The Baltimore Ravens defense is one of the best in the league and no one is doubting that. It begs to reason that the Chargers should take some hints from their play and ability to hold Manning to one touchdown pass.
The Ravens used a lot of movement on defense which constantly made Peyton Manning audible at the line. He is a master of the check – knowing what the defense is going to throw at him and calling a play that counters that. But the movement the Ravens employed threw off the usually unshakeable Manning.
There is no real way to stop the Colts offense. They are poised to become the first team in league history to have three receivers have ten or more touchdown receptions and four players overall.
"Maybe if you took the air out of the ball," head coach Marty Schottenheimer (joked?) said when asked how to stop Manning. "That might give you a chance. But knowing the way he throws it, they're liable to catch it anyway."
Manning has thrown 47 touchdowns this season, one shy of the NFL League record of 48 held by Dan Marino.
"Heck, I threw 29 touchdowns last year, and it felt like a lot," Manning said.
In other words, you can only hope to contain him. Manning is playing at a level that is beyond comparison right now. His offensive line has allowed a league-low eight sacks and his receivers are getting open before pressure can even be seen.
There is a stigma that says the man who allows the record-setting touchdown will go down in infamy. Give him the record as long as the Chargers get the win. Besides, it will be the last touchdown he throws that will go down in infamy. They don't ask who was the pitcher that gave up Bonds' 71st home run (Chan Ho Park). Trivial Pursuit asks who gave up the 73rd and final homer (Dennis Springer).
That doesn't take away from the personal challenge the Chargers' defense faces this week. Just like last week when they were able to preserve their first shutout in 11 years, there is a sense of pride associated with keeping him off the record ledger.
"Knowing the competitive nature of our football team, I'm sure that's something that they're looking at," Schottenheimer reasoned. "By the same token, I think the sole objective is (winning). He can throw five touchdown passes as long as we have one more point than they do at the end of the day."
"I know he didn't break the record last week so I think you almost think ‘what happens if he throws the ball to your guy and he scores a touchdown,'" linebacker Donnie Edwards said. "To get the record on your guy and forever in history you'd be the one guy that gave him that touchdown. We're excited for the challenge. It's going to be a great Christmas present for us, if we get a big victory."
Ultimately, the win is all that matters. Manning can throw touchdown after touchdown as long as the Chargers better the output by one point. The win and playoff positioning is at stake. The game is in Indy which means another playoff atmosphere – as it has been the last six weeks.
A win on Sunday is more proof that the Chargers can play with the big boys. A win on Sunday silences another critic. A win on Sunday gives them at least the third seed in the playoffs and it puts them in position to pounce on a bye week if New England falters against the Jets.
The touchdown record isn't on the line this week although it will be talked about, as witnessed here, at nausea. Overall records and tie-breaker positioning for the playoffs is on the line and that is all that matters.
"Every game is going to be like a playoff atmosphere," Brees conceded with a smile.
It don't mean a thing if you aint got that ring
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