FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Rex Ryan already knew facing Peyton Manning is a daunting task in any week.
But the fact the Denver Broncos quarterback is heading to New York five touchdown passes away from tying Brett Favre’s career record? Well, that just doesn’t sit well with the Jets coach.
“Oh, God,” said a wide-eyed Ryan, drawing laughs, when informed of the impending milestone. “Let’s hope he doesn’t do it this week.”
That, of course, would likely mean bad things for the Jets, who have lost four in a row and are trying to save their season before it spirals out of control. Going up against the soon-to-be touchdown tossing king isn’t exactly the ideal cure for the team’s woes.
Manning, who has 503 career TD passes, threw for a career-high 479 yards last weekend with four scores in a 41-20 win over Arizona, tying Dan Marino for the most 400-yard games in NFL history with 13. Ryan was asked if the thought of Manning breaking the record against the Jets entered his mind.
“No, I’m not going into the game thinking we’re going to give up five touchdown passes,” he said. “He’s beat me enough through the years. He doesn’t need to break the record against me.”
Ryan is 2-5 in his career against Manning, as both a defensive coordinator with Baltimore and as a head coach with New York. One of those wins came in 2009, when Manning was pulled early to prevent injury with the playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts entering the game 14-0.
And, if a five-touchdown game for Manning sounds like a stretch, he has thrown at least that many nine times in his career — eight in the regular season.
That includes a seven-TD performance against Baltimore in last year’s season opener that tied an NFL record. Manning also has had five touchdown passes six times, including the playoffs, with the most recent coming against Kansas City last December.
So, yeah, it’s very possible. “It’s a huge challenge for our defense,” linebacker David Harris said. “We’re facing the best quarterback of all time.”
Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman laughed and shook his head when he was asked how the Jets can stop Manning.
“That is really funny,” Thurman said. “Everybody has jokes. Nobody else has (stopped him), right? Has anybody else stopped him?” Well, not many.
Manning is off to another terrific start, with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions in the Broncos’ 3-1 start. While the touchdown mark is the headline, he also needs just 203 yards to pass Jake Plummer (11,631) for the fourth-most yards passing in Broncos history, and 335 to pass Brian Griese (11,763) for third. And it’s only Manning’s third season with the franchise.
New York’s defense is ranked No. 6 overall, in terms of yardage allowed, but has struggled against the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford and Philip Rivers in recent weeks. The Jets realize they need to get in Manning’s face and make him uncomfortable to have a shot at slowing him down. But, as Ryan knows, that’s easier said than done.
“You can’t give him as clear a picture as he wants it to be,” Ryan said. “I think if he has a clear picture, he’s just going to carve you up. You’ve got to change some things on him.”
That means mixing up defensive schemes, blitzing packages, pass-rushing pressure and coverage in the secondary.
“We’ve got our hands full,” Harris said. It also means the Jets won’t rely much on old film of their successes against Manning.
“He has probably studied all of that stuff already,” Thurman said. “From what I understand, he has a projector at home and has two or three different guys breaking down tapes for him two or three weeks ahead of time. He has already done that stuff. So if we go backward, we are probably playing in his wheelhouse.”
The Jets got their first interception of the season last week, and trying to force turnovers has been a focus. New York is also tied for the league lead with 17 sacks, so the Jets’ front seven could be plenty active on Oct. 12th.
“I’m certainly no expert on how to stop him,” Ryan said. “We’ve had some battles through the years and he’s gotten the better of it a lot of times. But, I’m not just going to sit in there and just play one or two coverages.”
(DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer)