Manning Takes Aim at Dallas’ Tampa Two Defense

Peyton Manning spent years in Indianapolis practicing against a defense Tony Dungy employed called the “Tampa Two.” On Sunday he will be with his Denver Broncos teammates working against that defense as it is employed by the Dallas Cowboys. The game will take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, with kickoff scheduled for 4:25 PM ET.

Denver is the hottest team in the NFL, undefeated through four games, with all four wins coming by at least 16 points.

In the NFL betting odds that have been set on this game at Bovada, the Broncos are laying hefty points on the road:

Denver Broncos -9
Dallas Cowboys +9

And here is the NFL total on that game:

Over 57 Points -110
Under 57 Points -110

The Broncos have averaged 41.3 points a game so far, and that would put them on a pace to eclipse the record for most points in a season (716) by a wide margin. Peyton Manning has thrown 16 touchdowns passes without an interception, and that defies description. It is not surprise that the Broncos are also the favorites at +250 to win the Super Bowl.

Denver’s offense has been like a machine, even when there have been some kinks in it. For example, Ryan Clady, the Pro Bowl left tackle, was lost for the season, but to protect Manning, the Broncos have inserted Chris Clark, and the star quarterback has suffered only five sacks. Manning has a wide range of targets, among them Demariyus Thomas (29 receptions, 393 yards) and Wes Welker (26 catches, 266 yards). And the running game, which appears as a committee of Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, has pitched in as well.

This machine has converted 55.3% on third down, and gained 6.8 yards per play. They have registered fifteen straight regular season wins, all of them by seven points or more.

You can’t do that without defense. They have held the opposition to just a shade under 58% completions, and Champ Bailey, the future Hall of Famer, may finally be able to come back to action this week at his cornerback spot. And for a Dallas team that is most effective when it can get its running game going, the Denver defensive line offers a big challenge, as it is permitting only 3.2 yards a carry.

The Cowboys (+290 money line underdogs at Bovada) had every opportunity to win last week in San Diego, but dropped a 30-21 decision in which they could not contain Philip Rivers. The Charger quarterback had a career game, going 35 of 42 for 401 yards. All told, the Chargers rolled up 506 yards of offense. They need to get some pressure on Manning, which means they may have to depart form the idea of rushing only four men. Monte Kiffin, who developed the Tampa Two when he was Dungy’s coordinator with the Buccaneers, has been successful only in spots at thwarting passing games, and as evidenced by 66% completions on the part of opposing passers, they’ll have their hands full with Manning and his ensemble of receiving talent.

Perhaps the only way for Dallas to compete in this one is to go out there and literally try to trade points with the Broncos. Tony Romo has been outstanding statistically (72%, 8 TD, one INT) and DeMarco Murray can control a game on occasion. It would help Romo a great deal if Miles Austin was able to make it to post, but he is listed as doubtful. Directing the Bronco stop unit is Jack Del Rio, the former Jacksonville head coach who is reportedly in line for the coaching position at USC if he was interested in the job. By the way, that’s the job vacated by Lane Kiffin, Monte’s son.

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