On the list of all-time Raiders killers, Peyton Manning would be as good a pick as any at quarterback. He has a 9-2 record against them in his career, and in three seasons with the Denver Broncos, he has beaten them six times in as many tries.
The Raiders get another crack at the future Hall of Fame quarterback at O.co Coliseum today, when the 39-year-old Manning makes what very well may be his final Bay Area appearance.
Defense coordinator Ken Norton is among the few Raiders who has had any success against Manning in the past. He served as Seattle Seahawks’ linebackers coach when they dominated Manning and the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVII. Then-Seahawks linebacker Malcom Smith was selected Most Valuable Player in the game.
“I remember it vividly,” Norton said. “It was just a good day for us. But at the same time, that was another place, another time. We have to obviously make plays, execute and compete on the field against them.”
This is not the same Manning who tormented the Raiders in the past. He no longer has the physical attributes that separated him from the rest, as health problems have begun to take a cumulative toll.
Manning doesn’t have the arm strength of old, but he thinks the game as well as ever. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio called him “one of the all-time greats” and a “tough matchup” for his team.
Manning and Del Rio are no strangers. The two frequently matched wits in practice while Del Rio served as Broncos defensive coordinator in the 2012-14 seasons.
“He’s like an offensive coordinator with a computer in his head, but he also gets the snap every play,” Del Rio said. “It’s a heck of a challenge.”
For the first time in his career, Manning has a defense that can carry him for a change. The Broncos boast perhaps the deepest, most talented unit in the AFC if not the league. It ranks first in fewest yards per game and per play.
Coordinator Wade Phillips rotates players regularly in an aggressive scheme that borders on reckless at times. Many observers around the league consider the group to among the most athletic in recent memory, and the Raiders see much the same thing.
“They’re definitely quick,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “They’ve made a lot of plays in four games, so I’d say they’re riding high.”
The Broncos thrive in third-and-long situations, when edge rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are at their best.
“We have to stay true to our values and our habits — good ball security and make sure that we put our guys in position to be successful game-planning-wise and scheme-wise,” Musgrave said.
At the other side of the ball, the Broncos have struggled to run the ball consistently. The Raiders have the league’s worst-rated pass defense, a weakness that may invite Manning to throw it more often especially early in the game.
Said Norton, “[Manning] is still pretty good. He still knows how to win ballgames. He knows how to get the ball to the right person at the right time. He’s very smart on the field. I’m very impressed watching him on film.”