No quarterback in the NFL likes to be under siege from the opposing defense. Obviously one of the greatest signal-callers of all time in Peyton Manning feels the same way about pressure collapsing the pocket, and perhaps that’s why the San Diego Chargers have given him such a rough time during his career. There’s no doubt the Bolts will do everything they can to make history repeat itself this Sunday at Mile High.
One stat is all you need to understand just what kind of bugaboo the Chargers have been to Manning’s Denver Broncos this season. The juggernaut Denver offense has been held under 400 total yards of offense just two times all season long, and both of those occasions just happened to occur against the Bolts. But the history doesn’t necessarily dictate the future, and the Bolts are going to have to dial up new ways to get to one of the most studious quarterbacks the game has ever known on Sunday.
A huge key to making Manning feel the heat once again will be safety Eric Weddle who is pictured above deflecting a pass when these two sides last met. His versatility to line up absolutely anywhere on the field and make an impact is second-to-none in the league, and he will be used on blitzes, in the slot and possibly even in a traditional safety role at times. Where he can wreak the most havoc on Manning is obviously in his blitzing role, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Weddle lining up down in the box quite often as defensive coordinator John Pagano used him in that mode several times last weekend during the Wild-Card meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Another key cog on defense has been 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram who has been on a tear since returning to action in Week 14. After missing the majority of the season due to a torn ACL back in minicamp, Ingram has clearly been the fresher player on the field since his return which has given him the leg up on would-be blockers. He is peaking at the ideal time for this matchup in Denver as the Bolts were hurting for pass rush help until Ingram got back into the lineup. Unlike most players who are weary and dragging as they play their extra games at this late stage, Ingram has a fully charged battery and is ready to get after Manning on Sunday.
It’s also worth noting that the Bolts held the Broncos to two of their three lowest point totals this season in their meetings. San Diego surrendered 28 back in Week 10 before their defense rounded into form and just 20 back in Week 15 when they toppled the Broncos in Denver. The defense is hot at the right time as well allowing just 16.2 points per game the five games (including last weekend’s playoff game), and keeping the Broncos off the scoreboard will keep the Chargers in the game until the very end.
Manning’s discomfort facing the Chargers dates all the way back to his days with a horseshoe on the side of his helmet with the Indianapolis Colts. He will have no shortage of film to watch and help him make adjustments to overcoming whatever San Diego throws at him on Sunday, but DC Pagano will have to be one step ahead of No. 18 on Sunday. Look for a highly competitive game that comes down to execution in the fourth quarter in this Divisional Round AFC West rubber match.