Nestled in the back of the Ravens' third-ranked defense, safety Ed Reed has no interest playing games with quarterback Peyton Manning.
While Manning constantly delivers failing checks at the line of scrimmage, an act mirrored by linebacker Ray Lewis to demonstrative effect, Reed expects to quietly go about his business against a quarterback he's seen on seven previous occasions.
"There's nothing fun about that," Reed said. "There's nothing funny about me going against Peyton. After the coin is flipped, that's it. I'll speak to him before the game. It's a different ball game once the whistle is blown. I'm not playing any games with him – trying to hide or [have him] not know where I'm at."
That hasn't been the headline for the Ravens against Manning in a long while.
The reigning NFL Most Valuable Player is 7-1 facing Baltimore, winning the past seven matchups. One would have to look back to Manning's rookie season (1998) to find his only loss to the Ravens (38-31), and even then, Manning completed 27 of 42 attempts for 357 yards, three touchdowns and only one interception.
Now in his 12th season, Manning racked up 4,500 passing yards, an NFL-best 33 touchdowns and only 16 picks for a 99.9 passer rating. His value to the Colts cannot be understated, as Indianapolis jumped out to a perfect 14-0 record before sitting Manning and other starters for a large part of Weeks 16-17.
Therefore, it's not hard to understand why Reed isn't smiling with the Colts standing in the way of his playoff run – that is, unless Reed is discussing one of Manning's ubiquitous television commercials hawking brands such as Direct TV, Oreos or Sony, for which he recorded and ad playing table tennis with pop star Justin Timberlake.
"Peyton is a great quarterback, the best of our time, so you've just got to go out and play your ball," said Reed with a slight grin. "Peyton poses a lot of problems. He's a good actor. Obviously, we all know that. I saw him on a ping-pong commercial. But, you've just got to play ball. He poses a lot of problems. You've just got to play what you see."
Perhaps Reed sees things better than others. He logged two interceptions in a divisional matchup with the Colts in the 2006 playoffs.
And, Reed was a key part in holding Manning fairly in-check the last time they met. On Nov. 22, Manning and the Colts came to M&T Bank Stadium and eeked out a 17-15 victory.
Manning went 22-of-31 for 299 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, one of which went to Reed to set up a field goal by Billy Cundiff.
Reed's pick came when he shaded to one side of the field before doubling back after Manning unleashed a bomb to wideout Reggie Wayne.
Reed snared the ball at the Ravens' 6-yard line and returned it 42 yards, prompting New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick to deem it a "play of the year."
"Ed Reed, I don't think there is a better safety in the NFL than Ed Reed," Belichick said. "You look at the play he made against Indianapolis, that interception, to me, that's got to be the play of the year in the secondary. That's as good a play as any player can make back there, the way he set it up, and then reacted and played the ball. I mean, it was just a tremendous play."
It also helped atone for a poor showing in the first quarter, when Reed attempted to jump a crossing route to Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark got wide open in the back corner of the end zone on the Colts' initial drive. Reed went the wrong way, and Manning made the Ravens pay.
"That was a miscommunication," cornerback Domonique Foxworth said of the scoring pass to Clark. "It was a miscommunication between myself and Ed, which is something that we can eliminate."
The contrast between those two plays shows how Reed could affect the Ravens' chances against Manning, one way or the other.
"His instincts, I think, are the things that set him apart from the rest," said Colts coach Jim Caldwell. "The fact that he can read things as they develop quite early and has the speed to cover a lot of ground to really make you pay for any mistake that you might make [is impressive]."
With their postseason hopes on the line against one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Reed and Co. do not need to be reminded of Manning's potential to carve up the opposition.
In fact, Reed has been waiting for his buddy Peyton ever since walking off the field last weekend in New England.
"I know 18 is coming," Reed said in the post-game locker room at Gillette Stadium. "He's got to know I am watching him, and I know he knows."