Ravens scheming to pressure Manning

OWINGS MILLS -- The resounding image of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is one of perfect calmness as he's rarely disturbed by blitzes and stunts. His helmet is typically on a swivel, the football pulled back in his right hand at shoulder pad level with his feet set apart at the exact ratio his father, Archie Manning, taught him. With flawless mechanics, Manning keeps uncorking spirals for touchdowns.

The rhythm of the Colts' offense is built around Manning's quick release, accuracy and all the precious time his offensive line provides him.

Last season, the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player was sacked only 13 times as he completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 4,557 yards while establishing league records with 49 touchdown passes and a 121.1 quarterback rating.

As the Baltimore Ravens prepare to face the Colts in Sunday night's season opener at M&T Bank Stadium, generating pressure on the prolific quarterback is a major focus.

"That offense is based on timing, you have to throw that off," said Pro Bowl defensive end Terrell Suggs, who produced a team-high 10 ½ sacks last season. "You've got to get there real fast and get him out of his rhythm. You've got to frenzy Peyton Manning, and that's how you beat him.

"He's a very composed quarterback, that's why he's the best at his position, the best at what he does. I have a feeling that if you get at him enough, it'll start to shake him a little bit. Everything that can be done to a quarterback has to be done to him."

Getting to Manning, though, is an extremely difficult task.

The Ravens pressured him last season, but never sacked him in a 20-10 loss Dec. 19 at the RCA Dome.

Using their dime package (six defensive backs) throughout the game to account for the NFL's highest scoring offense, the Ravens held the Colts to season lows in points and total offense (316 yards) in games where their starters played the entire game.

Manning was held to one touchdown pass, marking the only time last season that he didn't have more than one scoring toss.

"You don't want him to just sit back there and have a field day," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "First and foremost, you have to do a lot of moving around so he doesn't understand where you're coming from. And you have to get to him.

"That's our strategy. Our strategy is to come at him. It's a very simple game plan. We're built for it."

The Ravens produced a dozen sacks during the preseason and are likely to employ a host of aggressive schemes under new defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's 46 defense.

They've brought back four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Peter Boulware as their situational pass rusher. The last time Suggs and Boulware played together was 2003 when the Ravens led the NFL with 47 sacks.

Safeties Ed Reed and Will Demps are added blitzing threats along with linebacker Adalius Thomas.

"The Ravens have their identity," Manning said. "They have excellent players and a number of veterans who can do a number of different things. The key is trying to be smart in your decision-making and trying to be smart with the football."

Although Manning is immobile, his quick release tends to protect him from hits along with a veteran offensive line that features offensive tackle Tarik Glenn and center Jeff Saturday. Manning also calls his plays at the line and adjusts well to obvious pressure.

"He's like no other quarterback in the league, that's what makes him so dynamic," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He calls the entire offense from the line basically. That's a unique concept.

"He's going to see something that he likes based on what you're doing. So, you need to show him one thing and do another and be better at what it is he thinks he can get you with."

There are a few existing blueprints for harassing Manning, most of them emanating from the New England region.

Of course, there's the AFC championship game two years ago when the Patriots intercepted Manning four times along with four sacks. Plus, there's last year's 20-3 AFC divisional playoff loss to New England when Manning passed for only 238 yards, threw an interception and was sacked once.

The Patriots did unorthodox things such as using one down lineman and five linebackers.

"I've seen that film, and they showed him different looks and got pressure in different ways," safety Chad Williams said. "When he didn't get the look he wanted, he did things with the ball he normally doesn't do. It shows he can be confused.

"He can get rattled. He can make mistakes. It gives us hope because he's human."

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

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