To snap streak, Texans need to stop Manning

To snap streak, Texans need to stop Manning
December 19, 2013, 4:45 pm
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J.J. Watt on Manning: 'His career speaks for itself'

(USA Today Images)

The Texans’ coaches haven’t come to Joe Mays looking for any advice this week. And even if they did, the inside linebacker doesn’t think he’d be any help.

See, Mays spent his last three seasons with the Broncos and last year went up against Peyton Manning in practice every day. But he doesn’t even think that experience will help him on Sunday.

“Not really,” he said. “Last year, we would think that we were picking up some things at practice but he would change it. So he did a great job of changing it and making sure all the guys knew what was happening. But on defense, we would think that we know but we had no idea.”

If the Broncos had a different quarterback, knowing some of those tendencies might work. And it’s not uncommon for defensive coaches to ask a player who used to play for that week’s opponent for some help.

But Manning isn’t any common quarterback.

“It’ll be tough to pick up on Peyton’s tendencies anyway, just because of the type of quarterback he is,” Mays said. “He’s one of the greatest quarterbacks for a reason and he does a great job of communicating and making sure his teammates are on the same page. I’ll try to pick up on something during the game but as far as me trying to use some things from last year, I don’t think it’s going to work.”

Yup. Peyton Manning is good. He’s beyond good. He’s a once-in-a-generation talent. And the Texans will need to find a way to stop him at Reliant Stadium on Sunday if they want to break their 12-game losing streak.

“He’s the commander, he’s the play caller and he does his thing,” said rookie safety D.J. Swearinger, who said he’s been studying more than normal this week as he prepares to face Manning. “We’ve just got to step our game up and switch up our looks and give him different looks, and be able to play games with him.”

Manning missed the entire 2011 season after neck surgery but the Broncos took a chance, signing the then 35-year-old to a rich deal after he was cut by the Colts. And Manning has rewarded that risk by having two of his best seasons.

"I really feel I’m in the second chapter of my football career," Manning said.

If it's a new chapter, it's been a must-read.

At 37-years-old, Manning isn’t just having a good season, he’s having a season for the record books. Through 14 games this year, he’s already thrown 47 touchdown passes and is just three shy of tying Tom Brady’s single season record. Two of the top four passing touchdown seasons in NFL history now belong to Manning. And the Broncos have scored 535 points, more than any team in NFL history through 14 games.

This week, the Broncos are coming off a seven-point loss to the Chargers and are still playing for their division and playoff seeding. That seems like a recipe for disaster for a Texans team that comes into Sunday on a franchise-record 12-game losing streak.

“I don’t know if it’s a good time anytime to be facing (Manning),” said interim head coach Wade Phillips, who thought Thursday’s practice was one of the best of the season. “Yeah, I think it’s a big challenge.

While the Texans have the second-best pass defense in the NFL, Phillips said the key against Manning will be how much pressure they can get on him. Phillips said they’ll use some zone coverage and try to mix things up against Manning, but they know how difficult it will be; Phillips said Manning sees the weaknesses in every coverage.

Last season in Week 3, Manning threw for 330 yards and two touchdowns but the Texans were able to beat the Broncos. That loss was a rare one for Manning against Houston. He holds a 16-3 record against the Texans in his career and has more wins against them than any other team.

“Same player,” cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. “Look over the years, putting up the same numbers, challenging for the records this year. It’s the same guy. Can put the ball all over the field in every spot, get everybody lined up. It’s a tough task.”