Manning wants quick results

Here is my Saturday column previewing the 49ers’ Sunday night game against the Broncos.

Peyton Manning has a philosophy: Skip third down. On second down, get another first down.

Manning opposes third down on principle. To beat him, a team must understand this.

Some offenses play for third downs, strive to get to third-and-2 or third-and-3. They call that “third and manageable.” To get there, they play it safe and call runs on second-and-6 or second-and-7. An incomplete pass on second and long leads to third-and-long and no team wants to face that.

Manning does not play it safe. He wants to pass on second-and-long. Since 2013, the Broncos have passed 100 times more than they have run on second-and-6 to second-and-10.

Why does Manning operate this way? Simple. He’s much better on first and second down than he is on third down. This season, his passer rating on first down is 123, on second down it’s 114 and on third down it’s 90.

He wants to attack the defense downfield when it has to respect the possibility that the Broncos might run. That is not what happens on third down. Third down is a passing down. Manning doesn’t have the mobility or arm strength anymore to shred a defense if it knows he’s passing. On third down he is not special.

Compare Manning to Colin Kaepernick. They’re opposites. Kaepernick is at his best on third down even though the defense knows he has to make a play. Kaepernick’s passer rating on third down this season is 115 and he’s averaging 7.3 yards per carry on third down. His passer rating on first down is 82, and on second down it’s 97 – both inferior to Manning. Kaepernick can do whatever it takes to convert third downs. He can do the things Manning cannot. He is a better third-down quarterback than Manning.

The Broncos have to stop Kaepernick on third down to beat the 49ers. The Niners have to stop Manning on first and second down to beat the Broncos. That’s what this game will come down to.

How can the Niners stop Manning on first and second down?

There are ways.

Look what the Jets did to Manning this past Sunday. They blitzed and forced him to leave the launch point in the pocket, forced him to move and extend the play, which he doesn’t do well. When he had to throw on the run, he bounced balls in front of receivers. He looked washed up.

The Jets did something else, something clever. Instead of blitzing Manning, sometimes they rushed only three defenders and dropped eight into coverage — six underneath and two deep.

Manning is a rhythm quarterback. He taps his feet in the pocket as a timing mechanism and he wants to get the ball out of his hands fast. By dropping six defenders into underneath zone coverage, the Jets clogged the shallow lanes and took away Manning’s favorite passes — the quick passes, the check downs and outlets. Manning had to hold the ball and tap his feet longer than he wanted to. He was out of rhythm.

Rushing only three defenders is asking for trouble against most quarterbacks. Most quarterbacks can run away from three defensive linemen. Try rushing three against Kaepernick. He will scramble for a first down, or he will run around behind the line of scrimmage and extend the play until a receiver breaks open downfield. Manning can’t do that.

So how did the Broncos win against the Jets?

They ran the ball. You must hand it off if eight defenders start backpedaling when the ball is snapped. They’re daring you to run. You take the dare. The Broncos ran 33 times for 138 yards against the Jets. The running game opened up the passing game, not what you expect from a pass-crazy Peyton Manning offense.

Can the Broncos do the same against the Niners Sunday night, run the ball to open up the pass?

Yes, they can. The 49ers won’t have Patrick Willis to run down Ronnie Hillman, the Broncos’ super-fast running back. Willis has a sprained toe. If Hillman runs well on first down, Manning will do what he does on second down and avoid third down. The Broncos will win 30-21.

But if Vic Fangio’s Niners’ defense somehow forces Manning into a series of third downs, the 49ers will win 21-20.

It all comes down to downs.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at

This article has 102 Comments

  1. I think this game works out ok for the 49ers win or lose. They have a lot of guys out and so if they manage to win, it will feel like they stole one. If they lose, well at least a lot of starters are getting some rest.

  2. Yeah it’s easyer said then done let’s do the same for kap how do you stop kap rush rush rush have a spy don’t let him get out keep him in the pocket this writer is stupid

  3. The 2009 49ers-Colts game was one of Manusky’s best. He had Justin, Haralson and others standing before the snap… moving around… faking which gap to attack. It was weird seeing 2 pt stances by the entire D line, but totally entertaining.

    Manning hit early and often. The 49ers shut down the Colts offense like no other that season. I’m hoping for something similar Sunday night.

    1. An issue defending Manning is how fast he gets rid of the ball.

      It presents a delima for pass rushers. Should they expend energy bull rushing, or expend their best technique moves in situations where Manning has the ball away even if the moves work?

      Or does a defender focus on bat downs and clogging passing lanes early, saving their best pass rush efforts for long down-distance situations?

