Some thoughts from Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan on the Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning heading into Sunday's Super Bowl game against the Chicago Bears.
What makes Manning so special?
First of all, he has so much God given ability. He has got a great arm. He’s got things that you can’t coach in a guy -- the poise, the work ethic. He studies the game. You know when you play him that you can’t give him the standard looks or he’ll carve you up. He is a competitive guy, loves a challenge, tough, and durable. He’s got it all as a quarterback. He really does. That’s as big of a challenge as we face when we go against him.
How much 3-4 look did you give the Colts in the playoffs compared to other games?
It’s hard to say. We do a lot of 3-4 stuff. We’ll base 3-4, then stem the overs and unders which are 4-3 defenses. We probably played more 3-4 against Manning than we normally do. The Colts give you two tight ends as a base set, but they run a lot of three wide formations. A lot of times, you’re running nickel packages even in first downs against them. A lot of that is our 3-4 stuff where we move around. We went into that game knowing that our big three-man rush package would be important against him because they were going to protect him. Quite honestly, if you cut the head off that thing, the offense is going to fall if you can get to him. Now, in the process of doing that, you’re going to leave yourself vulnerable. You have to pick you shots against him. You can’t just live doing one thing or another, because once he gets a bead on what you’re doing, he is going to be really tough.
Why have the Colts struggled against the 3-4?
They haven’t as much as in years past. In the past, they would "molly protect" the guards. In other words, if you showed a 3-4 look, and had two guys coming off the edge, their guards would work out and block the outside wedge. When you do that, the pocket gets pushed. I think you saw that a little bit against us, but a ton against Pittsburgh and San Diego. They basically got out of that protection. They like to go six-man protection against every team in the league, but against us, they went with a seven-man protection. They were not willing to get Peyton Manning hit.
Why is Manning so hard to sack?
He’s smart, and knows where he is going with the football. He can read coverages and knows immediately where he wants to go with the football. He not afraid to throw incompletions or check down receiver. He is so well trained. Once he reads your coverages, he knows where to go. He has a great presence and feel in the pocket. He knows when to step up, when to go to his right. He’s got a great release. The Colts are outstanding at stealing calls. Everybody in the league has someone up in the box, or guys on the sidelines trying to steal calls. It’s just like baseball. If you’ve got guys who can do, you do it. It’s easy to say ethically, it’s not going to happen -- yeah right -- the Colts just happen to be the best team in the at doing it. They also have Tom Moore, who is one of the best offensive coordinators in the league, especially when it comes to calling out your defense.
How do you defense their receivers?
Primarily, you want to be in some kind of cover 2 against them, to get underneath help and then have someone over the top. That’s the scheme we want to play most of the time. Any time you put a guy in center field, they just run an out route. Those veteran receivers and Manning are good at recognizing the one guy in the middle, and that and leaves you vulnerable on the outside.
Which team is tougher to face, the Bengals or the Colts?
Both are difficult. Both were difficult challenges. We haven’t had great success against either one. We hold them down, but they’re tough to beat. Their skill level on the outside is tremendous. Both quarterbacks are tremendous. But, let’s play Cincinnati. They’re in our league. Bring it on. We don’t like them, they don’t like us. Bring it on. But we owe Indy, and next year we’ll get to play them again. It’s going to take a team effort to beat those two teams. You just can’t go out there and think you’re going to dominate them on one side. We have played them better than anybody else, and we should because we’re the No. 1 defense. But it’s still an awesome challenge.
What do the Ravens have in common with the Bears defensively?
We both play with a lot of passion. Every snap, we’re both giving an all out effort. They are outstanding at running to the ball. The first guy gets there, and the second and third guys come trying to strip the football away. They did that better than we did this year. They forced more fumbles than the we did. We have to get better at that. They have guys who love to play the game. Our fronts are different. They line up in the traditional 4-3 and try to penetrate with the tackles and outside pass rushers. They play the Tampa 2. Basically, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher stays deep and he runs inside out to the football. In pass coverage, he is more of a robber, a free safety, than our guys. A lot of plays get funneled into Urlacher. We don’t necessarily funnel plays into Ray, he just comes over the top on things. If Ray played in that system, he’d probably have about 250 tackles. We try to disrupt things a little more. They’re outstanding in their own way, but it’s different from ours. We have 11 guys who can make the big play, and what we do is probably more challenging to the opposition.
Who are you picking, the Colts or the Bears?
Most people would think I would take Chicago, but I’m going to take Indy. I expect Indy’s offense to keep blocking through people like they have all year.
- Mike Preston