No fooling Peyton
The Bucs knew it was probably an unreasonable objective. After all, you don't exactly fool Peyton Manning. You can make him think, or make him second guess himself. But usually, Manning figures you out.
Despite the Bucs' best efforts on Sunday, Manning overcame their strategies. "We did a lot of different things on defense today," S Ronde Barber said. "... But the guy has been doing this a long time. There's not much he hasn't seen or can't figure out. I give him a lot of credit."
Among the tricks the Bucs used was a particularly interesting one. While Manning makes numerous changes and calls at the line of scrimmage, the Bucs, rather than react to them, decided to stand pat until after the ball was snapped. The idea, players said, was to not tip off their coverages and blitzes before the snap.
"I think it helped a little," LB Lavonte David said. "He's like a machine out there. So we tried to just play it cool."
The Bucs tried a variety of blitzes, too, none of which had a major effect. They didn't register a sack or even an official quarterback hit. Manning's trademark quick release plus his ability to throw passes with great anticipation made pressuring him nearly impossible.
"With the way he throws the ball, he's getting the ball out quick," DT Gerald McCoy said. "He doesn't hold the ball. ... He is who he is. I'll just credit him."
And among the biggest challenges when facing Manning is the breakneck pace at which he conducts the offense, often racing up to the line of scrimmage to catch defenders out of position and prevent defensive substitutions.
"I actually thought we handled it pretty well in the first half," Barber said. "But it's difficult. Obviously we're trying to substitute and he's not letting you substitute. He has his plays and most of their stuff is checked at the line of scrimmage anyway because he's comfortable doing that. We're trying to play that chess game with him and it's not as easy as it may seem."