By Kevin McGuire
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is already off to a head start on an MVP season. The future Hall of Fame quarterback currently leads the NFL in passing yards, touchdowns, pass completion percentage, and passer rating. He also has not thrown a single interception, which means the Philadelphia Eagles will have a major challenge ahead of them Sunday afternoon in Denver. Has Chip Kelly ever been up against such a dominant player?
“No,” Kelly said Tuesday, according to the Eagles website. “Probably him and [Tom] Brady are the two best I’ve ever seen. We were fortunate we got a chance to practice against Tom here, see him a little bit in the preseason. Now we get a chance to see Peyton up close and personal. You’re talking about two of the all‑time greats. It will be a great challenge for us.”
Manning is exactly the type of quarterback that can take advantage of an Eagles defense that has at times been scrambling to find order on the field. He has a top-notch football intelligence, makes adjustments on the fly and studies his opposition like no other before and during a game. He knows where his primary target will be on the field at any time and if he is covered Manning knows exactly where his second and third options will be. He gets rid of the football quickly and has a bond with his trusted receivers. Brining pressure on Manning may work at times, but he gets rid of the football so quickly a defense bringing pressure can play in to his advantage.
Kelly may be new to the NFL coaching game, but even he knows this much about Manning.
“But the one thing with Peyton that you realize is that you can’t just do one thing against him,” Kelly said Tuesday. “He’s such a great mind at the quarterback position. You may say this blitz beat him, but if you beat him the first time on the blitz, he’s going to come back and beat you on the blitz.”
So what exactly are the Eagles suppose to do Sunday in Denver?
The Eagles have the third worst total defense in the NFL and are on a two-game losing streak against the AFC West. Now they face one of the league’s top offenses in the thin mountain air, which should also pose a threat for an Eagles offense looking to keep an up-tempo style of offense running.
“It’s an anaerobic sport,” Kelly explained. “It doesn’t affect you the way you think. We’re not going there to run a marathon. I think a lot of it is mental and it’s not as big a deal as people make it out to be.”
Kelly has coached in Colorado, so he has a sense of what his team is preparing for this weekend. Oregon had no trouble running Kelly’s offense before, but Kelly knows this weekend will be quite different.
“I think what makes a difference when you play at altitude is who you play against,” Kelly said. “We played against the University of Colorado a couple years ago, it wasn’t a big deal. You play against the Broncos, it’s a big deal.”
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.