Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning began his career against the Ravens on a low note, losing the first two times he saw Ray Lewis!(/team/roster/ray-lewis/1c6d5ed3-fe49-4a89-a6b5-9e358e906ae7/ "Ray Lewis") and Co.
Everything has come up roses since then. The following five regular-season games between Manning and the Ravens ended in Colts victories.
Manning has knifed through Baltimore's typically stout defense like a surgeon over the years. He owns a lifetime 106.1 passer rating in seven meetings, completing 157 of 244 passes for 1,974 yards, 16 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
Considering Manning's history and his current elite level of play, the Ravens know he will get his numbers Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. It is the final numbers on the scoreboard that really matter.
"The thing you have to do with him is make sure you understand he's going to complete some balls," said defensive coordinator **Greg Mattison**. "He's going to move the ball. You've got to take the next play as the most important play. Just go out there with the mindset that your whole deal is to keep them out of the end zone.
"It doesn't matter if something negative happens, then the next play has got to be a positive play. When that ball-game is over, if you've added up as many as you should, you're going to be successful."
Manning is making opposing teams pay mightily in his 12th season since he was the first-overall draft pick out of the University of Tennessee in 1998.
He is currently the NFL's leader in completions (249) and attempts (357), completions percentage (69.7) and passing yards (2,872). His 20 touchdowns also pace he league.
The Ravens won't do anything special to stop this offensive onslaught. Mattison believes the defense installed in the offseason and training camp can yield enough packages to use in situations against any quarterback or offense.
"I think what happens is you have to have a package that you go into camp with that is so big that when you find the quarterback or the offensive system, you've got to be able to pull out those plays or those defenses," explained Mattison. "You don't put in a whole new scheme or anything like that. Anytime you have a good defensive package, which they've had for years around here, you can pick out and say, 'OK, this is a good one for that.'"
In the end, players simply have to make plays, and Lewis is a key player for the Ravens' dealings with Manning.
Depending on how a defense lines up, Manning will call one of a handful of plays he has in his head as he steps under center. Like a frantic composer, he shouts out commands with wild gestures as the play clock winds down.
A typical Colts/Ravens battle will feature Lewis doing the same with his charges, creating a demonstrative chess match on the gridiron.
"Some of it is a bunch of baloney, from him and me, but then some of it means a lot," Lewis said. "That's kind of the chess match – what's real and what's not. If we bait him into thinking we're in something that we're not, we win that down. If he baits us into finding a weakness, then he wins that down.
"It's going to be a 60-minute chess match, it always has. Every time we play each other there's always classic games out of us because of the way they understand our defense and we understand their offense."
But ever since those two Ravens wins over the Colts – which came in 1998 and 2001 – Manning has owned the upper hand, including an AFC Divisional win at M&T Bank Stadium in the 2006 playoffs.
This year, Manning is producing with a pair of little-known rookie receivers in Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie to go along with Pro Bowlers Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne. With Manning's precision arm and tireless work ethic, every target is looking like an All-Star.
"Peyton's like an offensive coordinator with a strong arm," noted cornerback Domonique Foxworth. "Whatever you show him on the field early, he's going to remember it. When you come back to it, he'll be ready for it and have an answer prepared. It's important to show him some different looks and keep him off-balance."
However the Ravens plan to stop Manning, there is much respect for Manning in Baltimore. He always presents a huge challenge for the Ravens, and this weekend will likely be no different.
"What haven't we seen from Peyton Manning this year?" said head coach **John Harbaugh**. "He's won three or four games for them, basically, at the end. Some people say he's playing better than any quarterback that's ever played in the history of the game. I don't know, but he's our challenge this week, and we're looking forward to it."