DENVER The Seattle Seahawks talented defensive backfield will face perhaps its toughest challenge of the exhibition season today when they take on the Denver Broncos and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
The 36-year-old Manning is looking to shake off some rust after sitting out the 2011 season because of neck surgery that threatened to end his career. He is expected to play the first quarter and perhaps into the second.
Manning experienced a whirlwind of offseason activity after Indianapolis, his longtime team, released him. Widespread interest in him as a free agent included Seattle. Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider went so far as to fly to Denver in team owner Paul Allens private jet in an attempt to woo Manning to Seattle.
Of course, the Seahawks efforts were rebuffed, and Manning eventually signed with the Broncos.
No matter. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who faced Mannings replacement in Indianapolis, Andrew Luck, every day in practice at Stanford, says his team doesnt feel any added pressure in taking on a quarterback of Mannings stature.
Unless you can find a quarterback that can teleport the ball into a receivers hands, its all the same, Sherman said. They still throw interceptions. They still throw incompletions and good defenses can stop them.
Seattles starting defense was in regular-season form against Tennessee last week, forcing former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck into two interceptions, including an early one returned by Brandon Browner for a touchdown.
Seattle held Tennessee to 146 total yards and 3 points in the first half.
But the last time Seattle faced Manning, he made quick work of the Seahawks. Manning threw for 353 yards and two TDs on 31-of-41 accuracy in the Colts 34-17 win over Seattle in Indianapolis on Oct. 4, 2009.
Carroll said hes interested to see how his defense responds to the challenge.
Ill be excited to see him and see how we do against him, Carroll said. Were going to take that very seriously knowing that hes as equipped a quarterback as you can go against. I dont know what theyll try to do or how much theyll try to use all of the great stuff that he brings all the tempo he can bring, all of the checks he makes at the line of scrimmage. That would be a good test for us right out of the chute and its fun for the young guys to play against him. There are a lot of the guys looking forward to that.
Sherman said he understands the unique challenge that Manning brings as one of the best quarterbacks in history, but still thinks he and his teammates will have the opportunity to make some game-changing plays.
Hes a great quarterback; his rèsumè speaks for itself, Sherman said. But I dont think we look at him any different than anybody else. Because any time you start marking games and saying this quarterback is above another quarterback, you start making other quarterbacks look better than what they are. So we prepare for him just like we prepare for (John) Skelton or (Kevin) Kolb or any of the other quarterbacks out there.
We prepare for everybody equally. We check out the film, because at the end of the day the quarterback can only do so much. The play calls are out there. The route concepts are out there, and theyll be the same regardless of whos under center.