You might have heard Peyton Manning scream "Omaha!" a few times last weekend.
Denver's quarterback used the word again and again when giving pre-snap directions to his teammates in Sunday's divisional playoff win over San Diego. Was it a call to draw the Chargers offsides? Did it change Manning's snap count? Was it a signal for a faked change?
Whatever it meant, "Omaha" drew five different Chargers defenders into neutral zone penalties. That's not a number New England can ignore.
"It was a hidden stat in the game that is certainly a big deal to us," defensive coordinator Matt Patricia noted. "He was able to get some line of scrimmage penalties, which we always talk about; we never want to give up free yardage."
Patricia explained Manning's cause is helped by the fact Denver is playing at home. The QB won't have to worry about crowd noise from opposing fans drowning out his play calls, audibles, or snap counts, so he can use everything in his arsenal.
The Patriots will have to walk a fine line between being aggressive and showing restraint.
"The key for us is always going to be the ball -- that's what triggers all of the play, offense and defense," Patricia said. "But it's extremely difficult in a game where you're ready to go and ready to be aggressive and you're trying to attack that man in front of you, and that hard count comes through or that exaggerated cadence comes through.
"He's obviously one of the best quarterbacks to play the game and that's part of his repertoire is being able to change up the cadence and his voice inflection, use a multitude of different ways to trigger the play to start."