Vikings try to solve the Manning mystery

The evidence of Peyton Manning's mastery over the Vikings is obvious with the results of the last two meetings. Part of Manning's success is his ability to confuse defenses and change plays, a very hot topic of conversation in Minnesota's locker room this week. See what insight numerous Vikings offered on that topic.

Over the years, the Vikings have had to deal with a lot of great quarterbacks. Facing Brett Favre twice a year was no picnic and games against Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo and Matt Hasselbeck weren't a walk in the park either. But perhaps no quarterback will pose more challenges for the Vikings defense than Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts.

In two career games against the Vikings, Manning has owned them. In both games, the Colts have put up 31 points and all of the touchdowns have been the result of Manning passes. In those games, he has completed almost three quarters of his passes – completing 48 of 65 passes for 551 yards and eight touchdowns. In short, he has been a nightmare.

Bobby Wade, who had a chance to Manning twice a year during his days with the Tennessee Titans, said that Manning is unlike any other quarterback in the league in the way he sizes up the weaknesses of defenses and exploits them. Even if you believe you have the right defense called to stop him, Manning finds a way to make you look bad.

"He is a surgeon out there," Wade said. "He has a knack of putting his team in good positions. He has tremendous anticipation for what defenses are going to do and knows his own personnel really well. He's able to spread the ball around and gets the offense in the right situation."

Part of Manning's success comes from his ability to make his own calls. While offensive coordinator Tom Moore sends in plays to Manning, by his own admission, they are largely suggestions rather than hard-and-fast calls. Manning has the option to change out of the called play at any time and often does. But he also goes through a series of movements and exaggerated pointing to areas of the field before the snap. Players know that often times, what he is doing is making "dummy calls" – fake audibles to get a defense to change up into a formation that better suits what he wants to them to do.

"A lot of it is dummy calls," Wade said. "It's so hard to tell what is real and what isn't. The only reason that he's making a false call is because he has his team in a good position. Very rarely does he allow his offense to be in a bad situation. That is what is so dynamic about him. He's completely given the reigns to change plays and switch things up. It takes a veteran guy to make that work. Some of them are dummy calls, but some of them are him changing plays to put his team in a better situation. He is the offensive coordinator."

The Manning Mystique is centered on these movements. On any given play, he will bark out changes – real or imagined – to all of his offensive linemen, to his receiver and to the running back standing behind him. Some Vikings players believe that most of the calls he is making are legitimate changes to the original play call. Others believe they are largely just window dressing. It's the not knowing that has them thinking – perhaps too much.

Linebacker Ben Leber has experienced the machinations of Manning while with the San Diego Chargers and said the confusion he brings to the field also translates to the sidelines, as the coaches and players try to determine what things he is doing that are real call changes and which are fakes.

"He does change a lot of the calls and that is what makes him so difficult to defense," Leber said. "Sometimes it's real and other times it's a dummy call. You come to the sideline and ask, ‘What did he say?' You try to compare notes and see if you can figure out what he said that was a dummy call and what he said that actually changed a play. He does a good job of holding the snap count to get a look at what the defense is doing, so we have to do a good job of disguising what we're going to do and be patient."

As part of their preparation for Sunday, the Vikings are trying to replicate the kinds of things Manning does. They've been using backup quarterback Gus Frerotte to play the role of Manning, but they know it's impossible to accurately recreate the ploys Manning does on a play-to-play basis. They realize they can't shut him down. The objective is merely to contain what he does.

"It's tough to emulate Peyton Manning," safety Darren Sharper said. "It's a tough challenge. So many people have tried to slow down Peyton. Not too many people have been successful. We hope to be one of those teams."

Frerotte, who has seen Manning doing his tricks for years, has become convinced that once you get deeper into a game, that much of his bouncing around behind the line giving the impression that he is changing a play is legitimate. But, when he does it early in a game, by and large they aren't the real McCoy.

"Most of the time when you see him doing those things early in games, it's dummy calling," Frerotte said. "He does it to try to get the defense where he wants them to go where he wants them to go. He's not going to move his own guys around, because they have three or four different plays they can run out of the same formation."

What makes his bag of tricks so successful is that defenses try to get cute and do the same sort of thing – give Manning a defensive look up until there about five seconds left before the snap and rotate into the defense that was called or show a blitz and then drop out of it. At times, it becomes an "anything you can do, I can do better" scenario. Given Manning's success over the years, it's hard to deny that he is the master of the trickery, but it doesn't keep opponents from trying.

"If he sees something, he will check to a different play," cornerback Charles Gordon said. "It's hard to tell what is a dummy call and what isn't. As a defense, we try to disguise what we're doing too. With him, I think you do it more, because he's always changing up plays. We're going to have to be on our best game to try to fool him."

While Manning was the first to do the elaborate dummy calls, it has become something that many other teams are trying. His little brother Eli has taken to it a lot over the last couple of years and it seems you can't find a team with a veteran quarterback that doesn't try it at least a couple of times a game. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Manning should be pretty proud of himself. He has created a generation of imitators. But the imitators are far from being duplicators.

