Colts will need defense and offense to stop Peyton Manning

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Nose tackle Josh Chapman participates in a drill during Colts practice.

INDIANAPOLIS – Maybe Greg Manusky was joking. In all honesty, he probably wasn’t.

“If you’ve got it, then I’d pay some money for it,” said the Colts’ defensive coordinator when asked if there was a secret to stopping  the quarterback he’ll face in the team’s season opener.

There’s a good chance that doesn’t exist no matter what the money so it’s up to Manusky, his coaches and the players to come up with a way to stop Peyton Manning-who will try to beat his old team for the first time at Sports Authority Field at 8:30 PM Sunday.

“I don’t know the answer for it, but it’s changing it up, working your stuff that you work out throughout the year, the last week, the last two weeks,” said Manusky when trying to vocalize what his defense might try to do against the Broncos.

Containing Manning could be the goal considering the gaudy numbers he put up in 2013.

Last season Manning had career-highs in yardage (5,477) and touchdowns (55) while completing 68.3 percent of his passes in leading Denver to the AFC Championship. This season Manning will be without Eric Decker (Free Agency) and Wes Welker (League Suspension) but he still has Demaryius and Julius Thomas to catch passes along with former Colts tight end Jacob Tamme.

Former Indiana receiver Cody Latimer will be one of those along with newcomer Emmanuel Sanders to try to fill the void left Welker and Decker.

“We’re preparing our players for the whole barrage of things that we’ll see from those numbers being in there,” said Manusky of what the Broncos might throw at the Colts. “We’ll just be prepared during the game to see who’s in the slot and how they’re going to work that position.”

Now the Colts were one of the few teams last season to find a way to partially contain the Manning offense enough to pick up a victory.  Indianapolis allowed 429 yards to the Broncos on October 20th of last year but three forced turnovers were a big part of the team’s 39-33 victory that knocked Denver from the ranks of the undefeated.

“From our standpoint, defensively if we’re all on the same page, we’ll have success,” said Manusky of the key to trying to match-up successfully with Denver.  “We’ve all got to be on the same page. It’s usually when that one person or two persons doesn’t do their job exactly right that he usually takes advantage of, and he usually takes advantage of it quite often.”

So one strategy for the Colts might be the one they also did pretty well last season: Keep the ball away from Manning. While it certainly wasn’t a dominating amount of time the Colts did win the time of possession battle 31:47 to 28:13 and put together five drives over 40 yards for scores.

Three of those over 50 yards-which offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton remembered well.

“I think if you look back at our game last year, we were able to maintain some long drives. It may not be a bad idea for us to try to keep Peyton Manning off the field,” said Hamilton. “Like I said, we just got to do whatever it is that we need to do to move the ball.”

“Keeping it out of Peyton’s (Manning) hands is always the best if you have less. I think it’s the flow of the game too as well. You always talk about three-and-outs with the defense always, and that’s what we always stress,” said Manusky. “We’ve just got to make sure. He’s going to drive the ball, he’s going to make some throws. He’s going to have his yards at times, but we’ve just got to make sure we play great red zone defense.

“We’ve got to play great on third downs as well. We’ve just got to defend him, we’ve got to play the whole field.”

New Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who will make his Colts debut on Sunday night, is realistic though. He knows that Manning will likely be ready for whatever the Colts throw at him, so trying to stop him may come down to simple things.

“He’s seen every look, this is his 16th or 17th year so he’s had a slew of defensive coordinators try to come up with a scheme to stop Peyton. He’s been successful for a very long time,” said Jackson. “Make him go the long, hard way. Not give up big plays, not beat ourselves, play team ball and it’s gonna take all three units-special teams, defense and obviously the offense.”

That might be some advice worth paying for.