Danieal Manning was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2006 out of Abeline Christian University. He played five seasons with the Bears, amassing 346 tackles, 7 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles and 2,711 kick return yards and a touchdown. As a rookie, he was an integral part of the team that went to Super Bowl XLI and lost to the Indianapolis Colts.
On Sunday night, he returned to the Windy City for the first time since signing with the Houston Texans as a free agent prior to last season. His return was a rousing success, as his play made a huge imprint on the Texans 13-6 victory in the prime time showdown of the then 7-1 teams. The elements at Soldier Field virtually ensured that the game would be akin to a bare knuckle street fight between two heavyweight title contenders.
Manning delivered the first blow in the bout, as he blasted Bears TE Kellen Davis on Chicago’s first offensive play, forcing a fumble and setting the tone for the Texans on this night. Manning was just getting started however. Later in the first quarter, Bears RB Michael Bush broke through a huge opening for a big gain into Texans territory. Once he reached the secondary, there was Mr. Manning again, who hit him high while Glover Quin upended him, sending Bush airborne and the football outward. The Texans recovered the fumble once again, ending the Bears scoring chance.
Manning hit the trifecta in the first quarter when he picked off a Jay Cutler pass. It was his second interception of the season, tying a career high. The opening quarter by Manning in his return to Chicago could not had been written better by Manning himself. He had a hand in three of the four Bears turnovers that enabled the Texans defense to not surrender a touchdown for the second consecutive game. He finished with 3 tackles, 1 passed defensed, 1 interception, and a forced fumble on the night.
Since he came to Houston from Chicago, Manning has helped transform the Texans secondary from one of the league’s worst to one of its best. In 2010, the Texans were 32nd and dead last in the NFL in pass defense. After the arrival of he and Johnathan Joseph last season, Houston finished 3rd in the league in pass defense and 2nd in total defense. Nine games into this season, the Texans once again sit 3rd in pass defense and 2nd in total defense.
The versatility of Manning at the safety position has been invaluable to the Texans. Last season he played free safety, and this year switched positions with Quin and is playing the strong safety. The two are interchangeable because both have the ability to cover receivers down field and also play down in the box, blitz, and stop the run Manning has definitely brought a physical presence to the secondary, and it was on full display in front of a national audience in Chicago. For one of the best return man in Bears history, it was a happy return for Manning indeed.