So how exactly should the Seattle Seahawks hope to stop Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and the most productive offense in the NFL? According to New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, the answer is simple: film study.
Of course, it's plenty easy to just say "film study," but Vilma, who has himself a shiny Super Bowl ring from when the Saints bested the Indianapolis Colts, back when Manning was at the helm, elaborated a bit further on that on Pro Football Talk at the Super Bowl, as noted by Mike Florio.
Vilma said that you have to study Manning specifically, not the offense as a whole. "I would say I was blessed that I had those two weeks to prepare for him," Vilma said, "Because the first week I couldn't really get it all. Then there was the second week I finally started to get a bead on [him]."
Manning is probably the best quarterback in the NFL, and at the very least, he's the best quarterback pre-snap. It seems like he calls more audibles than any quarterback out there, he has a lot of sway in what plays are being called and he's a master at looking off defenders and manipulating the defense as a whole.
Vilma went on to say that, at least back then, Manning didn't like back shoulder throws, especially down the seam. Manning likes to lob it over his receivers and put it right into their hands in stride, so defenders need to know where to be in position for that. He also said that Manning had signals which indicated whether or not he was actually calling an audible or just trying to mislead the defense.
"There were a lot of things I was able to pick up," Vilma said, "Then once you go into the game, it started to just come to me, it became second nature, and I was fortunate enough to have Gregg Williams, so on Peyton they gave me the freedom to make the checks."
Of course, that was a few years ago and Manning has certainly evolved since then. Vilma says Manning had his tells and showed plenty on film -- but the Seahawks will have to take advantage of that. His tells are surely different, the terminology has obviously changed along with the hand signals and Manning just looks better than ever. Your move, Seattle.