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Peyton, Eli Manning analyze Monday Night Football And It’s Awesome

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I hung out with my buds Peyton and Eli Manning watching Monday Night Football from my couch, and we had some friends, including Ray Lewis and Russell Wilson, over to eat wings and talk ball.

“Peyton asked to get some wings, and I said, ‘If you want it all over his face and all over his outfit do it,'” Eli said. “He’s not going to be able to talk and eat at the same time. But he will try.”

Fine, so maybe the Mannings weren’t actually on my couch. But ESPN2’s alternate broadcast of the Raiders 30-27 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens, featuring the Manning brothers and guests, made me feel like they were right there with me.

This television idea, which must immediately win an Emmy for whoever dreamed it up, combined the folksy Manning personalities with calculus-level football analysis and game insight.

It was simply awesome.

It included the Mannings predicting coverages, predicting Baltimore’s defensive game plan next week against Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, sharing personal flaws and pet peeves.

There was also a lot of brother getting after brother in a wonderful, good natured way.

Those hijinks began when producers put up a slide of a tweet saying “Peyton needs a perscription helmet for that dome.”

“What is this tweet, I gotta talk to this guy,” Peyton said. “Can’t spell prescription.”

Eli asked former Ravens and Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, “If you have one of the real helmets Peyton wore with the Broncos or the Colts, would you want one of those helmets filled with quarters or $10,000 cash? Which one would bring you more?”

“Ok, now it starts,” Peyton responded to the big head jab. “Ray gets on and now it starts.”

And soon Peyton is reminding everyone of the game Eli had as a rookie against the Ravens in which he finished with a 0.0 quarterback rating.

“It’s lower than the GPA Belushi had in Animal House,” Peyton said.

Peyton recalled when he and Lewis would be at the Pro Bowl in the 2000s and each would try to recruit the other to their own teams.

“It was, ‘Ray, when you going to be a free agent? When you going to try to come to the Colts?'” Peyton said. “He’s saying, ‘Hey you got to come to the Ravens.’ The reason I didn’t want to come to the Ravens is because Ray and Ed Reed beat up their own offense in practice everyday, Eli.

“And by the time Sunday came around, the quarterback is like, ‘I have no confidence in any of our plays because I’ve thrown seven interceptions to Ed Reed in practice.’ That’s not the idea to get the quarterback confident.

“Who was that? Kyle Boller? You treated him very poorly in practice, Ray.”

Lewis had a reason for it.

“That’s how we made people tough,” he said. “We would not let you complete a first down every day in practice. So figure it out. When you get in the game, it’ll be easier.”

Now the trio on camera is paying attention to the game again and see Raider K.J. Wright tackle a Baltimore ball carrier for a loss on fourth-and-1. And the replay shows Wright line up wide and run a stunt inside around two defensive linemen.

But this: The Ravens had a man in motion, and the Mannings saw that Wright timed his move around his teammates by synching up with the motion man’s movement before the snap.

It’s something the Mannings picked up but the Ravens obviously didn’t think about when they drew up the play.

The Mannings spent the entire game rooting for neither the Ravens nor the Raiders. But they spent the whole time rooting for whichever offense was on the field.

And the commentary came with the kind of humility that made these two millionaire Super Bowl winners immensely relatable.

On Baltimore’s second touchdown of the night, quarterback Lamar Jackson had to scramble out of the pocket to avoid pressure. He eventually found Marquise Brown for a 10-yard score.

“I would have thrown it away three times,” Peyton said. “Lamar’s like, ‘Nope, I’m just working here. I’m toying with these guys.’ The best thing Lamar did was he kept his eyes downfield the whole time. He was never looking at the linemen.”

When Jackson completed a long pass, Eli noted the great placement and the tight spiral shows the quarterback’s improvement.

“I would not know much about the tight spiral,” Peyton said. “I invented the wobbly touchdown.”

The commentary also pulled no punches. Both brothers called out officials for penalizing the Raiders for an offensive pass interference when a Las Vegas receiver barely got near the Ravens defender.

“That is brutal,” Peyton said.

“That’s ridiculous,” Eli agreed.

And then Peyton shared this:

“I remember one time I just [ripped] into the referee. I knew the guy, good guy. But he called the worst holding call. I let him have it. I felt so bad, I asked the NFL for his address. I was going to write him an apology letter.

“They wouldn’t give me his address. They thought I was going to go and egg his house or something. Anyway, the guy thinks I’m a jerk to this day because I cussed him out for a holding call against the Dolphins in the second quarter.”

