Ravens prepare for Manning's mind games

OWINGS MILLS -- Peyton Manning is the maestro of the Indianapolis Colts' offense, conducting a no-huddle opera. The quarterback barks out numbered audibles, pointing fingers at the defense before delivering touchdown passes with authority.<br><br. Manning is changing and calling plays liberally, analyzing the defense in rapid-fire fashion. However, he also employs a lot of meaningless dummy calls to distract defenders.

"Who's to say that he changes the play two or three times, I don't think that's the case," nickel back Deion Sanders said. "I think he'll give you some audibles here and there, but a lot of it is lip service."

It's a mind game, and the Ravens are determined to not be outsmarted by the NFL's reigning Co-MVP and football savant Sunday night at the RCA Dome.

"Half of it is b.s., half of it is real," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "You have to figure out which is which."

Manning isn't all trickery, as evidenced by his 46 touchdown passes and league-high 126.3 quarterback rating. He needs three touchdowns to break Dan Marino's single-season mark, and is poised to surpass Steve Young's quarterback rating record.

"I almost kind of wish you guys would stop writing articles about this no-huddle offense and make my job a little bit easier," Manning said. "I have so much respect for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed: extremely talented players and very smart. They study film like a quarterback does."

The Ravens are likely to counter Manning's ability to read defenses with phony alignments and delay lining up until absolutely necessary. Linebacker Ray Lewis quipped that he may mirror Manning's motions.

"It's going to be funny, when he points out, I'm going to point, too," Lewis said. "People are going to think that we're just pointing at each other. I'd pay to watch this."
CLOSING IN: When Billick was the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator in 1998, they broke the NFL record for points scored (556) in a single season.

The Colts have scored 454 points with three games remaining, and are averaging a league-high 34.9 points. Contrary to Billick's assessment, they are on pace to break the Vikings' record by two points.

"They've got a ways to go," Billick said. "They are not on pace to break that record."

QUICK HITS: Billick said the Ravens are likely to employ silent snap counts in the shotgun because of decibel level.
… The team was disappointed to lose practice squad quarterback Josh Harris to the Cleveland Browns. "We made every effort, but he made a decision that he felt was in his best interests," Billick said. "You try to get them to see short term vs. long term pluses."
… The Ravens are preparing for a scenario where defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is hired away as an NFL head coach. Defensive line coach Rex Ryan and secondary coach Johnnie Lynn are potential replacements. "I have an outstanding staff," Billick said. "You try to nurture that as best you can. It does put the organization at risk. Part of my job is preparing for those eventualities."

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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