It was the first game of the season and Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the National Football League, already had a chance to set another NFL record.
Late in the fourth quarter, with the ball on his own 22-yard-line, Manning stepped up to the line of scrimmage and surveyed the defense. Just before snapping the ball, he noticed something.
The Baltimore Ravens defenders were moving around in front of Manning, preparing for the play, but something didn’t feel right. After the game, Manning would simply say that he “saw something.” [1, 2]
Baltimore was going to blitz and Manning knew it. He took a step forward, spread his arms to signal a new play call, and yelled out the play, “Alley! Alley! … Alley! Alley! Alley!”
The Broncos snapped the ball. The Ravens, as expected, blitzed. Manning threw a perfectly planned pass to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who ran 78 yards for a touchdown. The Baltimore defenders never laid a hand on him.
It was Manning’s seventh touchdown pass of the game, tying the NFL record. And perhaps more impressive, it took Manning just four seconds to step up to the line of scrimmage, analyze the location of all eleven defenders, compare their coverage to the play he had called, recognize that they were preparing to blitz, and then call a new play. All that, in just four seconds.
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