  4. Keys:
    1- Mistake free football – no penalties which favor Denver.
    2- Ball control to keep Dever O on sidelines and defense fresh. Run the ball down their throats.
    3 – Kap must continue to progress as he did versus Rams.
    4- pressure PM and get his jersey dirty.
    5 – strong play from new players. Would not be surprised to see Dontea J. play quite a bit. He Borland and Cook must have big games.
    6- Cowboy and Lynch must have big games. Brooks should too and Williams will be a key in the middle stopping the run and collapsing the pocket.

  5. Excellent analysis (except for the score predictions :-) ). And I love how in addition to citing Kap’s quarterback rating a person has as a matter of course also to cite his yards per carry. Doesn’t this speak volumes for how unique our guy is?

    1. Lol. As difficult as it may seem, I’m sure Borland or Wilhoit will. It’s not rocket science for a football player to learn signals. I trust the Borland(if I had to guess) knows them. All of them.

  6. Grant is right about Mannings accuracy being greatly affected by getting him out of his rhythm. In the Superbowl when he was taken out of his comfort zone he was very inaccurate and often threw in front of his receivers.

  7. Put Peyton on the turf .. early and often ..

    Make him hear footsteps ala Jim Everett ..
    If you get in his head .. he’ll end up passing like crap

  8. Grant

    Well, well. You deserve much credit for this piece. I am very impressed with your research and logic. As a result, your reasoning is comprehensive and your argument strong. Nicely done.

  9. Nice analysis Grant. Very concise and good job cutting out of the fluff and telling us how PM plays. It will be a tough one for the niners but hopefully they can keep up the momentum.

  10. I’ve removed the Pick’em players that have already stopped participating…quitters. Going forward if you stop playing too bad, your score is still going to get posted each week so you might as well keep playing.

  11. I hope Vernon can look like he has a clue what he’s doing today, last game was plain ugly for him.

      1. That’s a “dog ate my homework” kind of excuse. Pain didn’t make him go off sides and pain didn’t make him run into Vance and screw up what looked like an easy TD. Although Vance so far has made nothing look easy, including the easy stuff.

        1. As I reread it, I can’t actually tell now if he’s blaming it on pain or not. He says he was playing through things and that it was a “painful” night but does that mean he was in pain or pained from how bad he was playing.

      1. Typical media overreaction. Reminds me of when we started 1-2 last season and everyone was wondering what was wrong with the team. I like Rich Eisen but to even bother mentioning that they’re in 3rd place given the division is clearly for the shock value of the statement rather then to bear any merit.

        1. yeah.. well ..
          they’re all pickin’ the Broncos to win ..

          how great will it be to see them all with
          egg on their faces ?

            1. Coffee ..
              I’m not part of the yahoo thing
              .. but if you could add my picks from
              the previous thread.. I’d appreciate it ..
              I’ll take the hit on the Thurs night game

  12. The Harvin trade may have set the Hawks this season. He made a few plays in the NFCCG, but the game came down to a Niner implosion with the turnover fest in the 2nd half.
    He had some great plays in the SB, but Seahawks would have won the game anyway.
    They tried to work him into the offense this year and look at the results.
    Maybe they sign LaMichael James!

    Tonight will be an interesting game for the Niners and Colin. I doubt the Broncos let the Niners run and dare them to they and keep up in a shoot-out type game.

    1. Seattle became better with the trade. He was clearly a headache and without his tension around I expect to see a better team on the field. The real danger is now they’re open to getting a legitimate WR threat.

    2. Might just happen, fan ..

      We saw Kaep do a little of that in the Lambs game ..
      Maybe, G-ro will cut him loose this time around

            1. The Rams did this to Seattle last year in that Monday night game. Difference is they’ve scored TD’s instead of FG’s.

  13. Sesttles offense looks horrible. I’d just hand the ball of every play. Wilson is an average qb. Nothing special in that pocket and almost threw a pick. Rams are driving again… Hope they play 4 quarters

  14. Lambs over SeAdderal 21-3

    No TV here. For anyone watching, is it the butt kicking it seems to be?

      1. I’m in the hills west of Healdsburg, in the Mill Creek area. Trees in the way of Satellite. Since the DTV switch, dial-up and radio are my windows to the world.

