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Know the Foe: Execution Paramount for Titans Against Peyton Manning

Posted Dec 6, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — No matter what Peyton Manning gestures or says before the snap, the Titans know it’s going to be a run or a pass play.

Titans players said they don’t want to get caught up in the pre-snap activity, but instead quickly read the play and execute to their best ability on every snap when Tennessee (5-7) visits Denver (10-2) at 3:05 p.m. (CT) Sunday.

Peyton Manning gestures before a snap in a recent game against the Patriots.

“The guy has one of the most dynamic hand signals and talking and chattering. That’s part of his game,” linebacker Moise Fokou said. “He’s either figuring out what kind of defense you’re in or he’s just giving you dummy calls. He’s been doing it so long he’s proficient at it. You can’t let that get you rattled. You’ve got to stay back. He’s going to give you some dummy calls. Playing a guy like that, you have to be very poised.” 

It’s been a long while since the Titans have faced the former QB of AFC South division rival Indianapolis. Only 17 players on Tennessee’s 53-man roster were on the 2010 team that came close to upending Manning and the Colts twice but lost 30-28 in December and 23-20 as time expired on Jan. 2, 2011 in the season finale when the four-time NFL MVP last faced the Titans.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said there’s not much the former University of Tennessee quarterback hasn’t seen in his 16 pro seasons.

“He’s going through all his progression reads, he knows where his (hot routes) are, he knows all those things, so you’re not going to really trick him,” Gray said. “You’ve got to out-execute him, and that’s the thing we’ve got to do on Sunday.”

Manning sat out the 2011 season because of multiple surgeries, and then picked Denver during free agency in 2012. The Broncos have won 23 games since, including 21 of their past 23 regular season games. Manning is 327-of-480 passing for 4,125 yards with 41 touchdown passes against nine interceptions for a passer rating of 115.3 this season.

“He’s an accurate passer. That offense works through him. We’ve just got to get in front of him. We know he’s not really a huge runner,” Fokou said. “He’s an in-the-pocket quarterback so it means we’ve got to disrupt him out of that pocket and see if we can affect him a little bit. The defensive line has been doing a great job with that. We saw some of that last week and we’ve just got to continue with that.”

Tennessee recorded five sacks of Manning’s replacement, Andrew Luck, in Indy last week, but Manning has only been sacked 15 times this season and gets rid of the football quicker than Luck, who’s been sacked 29 times this season.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who had two sacks last week to add to his team-high nine on the season, said that quickness will slightly alter the approach this week.

“When a guy gets rid of the ball really quick, you ain’t really relying on sacks at this point,” Casey said. “You’ve got to go get pressure up the middle and put your hands up. Batted balls count just as well. If they can’t complete the pass, then we’re helping out our defense. That’s just as good as a sack.”

Gray said he’s certain that Manning will be mindful of Casey, who is tied for the league lead in sacks by a defensive tackle.

“He knows where our best pass rushers are and he knows the closer you are to him, the better chance you get to get to him,” Gray said. “We’ve got to make sure we take care of the A and the B gaps because the big thing is Peyton Manning is going to get rid of the football and he’s going to get rid of it fast. If we can make him hold it in the secondary, maybe we can get a couple more sacks.”

Casey, a third-round pick in 2011, said he isn’t anxious but is looking forward to his first match against Manning.

“It’s going to be a great game to play against a great quarterback, to go out there and disrupt his timing and things like that, to put him in a bad spot,” Casey said. “You always want to do that against great quarterbacks. You want to see how good you are against those guys so it’s going to be a great challenge for our front four, but I think we’ve got guys that can get the job done.”

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