“It’s a chess game with him,” linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. “He’s going to look for anything that you’re going to give away – safeties rotating down, the alignment of the linebackers, key steps, everything like that. It’ll be a game where you can’t show anything and you’ll just have to go out there and make him make decisions after snapping the ball.”
After a teary goodbye following his release from Indianapolis in the offseason, Manning has embraced his new home and has transformed the Broncos from a team in transition to one with championship aspirations. He may not be thriving with the likes of Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark anymore, but it’s clear Denver has become Manning’s team in a short amount of time.
And the Ravens are having visions of the past while preparing this week.
“It sort of looks like Indy over there to me,” Reed said. “Just the things he’s doing, looking at Peyton on the sideline – you watch the games – he’s coaching everybody. That’s no different from when he was in Indy.”
The league’s 24th-ranked defense can only hope it will gain reinforcements for Sunday as linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs have joined Smith on the practice field this week. Lewis’ cerebral presence would provide major assistance in trying to dissect what Manning and the Broncos are doing at the line of scrimmage.
And Suggs’ return from a torn biceps would bring much attention, which could create opportunities for a pass rush that will try to get to a quarterback who’s only been sacked 19 times all year.
The return of two former winners of the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award would offer a major lift to a defense lacking confidence, but even their respective comebacks might not be enough against the man who’s tormented the Ravens frequently over the last 11 years.
With the Ravens desperately needing to get back on track after two consecutive losses and the removal of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the timing couldn’t be worse to see Manning strolling into town.
“Whenever you go against the best, there’s always extra motivation,” Suggs said. “The guy has got a quick gun. If he knows where to go with the ball, he is going to tear you apart. You definitely have to have your motor running.”