Getting bigger, tougher, more physical cornerbacks will certainly help the Patriots when it comes to beating Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. And that seems to be the crux of the Patriots’ offseason mission. Manning had to be in mind with the free agent signings of future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis, one of the game’s best shutdown corners, and the imposing, 6-foot-4, 220-pound press-corner Brandon Browner. The Broncos quarterback picked apart the Pats secondary in the 26-16 AFC Championship Game loss (especially after Aqib Talib went down to injury), going 32-for-43 for 400 yards with two TDs. The Pats, however, shouldn’t believe improved coverage is the Manning antidote. Looking back at that championship game, the Pats didn’t lay a finger on Manning. He had virtually all day to pick his spots, or at the very least, enough time to make his read and deliver the football. With no pressure, even having great coverage guys on the flanks won’t guarantee success. Translation? The Pats still need to do some work adding to the pass rush mix, be it bringing in another interior defensive lineman, or someone else on the edge to complement Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich and help create a rotation that will reduce the wear and tear on them. Manning is a different guy if he gets belted early. We’ve seen the same scenario play out with Tom Brady in games against the Jets, Ravens, Bengals and Seahawks. It’s really no secret. Former Ravens and Jets linebacker Bart Scott believes that has to be the strategy against Manning. In Super Bowl XLVIII, Manning was intimidated by the Seahawks defense from the start. According to Scott, Jets coach Rex Ryan opts for the same strategy against Brady. Scare tactics can be any great quarterback’s Kryptonite. “Rex knows the one thing that negates how great your quarterback is, is if you hit ’em in the mouth. Peyton Manning showed that (in the Super Bowl),” the CBS analyst told the Herald in a recent interview. “People can say what they want. But you can see that Peyton Manning wasn’t all-in. It was intimidation. “Rex understands certain quarterbacks, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, if you get toward ’em, they’ll fold up like a bad tent every time. If you hit ’em early, they see ghosts later. That’s always the plan. But you have to have the talent to be able to do it.” Not every team can do what the Seahawks did against the record-setting Manning. They also had top-flight coverage guys in cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell, along with safety thumpers, Cam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. But Seattle also had a defensive front that made Manning uncomfortable all night long. Manning was scrambling for his life much of the time. He didn’t often have a comfortable pocket, which helped force bad decisions on his two first-half interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. That “seek and destroy” strategy will likely impact most quarterbacks, but the Patriots pass rush of last season wasn’t at that intimidating level against Manning when needed most. ESPN analyst Herm Edwards reinforced Scott’s notion that pass defense begins with pressure. “The Patriots now have some veteran corners who they feel comfortable can play man coverage, but it still starts up front,” Edwards told the Herald Friday. “It’s got to be coordinated together. Those guys in the back end can jam, but the front guys have to get there. Most of the quarterbacks you play against aren’t elite quarterbacks. But all of a sudden, if you play press coverage, and bring an extra rusher, a lot of these guys just become a simple quarterback, and they’re not very good at doing that.” If reports are true, free agent defensive lineman Jared Allen appears headed to Seattle, so he’s no longer a possibility to help stoke the Pats pass rush.
Patriots still lack a few horses up front
Boston Herald | Mar 23