Manning, Lewis ready for next battle of words
Peyton Manning will spend Saturday night doing his usual work, barking instructions at the line of scrimmage.
Ray Lewis will try to match Manning word for word, jab for jab, audible for audible.
Their teammates have been through enough of these rounds to know it will be the most entertaining, and loudest, chess match of the divisional-round weekend. It's Peyton vs. Ray, The Sequel.
``It can get pretty chaotic out there,'' Colts left tackle Charlie Johnson said with a laugh, reflecting on other times he's been in the crossfire. ``They've played against each other so many times that Peyton will make a check and then Ray will make a check and then Peyton will make another check. In a way, it's kind of fun to listen to.''
Or at least to see how two of the best players at their positions, arguably of all-time, manage this battle of wits.
In many ways, the resumes of Manning and Lewis look virtually the same.
The Colts quarterback is the NFL's first four-time MVP. The Ravens linebacker is one of only four players in league history to earn two NFL defensive player of the year awards. Both have become playoff regulars, perennial Pro Bowlers, Super Bowl champions and Super Bowl MVPs.
Manning is considered the game's best student because of the countless hours he spends breaking down tape, memorizing defenses and using his knowledge to make all the right calls at all the right times.
Lewis is Manning's defensive equivalent. He has spent the past 14 seasons putting teammates in position to harass quarterbacks, force mistakes and create one of the league's most feared units.
And, clearly, they respect each other.
Following Sunday's 33-14 victory at New England, Lewis talked about the challenge of facing his old rival, while Manning spent Tuesday praising Lewis' study habits.
``I have great respect for the way he prepares. I can tell by the way he plays how hard he prepares,'' Manning said. ``It certainly shows up for his team on Sundays.''
But they are not clones.
Lewis leads with a loud, fiery style that includes a penchant for trash-talking and occasionally the outrageously funny. Against Manning, that means trying to interpret Manning's audibles out loud.
Manning is all business. He concentrates on getting teammates into the right spots, ignoring Lewis' barbs. That's when the real games begin.
``Peyton always knows what he's doing, and I don't think he's listening to what Ray is saying,'' Colts right guard Kyle DeVan said, smiling. ``He's making sure to put us in the right play. If you want to look at it like a chess board, he (Manning) is putting his pieces in place there and he's pretty good at doing it.''
The philosophy has produced almost flawless results.
Indy (14-2) has won seven straight games against Lewis' defense, including a 17-15 victory in Baltimore two months ago. In 2006, the only other time the Colts and Ravens met in the playoffs, Manning failed to produce a touchdown against the Lewis-led defense but still orchestrated a 15-6 divisional-round win at Baltimore that led to Indy's Super Bowl title.
Now the Ravens (10-7) return to Indy, where they are 0-4 all-time and lost 31-3 last season in their only other appearance at Lucas Oil Stadium.
``What do I recall? I recall it wasn't very pretty,'' said Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, whose brother Jim is in the Colts' Ring of Honor. ``I recall them getting out in the first half and pretty much knocking us out. It was a real tough day for the Ravens.''
Lewis & Co. think they can change the script this time.
When the teams met in Week 11, Manning produced only two touchdowns. The Ravens allowed just 27 TDs all season, the second-lowest total in the NFL, and among teams with at least five postseason games since 2000, the Ravens have allowed the fewest points per game (12.0).
``It's a great matchup,'' Harbaugh said. ``Nobody's better than Peyton as far as recognizing defenses and making great decisions in terms of where to go with the ball and those kinds of things, probably the best that there's ever been at that. I'm kind of biased toward Ray, obviously. He does that (getting the team in the right plays) and he does so many other things. He's a great leader.''
And a loud one, too.
``You just kind of chuckle when you hear the banter going back and forth,'' Johnson said. ``They may think they know where the ball's getting thrown, like to the right, but they don't really know.''