"I don't think there is anybody that does it like Peyton," Frerotte said. "He's pretty unique in that way. Other people may try to copy it, but nobody duplicates it with the success he has with it."



Viking Update Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" Over the years, the Vikings have had to deal with a lot of great quarterbacks. Facing Brett Favre twice a year was no picnic and games against Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo and Matt Hasselbeck weren't a walk in the park either. But perhaps no quarterback will pose more challenges for the Vikings defense than Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts.

In two career games against the Vikings, Manning has owned them. In both games, the Colts have put up 31 points and all of the touchdowns have been the result of Manning passes. In those games, he has completed almost three quarters of his passes – completing 48 of 65 passes for 551 yards and eight touchdowns. In short, he has been a nightmare.

Bobby Wade, who had a chance to Manning twice a year during his days with the Tennessee Titans, said that Manning is unlike any other quarterback in the league in the way he sizes up the weaknesses of defenses and exploits them. Even if you believe you have the right defense called to stop him, Manning finds a way to make you look bad.

\"He is a surgeon out there,\" Wade said. \"He has a knack of putting his team in good positions. He has tremendous anticipation for what defenses are going to do and knows his own personnel really well. He's able to spread the ball around and gets the offense in the right situation.\"

Part of Manning's success comes from his ability to make his own calls. While offensive coordinator Tom Moore sends in plays to Manning, by his own admission, they are largely suggestions rather than hard-and-fast calls. Manning has the option to change out of the called play at any time and often does. But he also goes through a series of movements and exaggerated pointing to areas of the field before the snap. Players know that often times, what he is doing is making \"dummy calls\" – fake audibles to get a defense to change up into a formation that better suits what he wants to them to do.

\"A lot of it is dummy calls,\" Wade said. \"It's so hard to tell what is real and what isn't. The only reason that he's making a false call is because he has his team in a good position. Very rarely does he allow his offense to be in a bad situation. That is what is so dynamic about him. He's completely given the reigns to change plays and switch things up. It takes a veteran guy to make that work. Some of them are dummy calls, but some of them are him changing plays to put his team in a better situation. He is the offensive coordinator.\"

The Manning Mystique is centered on these movements. On any given play, he will bark out changes – real or imagined – to all of his offensive linemen, to his receiver and to the running back standing behind him. Some Vikings players believe that most of the calls he is making are legitimate changes to the original play call. Others believe they are largely just window dressing. It's the not knowing that has them thinking – perhaps too much.

Linebacker Ben Leber has experienced the machinations of Manning while with the San Diego Chargers and said the confusion he brings to the field also translates to the sidelines, as the coaches and players try to determine what things he is doing that are real call changes and which are fakes.

\"He does change a lot of the calls and that is what makes him so difficult to defense,\" Leber said. \"Sometimes it's real and other times it's a dummy call. You come to the sideline and ask, ‘What did he say?' You try to compare notes and see if you can figure out what he said that was a dummy call and what he said that actually changed a play. He does a good job of holding the snap count to get a look at what the defense is doing, so we have to do a good job of disguising what we're going to do and be patient.\"

As part of their preparation for Sunday, the Vikings are trying to replicate the kinds of things Manning does. They've been using backup quarterback Gus Frerotte to play the role of Manning, but they know it's impossible to accurately recreate the ploys Manning does on a play-to-play basis. They realize they can't shut him down. The objective is merely to contain what he does.

\"It's tough to emulate Peyton Manning,\" safety Darren Sharper said. \"It's a tough challenge. So many people have tried to slow down Peyton. Not too many people have been successful. We hope to be one of those teams.\"

Frerotte, who has seen Manning doing his tricks for years, has become convinced that once you get deeper into a game, that much of his bouncing around behind the line giving the impression that he is changing a play is legitimate. But, when he does it early in a game, by and large they aren't the real McCoy.

\"Most of the time when you see him doing those things early in games, it's dummy calling,\" Frerotte said. \"He does it to try to get the defense where he wants them to go where he wants them to go. He's not going to move his own guys around, because they have three or four different plays they can run out of the same formation.\"

What makes his bag of tricks so successful is that defenses try to get cute and do the same sort of thing – give Manning a defensive look up until there about five seconds left before the snap and rotate into the defense that was called or show a blitz and then drop out of it. At times, it becomes an \"anything you can do, I can do better\" scenario. Given Manning's success over the years, it's hard to deny that he is the master of the trickery, but it doesn't keep opponents from trying.

\"If he sees something, he will check to a different play,\" cornerback Charles Gordon said. \"It's hard to tell what is a dummy call and what isn't. As a defense, we try to disguise what we're doing too. With him, I think you do it more, because he's always changing up plays. We're going to have to be on our best game to try to fool him.\"

While Manning was the first to do the elaborate dummy calls, it has become something that many other teams are trying. His little brother Eli has taken to it a lot over the last couple of years and it seems you can't find a team with a veteran quarterback that doesn't try it at least a couple of times a game. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Manning should be pretty proud of himself. He has created a generation of imitators. But the imitators are far from being duplicators.

\"I don't think there is anybody that does it like Peyton,\" Frerotte said. \"He's pretty unique in that way. Other people may try to copy it, but nobody duplicates it with the success he has with it.\"


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