Broncos-Raiders matchup No. 1: Peyton Manning vs. Jason Tarver
With 266 passing yards on Sunday, Peyton Manning would break Drew Brees' record for most passing yards in a single season. (AP)
Editor’s note: This is the third part in a series that spotlights three Broncos-Raiders matchups to watch Sunday afternoon, 1:25 p.m., at Oakland Coliseum.
Broncos QB Peyton Manning vs. Raiders DC Jason Tarver
[RELATED: Matchup No. 2: Phillips vs. Veldheer]
Tale of the tape:
Manning (18): 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, 16th season, Tennessee
Tarver: 12th NFL season, 2nd with Raiders
Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver is often call the mad chemist. The former scientist has a knack for creating blitzes that surprise and confuse, which covered the Raiders’ defensive inadequacies.
That only worked for so long. When the four-man rush couldn’t produce steadily enough, Tarver’s blitzes became a liability. When injuries stacked up in a once-proud secondary, the defense went from decent to downtrodden.
“That’s an area we have to continue to look to improve from a four-man rush standpoint,” head coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ve tried to do some different things and bring some different people to try to affect the quarterback. When you do that, sometimes you open yourself up to explosive plays. That’s an area that we’ve got to continue to work to improve on.”
If Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning knows you’re vulnerable in coverage, a defense stands little chance. If the Raiders in fact lose questionable cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins to injury, Tarver stands little chance of slowing Manning down.
Manning will be supremely motivated on Sunday, with home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and the NFL record for passing yards in a single season within reach.
“As a defense, you need to keep executing, and then you need to know where Peyton going to go and change the call and use your rules through those calls,” Tarver said. “It’s easier said than done because he’s on the ball so fast. So I think our guys, through the two San Diego games after the Denver game, have learned how to handle this offense a little bit better. This is where the league is going. It’s only going to get faster. So on defense, you’ve got to learn how to communicate faster and get it done. And that’s what the good defenses are going to do in the future of this thing..”
Nobody runs a highly complex, high-tempo offense like Manning does. The scary part: experience only makes Manning’s Broncos stronger. Familiarity has turned very good into great, and has Manning’s offense considered among the best to ever play.
“I think you saw it as the season wore on a year ago — coming off the injury and then just getting more comfortable with his teammates and his coaching staff, really the city of Denver for that matter.,” Broncos head coach John Fox said. “I think he started where he left off. He had an excellent start. He’s been really consistent throughout the season. I think that’s why he’s had some record performances throughout the season.”
The key, it seems, is disguising blitzes. If Manning can figure a defense out, it stands no chance. Tarver disguises better than most with his “multiplicity through simplicity” mantra, where the same blitz can have several different looks.
“I’ll say one thing: Oakland does one of the better jobs of disguising coverages, especially [free safety Charles] Woodson,” Broncos receiver Eric Decker said. “He moves around the field. He makes it tough to know if it’s going to be two high, one high safety, if it’s man or zone coverage. But through study, as a team even, maybe seeing some tips, maybe something where we can figure out so we can be a step ahead like you said, to know the coverage’s. Again, that’s why [Manning] is one of the best because he can pick that up, he can put you in situations that will make you successful.”
[RELATED: Matchup No. 3: Vasquez vs. Sims]
Manning takes failed plays and makes subtle adjustments to make them work. That’s something a defense can’t prepare for, and it’s what makes the Broncos so good.
“They’ve had one of the best offensive years in the history of the NFL,” Tarver said. “There are some things that we look at on our film, and we say, ‘We can do that better.’ And there are certain things that we’ve done well against teams that (run an up-tempo, easily adjusted offense). That’s what we need to focus on. We need to focus on doing our job and controlling the pocket the way we have in certain games and limiting explosive plays. We did limit explosive plays in that first game against Denver. And if we take advantage of more opportunities, we’ll be in better shape as that game progresses.”