Ravens unleash 46 defense, but Manning has its number

Colts' no-huddle offense breaks game open with two third-quarter scores

Ravens Gameday

Colts 24, Ravens 7

September 12, 2005|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,SUN STAFF

Even Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, the NFL's most commanding field general, blinked last night when the Ravens unleashed its Rubik's Cube of a defense.

But the five-time Pro Bowler had a counter-punch for Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's shifting, sliding, charging 46 defense - a relentless, no-huddle offense that cracked the initially stubborn Ravens as the Colts cruised to a 24-7 win in the opener at M&T Bank Stadium.

"I'll just give you some advice for the rest of the season, they don't play a lot of `46' - they play a lot of everything," Manning said after the game. "I'd be curious to know what they call it because they give you a lot of looks."

For the first half, Baltimore's defense, which consistently lined up five and six defensive backs to check Indianapolis' turbocharged passing game, held the Colts to just a field goal.

And even when the complex defense suffered an embarrassing breakdown - as it most assuredly will while the Ravens figure it out themselves - and Manning had a wide-open Marvin Harrison streaking down the right sideline in the first quarter for what should have been a prance-in touchdown, the sure-armed quarterback uncharacteristically overthrew his six-time Pro Bowl receiver.

However, on the second and third Indianapolis drives of the second half, Manning struck for two touchdown passes that put the Colts out of reach of the offensively impotent Ravens.

The first Colts touchdown came after Ravens corner Dale Carter committed a costly hands-to-the-face penalty against wide-out Brandon Stokley on a third-down incompletion.

Five plays later, Manning went on to drop a smart bomb-perfect 28-yard pass into Harrison's hands over corner Chris McAlister for what would be a 10-0 lead.

"It was the same play that I overthrew [in the first half]," Manning said.

On the next drive, Manning took advantage of the reeling Ravens defense when he found tight end Ben Utecht with a 26-yard touchdown pass.

"Deion Sanders was at free safety, which is unusual for him, and he followed my eyes left and we went down the middle to Utecht," the quarterback explained.

Manning's scoring toss to Harrison was the 83rd time the two combined for a touchdown. For Utecht, it was his first career pro catch. The Colts operated in the no-huddle offense until the fourth quarter when the game was well in hand.

"It's kind of what we do no matter who we're playing," Manning said. "It takes a lot of trust because you might have a run play called and they could have one guy lined up on the left or six guys on the left. You don't know how those guys are going to be playing. ... It's like Coach [Jim] Mora used to say, `You just have to keep sawin' wood.' That was our theme."

Colts coach Tony Dungy said that Manning's patience proved to be a key.

In the first half, Manning was, for him, a tepid 14-for-24 and 141 yards. In the second half, though, he was 7-for-12 for 113 yards and the two scores.

"Peyton did a great job. They have a very good defense, and they give you a lot of looks," Dungy said. "We were determined not to let their defense make a play to win the game. We didn't mind punting if we had to do that a few times, and I thought, for the most part, we did a good job keeping our poise. And then when the plays were there, we made them."

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