe this is the decidedly wrong answer for two reasons.

Firstly, assuming that Denver is the better team, which the commentators agreed on, Dallas would want each team to have fewer possessions(not more) in the hopes that one outlier (fumble, interception return or 90 yard play) for them would be the difference in the game. Dallas would not want to score quickly and allow each team to have more possessions, which would enable Denver’s (and Peyton Manning’s) skill advantage to have more opportunities to shine through.  To use another sports analogy, in baseball, anyone can win a one game playoff, but over the course of 162 games, the best team usually wins its division.

The second reason why this might not be an optimal strategy for Dallas(and other Denver opponents) is that they are not accustomed to playing at a faster pace and taking more chances on offense.  Attempting to run plays that have little chance of success (though may go for huge yardage once in a while) means the chances of overall success(touchdowns) go down, and then the chance of success(winning the game) goes down even faster when you increase the number of possessions.

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