    1. Yes it is. They are sacking Wilson 3 so far, seattles offense looks dismal no passing threat and the rams are stopping lynch.
      1 TD was off of a beautiful fake on a punt.
      Other TD was a good drive
      Other TD was another god drive
      They are running and passing all over seattles defense.
      They are giving them an old fashioned a** whooping right now. Verge of a blowout

  15. Lmao 3 sacks for stl in the first half alone. Now will the story be…
    A… The Seahawks game them the game.
    B… Fluke win by the rams
    I bet it won’t be C… The 49ers actually destroyed a pretty good football team.
    That’s if the Rams hold on

  16. Although gutting the WR corp I don’t believe was his fault I think Rivera will take the fall at the end of the season.

  17. I’m gonna harp on this ’till it happens (or not)

    The Niners WILL</strong .. sweep
    the SeaChickens this year !!

    Sure thats a bold statement …but I’m stickin’ by it
    anyhoo !

    If I end up with egg on my face … oh well !

  18. Dear Rams, the key to maintaining leads…
    – Do something with the first 3rd qtr possession… even if its just 3 points.
    – Maintain drives to keep the D fresh

  19. This game looks like a carbon copy of our game against the Rams last week.
    Would love to the Rams win today, but mediocre teams often find ways to lose while the good teams find ways to win.

    1. Welp mediocre teams don’t usually score that late with momentum on the other teams side. Could be the game clincher there.

  20. The Rams have a lot of dumb players. You got the first down to clinch the game. Why risk a fumble to gain a couple of yards? The Rams got lucky because the zebras screwed up.

    1. Yes they do :) That is also on the coaches. They called a time-out before that play and you would assume that they were telling their guys to protect the ball at all times especially after getting the first down.

    1. Not really because the replay does not show a clear posession by either team and the Ram’s player had the ball under the pile. But they should have at least review the play.

  21. Let’s face it they’ve looked like a mediocre team for several weeks now. No excuses. Questionable calls happen to all teams always will.

  22. My favorite part of that game was Dick Sherman had the ball in his arms and couldn’t put it away on the fumble. Ha ha haaaaa

    1. That guy has not made a play when they need him to since Rogers decided to stay away from him :)

    2. Mary had a little lamb, and its fleece was blue and yellow
      Dick Charmin lost it in his arms, now are you mad bro?

  23. 23/36 313yds 2 TD Wilson Lost
    18/21 152yds 2 TD Davis Won

    Nothing like big stats in a losing effort….

    1. Yeah and one of those drives for Wilson was againts a rams defense trying to lose. Meaning Prevent. :-)

  24. Again, my favorite Hawks blog post.

    “I guess the bandwagon people in Seattle are going back to being 49ers or Broncos fans once again like usually.”

    Carolina may be another trap game for them next week.

    1. Where’s Jim Mora? Doesn’t he like to be entertained by a lot of passing? Wilson had a great 300 yard game. Look where that got the hawks.

      1. He’s a troll but I’m not sure he’s a Seahawk’s troll. I think that he’s still crying about Alex Smith so he’ll stalk Harbaugh and Kap for the remainder of their careers. I think it’s funny to see Jim Mora flailing around and revealing that he doesn’t know anything about football.

  25. A.J. Jenkins has a sure touchdown of about 70 yards on a bubble screen and steps out of bounds with himself clear of anyone on the chargers by 10 yards. He just accidentally steps out of bounds while running down the sideline for no reason. Hilarious!

    1. Lol I was thinking the same thing. Laughed harder when he put his hands on his head.. With the oh no look.

  26. It’s funny to me that, now that he’s been traded, Percry Harvin has suddenly become a “Gadget Player” and “really isn’t a dangerous WR” on the NFL studio shows, instead of the “dominant playmaker” that he supposedly was when he was still with the Seahawks. So much pro-Seahawk bias, it’s not even funny.

    I’ve been pointing out how limited Harvin is a WR, ever since Grant started drooling over Harvin, constantly saying how dangerous he is as a WR. Huh? Based on what? Wishful thinking?

    Sure, he may pop a long rush, punt or kick return, every once in a while, but he is in no way a polished WR. He’s very limited and only suited to be a number three WR, IMO. If he wasn’t such an A-hole and was willing to be coached, maybe he could develop as a WR, but he’s pretty far from that right now.

    1. They pick their darlings and roll with them. Guess who is the greatest team of all time is again???? Smh

      1. with only one trophy in da case …
        it sure ain’t the SeaChickens, MD ..

        On another note .. Phillip Rivers throw an INT
        at the end of the game …

        Chiefs win 23-20

    1. Legion of “whom” ?

      MNF Pregame reporting Aldon Smith might
      return two games early !!

      How cool is that ?

  27. Florio reporting that Aldon Smith might be reinstated one or two games early.

    Would be nice to have Smith back after the bye. Could make a very good defense great.

Comments are closed.