Sacking Peyton big deal to Titans
Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2008 8:20 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Peyton Manning sat in with the Tennessee Titans’ defensive line meeting Wednesday. Not in person, but as a life-size decal stuck on the wall.
The Titans know only too well that getting to the two-time MVP is never easy. They’ve sacked him only 11 times in 13 games against the Indianapolis Colts, but that remains the top goal defensively as the Titans prepare to play their AFC South rival on Monday night.
“I’m just looking at getting after Peyton,” defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said. “That’s our whole key: just to get him off his spot, to hit him as many times as we can, just to rattle him. That’s our whole goal. I know as a defensive front, you go in our room you see that Fathead of Peyton on our wall, so that’s what we’re looking for.”
Getting to Manning has been challenging for Tennessee over the years. The Titans went through four straight games in 2005 and 2006 without sacking Manning even once. Even as they became a playoff team last season, they still only sacked Manning twice, although a big hit by Kyle Vanden Bosch on Manning led to Cortland Finnegan’s first career interception.
This season, the Titans have 18 sacks that have them ranked sixth in the NFL. Haynesworth already has matched his career high with six through the first six games, and sacking Manning could be a big step toward the Titans improving the best start in franchise history to 7-0 and seizing control of the division.
Protecting Manning is the Colts’ main goal, something that has been tougher for Indianapolis (3-3) with two rookies starting at guard the past three games: Mike Pollak and Jamey Richard. Manning has been sacked nine times through the first three games.
Green Bay didn’t sack Manning in last week’s 34-14 win, but returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
Defensive end Jevon Kearse said the Colts, who had Wednesday off, have a scheme for Manning to get rid of the ball quickly.
“He’s a smart guy back there when he has a football in his hands. He gets rid of the ball on time,” Kearse said.
Kearse hasn’t had a chance to chase Manning since 2003, when he was last with the Titans. He missed the Colts’ game while with Philadelphia in 2006 because of a knee injury, but he did sack Manning’s brother, Eli, five times in two games combined in 2005 and 2006. Kearse has only 11/2 sacks and nine quarterback pressures since re-signing with Tennessee this offseason.
He can’t wait for Monday night’s bright lights.
“They say freaks come out at night,” the defensive end nicknamed the Freak said. “I’m waiting to have my one big breakout game.”
The Titans aren’t buying into talk that Manning isn’t quite himself after needing two surgeries on his left knee, procedures that kept him out of the preseason. Manning still is completing 60.7 percent of his passes even though he has only one more touchdown pass (eight) than interceptions (seven).
“You don’t see any evidence of any problems with his lower body,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
“He’s setting up, he’s scrambling, runs for a first downs if need be. He’s throwing with accuracy. They’ve played several games that they very well could have won, so the record’s misleading, and I think the buzz out there is misleading. He always shows up big in big games like this so we’ll get him at his best.”