FOXBOROUGH – It’s nothing new to hear Bill Belichick extol the virtues of any and all opponents, but when it comes to Peyton Manning this week, Belichick isn’t holding anything back.
This Sunday, when Manning’s Broncos visit Gillette Stadium to face the Patriots, will be the 19th time Belichick has faced Manning as head coach in New England.
Belichick’s team has had more wins than losses against Manning’s teams – he was with the Colts from 1998-2011 and has been with Denver since 2012 – but that doesn’t mean the quarterback hasn’t been difficult to prepare for.
Asked on Wednesday morning if there is a common theme he can point to in games against Manning-led teams, Belichick said, “I guess Manning.
“Each game is it’s own game. The offense, I think that they’ve done a good job of utilizing their personnel and what those particular players do well in different systems; different teams, kind of similar system,” Belichick said. “Peyton does a great job getting the ball to the weakest point of the defense, whatever the defense happens to be, and I mean, he’s great. He’s a great quarterback.
“Best quarterback I’ve coached against, he does tremendous job and they have good players and they have a good system. I’d say that’s the common thread – good players, good system, good quarterback.”
Does facing Manning get Belichick’s competitive juices going maybe more than other weeks?
“Competition is every week,” Belichick said. “Every team’s got great players, great coaches. Every team’s hard to beat in this league. Everybody’s tough. I’m just saying, relative to the (Joe) Montanas or (Dan) Marinos or (John) Elways or whoever, and not taking anything away from those guys, but this guy’s tough.”
Manning is likely headed for the Hall of Fame once he retires, and Montana, Marino and Elway are already there. So what separates Manning from the others?
“He’s good at everything. He’s good at everything. I see no weaknesses in his game,” Belichick said.
Pertaining to his own team, Belichick was asked about linebacker Jonathan Casillas, whom the Patriots acquired on Tuesday in a trade with the Buccaneers. Casillas, who at a listed size of 6-feet, 225 pounds, is small relative to Patriots’ linebacker standards and has been a spot starter throughout his six-year career with the Saints and Buccaneers.
“You know, we’ve known and watched Jonathan for a while. Athletic, smart guy, four-down player - played defense and in the kicking game – been productive in New Orleans, Tampa,” Belichick said. “We’ve played against him, practiced against him. I have a lot of respect for him, his experience and his skills.”
The Patriots held joint practices with the Saints and Buccaneers in 2012, and the Bucs in 2013.