ESPN NFL analyst and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, in his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Dale & Holley show, said that he had his children stay up to watch the first half of Sunday night’s Broncos game against the 49ers to watch quarterback Peyton Manning surpass Brett Favre for the most career passing touchdowns.
“Having played against Peyton, it was great to watch him accomplish something so historic,” said Bruschi. “I’ve seen a lot of those touchdown passes first-hand. He’s a great quarterback. It’s a record that he’ll hold for a long time.”
Though the former linebacker said that he would choose former teammate Tom Brady over Manning, Bruschi raved about Manning and the kind of unique challenges he used to present to opponents.
“That’s a close one. Sometimes I think about it myself: Who would I go with? Peyton or Tom? The history I have with Tom, the experience we have, of course I’m going with my guy in Tom Brady, but I recognize the greatness of Peyton Manning and both of the players. They’re both special players. Actually different, I feel,” said Bruschi. “I think there’s a difference in their success because of how Peyton has switched teams and how Peyton has had to bring his system — I call it his system, because basically he’s developed it over the course of the years from Indianapolis to Denver. You can put on film from Indianapolis years ago and then see very similar things of what they’re doing in Denver. To be able to do that and bring what he does over to another organization and also make them very successful, that’s unique in itself. That’s something you have to recognize with him, also, with him doing it with different organizations.”
Bruschi offered an illuminating anecdote to explain some of the mind games in which Manning engaged.
“Much more intellectual of a game with Peyton than it is with any other quarterback that you’ll ever go against in terms of listening and processing and sometimes thinking you have the right answer. You always try to get a jump on what that you think that word says or what this formation means. Then, just when you think you’re right, you’re going to be wrong,” Bruschi recalled. “I remember one game in Indianpolis that we had. I swear I heard him say Raider — ‘Raider, Raider’ — early on in the game. It was a screen to our right that goes quickly to the running back or wide receiver. The running back goes from an offset formation and goes and blocks the defensive back. And then me as a linebacker, you have to chase [the receiver] down and make the tackle as the running back makes the block.
“I went to the sideline after the play thinking, OK, I’ve got that word. I know what that means. If I hear it again, I’m going to jump it. Later on, second half, there it was. I heard, ‘Raider. Raider.’ I’m thinking, ‘I got this. I got this.’ Same start of the play, but instead of the running back blocking the defensive back on a screen, he turned it up field, and there I was trying to chase a wide receiver. He got me with changing up his audibles in game because he knew we were listening,” Bruschi continued. “That was pretty much the last time I paid attention to what he was saying and I basically started to react to what I saw. Intellectually, fighting that urge to think you’ve got that answer, to think that you know what he’s doing — there’s always a change off of it.”
Bruschi recalled seeing in Manning a quarterback with unmatched arm strength in his heyday — something that has made his adaptation to his current skill set all the more remarkable.
“Physical skills, I remember being on the field, being back in coverage, seeing a ball thrown from one side of the field all the way back to the other with such velocity that I almost stopped running, just shook my head and said, ‘We can’t stop that.’ It was so spectacular in terms of the ability. That was a long time ago though,” said Bruschi. “Watching him now and seeing the ball wobble out of his hand, the loss of arm strength at times — he can still rear back and get some heat and spin the ball very well, but it’s just not the same. I remember a couple years ago, covering him as an analyst, thinking, ‘This guy, it’s not going to happen.’ You didn’t think he was going to come back because the arm just wasn’t there. It was slow. You were waiting on a nerve, waiting on it to regenerate. It looks like through the work he’s put in, the balls, they still look ugly, but they get there.
I think he’s still skilled in terms of accuracy at a high level. And he’s smart.”
As for Brady and the Patriots, Bruschi suggested that he’s been impressed by the adjustments made by New England’s offense to permit Brady to run the offense, but he suggested that the narrow two-point win over the Jets last Thursday pointed to vulnerabilities that aren’t likely to go away.
“I think they can get better, but I think some of those things you saw in that game vs. the Jets is what you’re going to get when certain teams want to attack them a certain way, especially defensively. If they want to make that commitment to running the ball, I think teams will have success,” said Bruschi. “If you want to have a game, as an offense, going against the Patriots, just get it in third and manageable. I think that’s very achievable in terms of first and down based on the run game and some of the players that the Patriots have. They may be struggling against the run at the linebacker level. I think that’s what you’ll see going forward with the New England Patriots.
“You’re getting to see what kind of team this is. I think it’s getting to be pretty clear now, the good adjustments they’ve made on the offensive side of the ball have been great, how they’ve gotten the ball out of Brady’s hand very quickly. One thing I think Tom has done a great job of is threatening the ball down the field with minimum time in the pocket or with the ball in your hand. If you noticed, versus the Bills and even last week at certain times, Tom will throw it deep but it’s out of his hands in less than two seconds because he has the ability to put more loft on it, which will give the receiver more time to get under it which equals then a longer route. Tom has that arm talent and that ability to do it that sometimes makes up for an offensive line that sometimes can’t give him three or four seconds in the pocket.”
To listen to Bruschi’s complete interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.