FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Monday night football is arguably the biggest stage a team can play on during the regular season. The Atlanta Falcons will get their chance to show the world what they’re made of this week against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, and Asante Samuel is ready for the challenge.
“That’s what you dream about. You know, growing up as a kid you want to be a superstar,” Samuel said when asked about what it’s like to play in the spotlight of Monday night. “You see Sunday night, Monday night and that’s prime time. You get excited about these games and you know everybody’s watching and you just want to go out there and do your best and make everybody proud.”
Samuel will be going up against one of the toughest opponents he’ll play all year in Peyton Manning. The four-time NFL MVP now calls Denver his home, but No. 22 can already tell he fits right in. “Brand new team, brand new players, and he’s out there executing like no other,” Samuel said. “When I watch Peyton on tape, all I can say I see is a champion.”
After one week it already looks like he’s doing things differently than he did in Indianapolis. ”They’ve definitely opened up his passing game a little more, a little different routes than he’s probably used to throwing, or route combinations he used to run,” Samuel said. “They put a little shift to it over there in Denver.”
Manning is notorious for changing plays at the line, irritating defenses by consistently forcing them to sit back and wait. But, there’s really no telling what he’s calling at the line, says Samuel. “If you’ve got some kind of hint or some kind of word he’s using to make a check, you apply it then. But most of the time you probably won’t have any clue of what he’s doing.”
In Manning’s attempt to pick apart an opposing team’s play call, it’s crucial for defenses to bring a solid poker face to the table.
“I think that’ll be very important holding disguise, holding the shell, not giving away the coverage and make them figure it out on their own,” Samuel said. This will certainly be key if the Falcons don’t want to allow Manning to tear their coverage to shreds by guessing what they’re bringing at him.
It’s never an easy task taking on an 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback. Regardless of Manning’s skill level, though, the Falcons will be prepared for him on Monday night. Whether they can execute or not will be the key. Samuel plays a huge role in that determination, as he is now a leader in the secondary with Brent Grimes gone.