Memory lane: How we beat Peyton Manning in 2002
I remember very well the Sunday night game we played against the Colts in 2002. The Colts entered the game as the clear favorite with Peyton Manning at quarterback, Edgerrin James at running back, and Marvin Harrison at wide receiver. They were stacked on offense, but we knew that if we killed the head, the body would die. And Manning was that head.
All week, people talked about how good Manning was at reading defenses, and that he never called plays until he surveyed the defense at the line of scrimmage. All week, we knew that in order to have a chance, we had to be disciplined with our presnap alignments and movements. One mistake would cost the entire defense, because Manning most likely would see it and would capitalize on it.
So the game begins, and all I can think about is trying to destroy anything moving, especially Manning. From the first snap, I realized real quickly that Manning talked to his offensive line more than I had ever heard. He pointed me out every play: "56, there's 56." Then he would say some other stuff like "There's the robber; there's the robber." Then he would walk from under center and start his cadence.
When he lifted his foot the first time, they never snapped the ball. He was still studying the defense, and if we moved or he felt a blitz coming, he would run back up to the center and tell the offensive line where he thought the blitz was coming from and then he would change the play. Then we knew when he lifted his foot the second time, the ball would be snapped.
Coaches said all week this is what he would do and he's really good at it, so when we moved around, we had to make sure we were disguising what we were really doing. In a true game of cat and mouse, we wanted to make sure we were the cats on this night.
Manning threw for more than 200 yards that night, a solid game statistically, but he wasn't able to overcome the constant pressure he received from No. 56. I must have hit Manning six or seven times hard -- I mean, really hard. I sacked him twice and almost picked him off.
Jessie Armstead, one of the most intelligent football players I've ever played with, was barking out what Manning and Co. were trying to do. Thanks to J.A. and my football sense, I was able to get a fix on when he would snap the ball, and the rest is history. We forced him to make mistakes; he threw two interceptions, and there should've been more.
Jeremiah Trotter, Armstead, and I were the linebackers and the on-field leaders of that team. We moved around and shifted and faked blitzes close to perfection. We kept Manning off balance the whole night because we were able to disguise where we were rushing from.
We rattled him really good that night. I remember how pumped up we were. The Redskins won, 26-21, and believe me, the score doesn't do justice to the tail-kicking we laid on them that night.
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