Will Mangini's Past Help Jets Against Colts?

Jets head coach Eric Mangini used to work for Bill Belichick in New England. And the Patriots defense often gave Peyton Manning a hard time. Will Mangini be able to translate some of that success to the Jets? Scout.com takes a look at that aspect of this weekend's game.

Once again, Eric Mangini has been asked a lot of questions about his days in New England.

But this time, it's not because he's taking on his former coach, Bill Belichick. It's because Mangini's Jets are facing Indianapolis, which has struggled against the Patriots since Belichick arrived in Foxboro before the 2000 season. In nine starts against New England since then, Manning's Colts are 2-7 and he has thrown 16 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions in those games.

Mangini was on Belichick's staff for all those meetings, and was the Pats' defensive coordinator in 2005. In that game, Manning was 28-for-37 for 321 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in the Colts' 40-21 win. Manning took advantage of an injury-ravaged Patriot secondary.

Still, Mangini's opinion is the same as it was before the New England game, or, for that matter, before any game. The past doesn't matter all that much to him.

"We'll look at those games and talk about those games," Mangini said, but he quickly added, "The thing that Peyton does so well is he evolves. Each year the problem he created the year before, now he creates a new problem. That's what makes him a special guy. He does a lot of self-scouting. He does a lot of opponent scouting. He can generate some new things for you to deal with."

Of course, the Jets did watch some tape of how the Patriots dealt with Manning.

"We watched a little bit of that," linebacker Jonathan Vilma said, "especially the (2004) AFC Divisional Game in New England. That was a good game to watch. We took notes from that. (But) it's going to be our game, different guys, different players, just the same quarterback."

"That was a long time ago," strong safety Kerry Rhodes said. "They're a great team, Peyton Manning is a Hall of Fame quarterback and Marvin Harrison is a Hall of Fame receiver. A lot of teams talk about ways of stopping them, but no one really does it. They have a great connection going. We just have to go out there and play hard and hopefully, coach (Mangini) will give us some pointers on how to play them well."

One of the elements of the Patriots' defensive mastery against Manning and the Colts has been their close coverage of Harrison and the rest of the Indy wideouts. In the 2003 AFC championship, New England's coverage was so tight it bordered on illegal, and even crossed that border a few times.

The NFL responded the next season by re-emphasizing the rule making contact with eligible receivers beyond 5 yards from the line of scrimmage illegal, and it became known as the "Ty Law Rule," after the former New England corner, now with Kansas City.

"I think it's always an element of each game plan," Mangini said of tight coverage. "I feel like the Colts are still in the division with how frequently I've been involved in facing them. Every year it's a new approach and every year it's something different. It's important to have something different because if (Manning) sees it, and knows it, he'll beat it.

Which brings up another important point about playing Manning. A defense has to be able to distinguish between the times when Manning is audibilizing, and the times when he's not checking off at all, but merely pretending to do so.

"You don't know when he's really checking or when he's not," Vilma said. "We have to stay sharp mentally. The physical part will take care of itself during the game, but mentally we have to really understand what we're doing, since he's a great quarterback and he has guys that can make plays for him."

"People talk about him pre-snap," Rhodes said, "but after the snap he does a great job of reading (defenses). It's tough, it just comes down to the plan and competing."

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