Calvin Pace regularly applies the heat on opposing quarterbacks. But on Monday he put the pressure on the Jets’ defensive front as they get set to begin their week of preparation for Saturday’s AFC Wild Card Game at the Colts.
“This game is really going to come down to the front four,” said the veteran outside linebacker. “I know we’ve taken some criticism in not necessarily getting the sack numbers that we probably should have, but we want to step our game up with the front four. Sometimes maybe not blitzing as much, just rushing the four guys to try to get to Peyton.”
The Jets actually finished tied for eighth in the league in sacks during the regular season, amassing 40 over 16 games. But Manning, whose 679 pass attempts led the NFL, finished tied among all starters for the fewest times sacked — he and his brother, Eli, were put down just 16 times.
“The beauty of this week is you know Peyton is going to be sitting right behind the center,” said Pace. “He’s not going to move around too much and that helps us out.”
But Manning’s mind is always moving and that often keeps him ahead of defenses. Despite losing both TE Dallas Clark and WR Austin Collie to injury this season, he still threw for 4,700 yards and completed 66.3 percent of his passes.
“He comes to the line and says different things. I don’t know how much of it is to alert certain guys that maybe a blitz is coming, maybe a hot route, maybe he’s changing the direction of a run,” said Pace of the famous director.
The 34-year-old Manning was interception-free for three of the last four regular-season games. That followed an unimaginable three-week stretch sandwiched around Thanksgiving when he was victimized by 11 interceptions.
“We have to give him some different looks, maybe some things he hasn’t seen to maybe confuse him a little bit here and there,” Pace said. “I know some teams have had some interceptions on him and it helped them win games.”
Saturday will mark the third time the Jets and the Colts have squared off in Lucas Oil Stadium since Dec. 27, 2009. The Jets won their Week 16 meeting last year when the then-perfect Colts sat Manning in the second half after he completed 14 of 21 for 192 yards. Then in the AFC Championship Game, he was brilliant in leading the home squad back from an 11-point deficit, passing for 377 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-17 win.
“I do remember a lot of the plays Indy was running, I remember the tempo the game was being run at, I remember some of the route combinations, so it does help a lot,” Pace said. “It’s tough because to go from the Buffalo week and going back to where we need to be, to fast-forward and go into playoff mode is tough. It’s a fast transition that we have to make.”
There will be familiarity on both sides. Inside ‘backer David Harris sacked Manning twice in the first quarter of the AFC Championship as the Jets forced consecutive three-and-outs to open up, but momentum was lost late in the first half.
“He’s seen every blitz. He’s probably already watched half our season,” said Pace. “It’s tough, but disguises are going to be key. And when guys are given chances to make plays, we’ll have to make plays, whether it’s an interception or coming up with a fumble or whatnot. We have to have an impact on this game and we have before. I think we did a great job last year. There were just a couple of big plays in the AFC Championship Game. We just have to take that same type of intensity for this first game.”
Tags: Calvin Pace, Indianapolis Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium, Peyton Manning
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