The event on the field in Indianapolis Sunday may be billed as Manning Bowl II, but a guy who won't even be in uniform might be a big key to Eli Manning's success against his big brother.
Jim Sorgi, right wing in sling after shoulder capsule surgery, career stalled on injured reserve, but armed with six years of experience as Peyton Manning's backup, is spilling all this week about the Colts' Hall of Fame-bound quarterback. While that might not help Peyton's little brother directly, both being offensive players and all, Eli could benefit if the defense absorbs enough of the information and then out-executes an offense known for its expert workmanship.
The key, Sorgi said, is to get on Peyton early and keep on him throughout.
"I've seen a lot of defenses give him a little trouble early in the game, and by the second quarter, second half, he's figured it out," Sorgi said. "And then the offense is humming again. Historically, that's just the way he's been. He's very good at studying films and tendencies, and going back years to study coordinators and players."
The first Manning Bowl in 2006 resulted in a 26-21 Giants loss, though Eli acquitted himself well with a 20-of-34, 247-yard performance with two touchdowns and an interception. He was even more productive touchdown-wise than his big brother, who had only one touchdown pass against one interception. The key back then, however, was to control the ball enough with the offense to limit the Colts' time with the ball.
The same holds true now. Houston beat the Colts 34-24 last week with a huge, clock-eating ground game that saw Arian Foster rush for 231 yards and three touchdowns. Because they fell behind 13-0 in the first half, Manning went to the air 57 times, completing 40 of them for 433 yards and three TDs. Even though the Texans held an eventual 27-7 lead in the fourth quarter, Manning kept coming.
If Sorgi stresses one thing this week, it will be that the defense simply cannot let up against a receiving corps that now includes ReggieWayne, Austin Collie, tight end Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, and Anthony Gonzalez.
On top of that, they'll have Peyton's no-huddle offense to deal with, along with all the wild gyrations he goes through before the snap; some signaling legitimate play adjustments, some just dummy signals to create defensive chaos.
It'll be a far different challenge than the Panthers' limited passing attack last week. And Sorgi warned that even new defensive coordinator's Perry Fewell's varied personnel machinations will come as no surprise to Peyton Manning.
"I'm sure he'll go back and watch some of the old Bills tapes," Sorgi said, referring to Fewell's most recent, previous coaching stop. "It's kind of what (Peyton) does. He's the master of his profession."
The secondary knows what it will be up against. The three-safety alignment of Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, and Deon Grant that snatched two end zone interceptions against Matt Moore last week may have to sit a week in favor of an extra cornerback – Aaron Ross if his plantar fasciitis permits -- because of the talent and depth of the Colts' wide receiving corps. It might even do the Giants well to get a guy like Grant, who played Manning twice a year during his three seasons in Jacksonville (2004-06), on the field.
"The main thing is we've got to get them on third down and get the offense to score so they make some changes," Grant said.
Antrel Rolle said the three-safety alignment would not be out of the question, however.
"They've got a great offense," he said. "Not a complicated one, but they execute very well. But we can do whatever we want to do. It's all about creating mismatches. You expect both the run and pass out of them, but you prepare the defense for more pass than run."
The defense can expect more rushing this week, considering scoreboard conditions limited the Colts to just 10 rushing attempts against the Texans. The closer Manning gets to that run-pass balance, the more dangerous he becomes.
Sorgi saw that first-hand. And he knows it's not all about knowing what Peyton is up to.
"Being there six years, I put in a lot of the information they use," Sorgi said. "But sometimes, how much you know really doesn't matter. I can give them all the information, and it'll come down to, can we knock Peyton down and can we get him to force the ball out?
"You can know a route's coming and still not cover it. You got to hit him and hit him early, force a lot of turnovers, and hopefully you'll put up enough points, too."