The Mannings seemed astonished the Ravens played mostly zero coverage on defense and could often accurately predict what coverage both defenses would be in before the ball was snapped.

The Raiders typically stayed in zone and the Ravens attacked, often bringing zero blitzes that forced their defensive backs to cover man-to-man.

“Fourth-and-1, zero coverage, that’s who they are. Right, Ray?” Peyton asked Lewis.

“That is,” Lewis responded. “[Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale] is going to live and die with that. That’s just his style of play.”

Lewis would be prophetic because the Ravens eventually died while playing zero coverage on the final play of the game. Of course that wouldn’t happen for another two hours.

Eli took on the notion the Ravens have to throw the ball better in 2021 to factor in the Super Bowl conversation.

“They’re the No. 1 rushing team,” he said. “They’re last in passing, right? Well, if you’re first in rushing, you’re not going to be first in passing, too. Simple as that.”

Throughout the broadcast, Eli showed how ridiculously intelligent he is. One can only imagine how frustrated he must have been those last few years of his career with all the failed head coaches the Giants hired.

At one point, Eli recalled that a coach once told him a safety coming down into the tackle box was always blitzing. Except, he noted, “that was not always true.”

The Mannings explained what a burger route is. It’s a route that goes in and out.

They explained what a Gilligan blocking call is. It’s when everybody’s on an island, blocking one-on-one.

They even told us what veteran quarterbacks do when they don’t like the play-call from coaches in their headset.

“You give them one of these,” Peyton said, motioning to his head as if he couldn’t hear. “I’m calling my own play. Rich Gannon actually taught me that. But everyone has to have your back — the backup quarterback, and the assistant equipment manager has to take a chewing by the coach.”

The duo also took us into an NFL team’s halftime locker room and what actually happens. Hint: Not a lot.

“They still have oranges out,” Peyton said.

“It’s amazing at halftime, you think you’re going to make all these halftime adjustments,” Eli said, “and I haven’t been at this new stadium but by the time you make the long walk to the locker room, you maybe go to the restroom real quick, the coach is coming down from the booth, he gets down there and says, ‘Hey guys, good job, we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to run this play and this play.’

“And then somebody yells, ‘Two minutes. Two minutes until we’re out.’ And you’re like, ‘That’s all we get?”

“Yeah,” Peyton said, “great halftime speech.”

Eli picked up: “So when the media comes after and asks, ‘Hey what happened at halftime? Y’all came out fired up.’ And you want to be like, ‘Yeah, it must have been the oranges and the two plays we talked about that we were going to run.’ That was the difference.”

“There were no adjustments,” Peyton admitted.

“No adjustments,” Eli echoed.

Both former quarterbacks were in disbelief the crowd in Las Vegas was often loud when the Raiders had the ball on offense.

“That’s irritating for a quarterback,” said Peyton, who then explained Derek Carr needed a chance to get in a rhythm and was so in tune with Jon Gruden’s offense after four years of experience with it, he could cut the coach off midway through his call from the sideline.

In the game’s final minutes, as the game went into overtime and each play begged urgency, Peyton grabbed a football and started holding it, twirling it nervously, even biting at it once.

And then Jackson fumbled on a blitz. Peyton noted it was only the second blitz of the game by Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.

“I know what the Ravens are going to run every single snap now,” Eli said of the Ravens’ defense now on the field after the turnover. “Zero, zero, and zero.”

The Ravens did exactly that. And Carr threw the game-winning touchdown to Zay Jones.

“I knew when the game started that Carr would throw the game-winning touchdown to Jones,” Peyton said.

“I thought you said after the first incomplete pass they were going 4-13 this year,” Eli offered.

“They’re all going to be like this, E,” Peyton said.

“This,” Eli said, “Was fun, bro.”

Yes it was.

Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

8 Comments

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  1. And just like that ESPN just drove the final nail into their main Monday night broadcast. It was awesome to see these guys chop it up with one another as well as Lewis, Kelce, and Wilson. No idea WTF Barkley was doing on the broadcast but whatever. I’ll totally watch MNF now. Best thing ESPN has done in 20 years.

  2. It was awesome. At the beginning it was confusion with Peyton trying to whiteboard the play design, which they quietly ditched almost immediately.

    It was rapid fire, I couldn’t keep up. Peyton talking about designing a play to distract the defense with putting a little sugar on the side they was going away from. The Jim Harbaugh PBJ story.

    During Barkely’s segment talking about getting booed and Eli saying Peyton had the Colt fans trained not to make any noise to the point where you couldn’t even order a beer while they were on offense.

    Great stuff.

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