If the Oakland Raiders want to upset the Denver Broncos, they need to slow down their two biggest weapons. The hardest one to slow down is Peyton Manning, but if successful, can also help slow down Von Miller’s electric pass rush.
There really is no stopping Manning or Miller, but it is possible to get in their way just enough to win the game. The Raiders are one of only three teams to keep Miller from recording a sack this season, so the blueprint is there.
Manning is a little trickier to slow down, and he has only two games with less than two touchdowns and two others with more than one interception. Manning has been held under 60 percent completion percentage three times, but two of those performances, he was at 59.5 percent.
Teams have been able to slow down Manning in one or two areas, but they haven’t been able to stop him completely. Manning has yet to have less than two touchdowns, more than one interception and a completion percentage lower than 60 percent all in one game.
Scoring more than 24 points seems to be the only common thing about Denver’s three losses, and in all three games, their opponent scored at least 17 of its points in the first half. The Raiders have scored more than 24 points just four times this season, and at no point have they scored 17 points in the first half.
Slowing Down Manning
When Manning or one of his receivers does make a mistake, the Raiders must capitalize on it. That means the Raiders have to look for a big return on an interception or the offense has to take advantage of good field position.
It can be hard to get extra pressure on Manning because the defense spends the whole game in a sub package. As crazy as it sounds, the solution can be as simple is blitzing the defensive backs, which was something the Raiders did only five times in Week 4, according to ProFootballFocus (pay wall).
Manning’s worst game of the season came back in Week 2, and he’s come a long way since then. Most recently, the San Diego Chargers did a decent job slowing Manning down. The Chargers don’t have a good pass rush, but they sacked Manning three times, intercepted him once and held him to just 25 completions on 42 attempts.
How did the Chargers do it? They blitzed defensive backs. Marcus Gilchrist blitzed 13 times, and his fellow defensive backs added four more blitzes according to ProFootballFocus (pay wall). Manning had to spread the ball around to all of his receivers, but he’ll likely be without Brandon Stokley against the Raiders (listed as questionable).
On one such blitz, Gilchrist batted Manning’s pass into the air, and Eric Weddle intercepted it and took it back for a touchdown. The Raiders need a defensive score or big play to propel them to victory even if they do everything right.
There are basically two ways to slow down a pass-rusher. Chip him with back and tight ends and run screen plays in his direction and let him run himself out of the play. The Raiders did both in Week 4, and for the most part, it worked.
Maybe his former defensive coordinator knew a thing or two about frustrating him, because Miller had no sacks when the Raiders came to Denver. Screens seemed to be particularly effective against Miller and the Broncos until they made an adjustment in the second half.
If the Raiders can integrate those screens with a good running game and play-action passing, then they might just be able to win this game. It’s a tall order, but it’s not impossible.