Raiders key matchup to watch: No. 1 -- Huff vs. Manning

Raiders key matchup to watch: No. 1 -- Huff vs. Manning
December 6, 2012, 8:30 am
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Michael Huff: “Leaders, like myself and Tyvon (Branch), we've just got to find a way to rise up and make plays."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the final part in a series that spotlighted three Raiders-Broncos matchups to watch Thursday, 5:20 p.m. (NFL Network), at the O.co Coliseum

Raiders CB Michael Huff vs. Broncos QB Peyton Manning

Tale of the tape
Huff (24): 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, seventh season, Texas
Manning (18): 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, 15th season, Tennessee

ALAMEDA -- The last time Michael Huff faced Peyton Manning, Huff was just starting his baptism by fire at cornerback against a trio of elite quarterbacks.

After making the switch from free safety to corner in Week 3, against Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, Huff went up against Manning. Then Huff stared down Atlanta's Matt Ryan.

"Got thrown in the fire," Huff said before facing Manning, who, in turn, absolutely torched the Raiders secondary that day, passing for a season-high 338 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in Week 4.

Eight games later, Huff has found a comfort zone with interceptions of Ryan and Baltimore's Joe Flacco.

"A lot more comfortable," he said. "That was my second game out there, still going through the growing pains. Obviously a lot more comfortable now than I was back then."

Even as general manager Reggie McKenzie still thinks of Huff as a safety. The experience can only help him when he moves back in the secondary, right?

"Oh yeah, it will help me grow," Huff said. "It will help me grow at safety in the future, kind of knowing what things to look at now at corner as opposed to safety. Safety, you’re kind of locked in and focused on just the quarterback and formations and things like that. (At corner), you look more at splits, leverage and things like that. Hopefully I can take that to safety."

But while Huff will be playing against Manning, the Broncos first-year quarterback who seemingly already has comeback player of the year honors wrapped up while making a run at what would be a record fifth MVP trophy, is also facing history.

Just don't bring that up to Manning, who has passed for 3,502 yards with 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His 104.6 passer rating is his best since a 121.1 in 2004.

"I really have tried to kind of live in the moment and try to kind of focus on the now," Manning told Denver reporters this week. "I really haven’t had a whole lot of time to reflect upon years past. Obviously, this has been an entirely new year and there’s been so much on my plate this year -- plenty to focus on -- so it’s not something that I think about a lot.

"Certainly, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, it’s very humbling to be mentioned amongst some of the all-time greats and some of my favorite quarterbacks, guys like Dan Marino and John Elway. It’s very humbling to me. I’m just grateful to be playing the same position as those guys. That’s how I’ve always approached it."

And Huff's approach as the Raiders try to break their first five-game losing streak since 2007?

"Just got to find a way," Huff said. "Obviously, it’s tough, especially in a short week. He is their offensive coordinator so obviously they’ll know what they’re doing. We’ve got to find a way. We’ve got to step up and make plays. Leaders, like myself and Tyvon (Branch), we've just got to find a way to rise up and make plays."

Or, at least make more than they did back in September.

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