Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rams Set to Combat Manning's Wizardry; NFL FOOTBALL

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rams Set to Combat Manning's Wizardry; NFL FOOTBALL

Article excerpt

New Rams safety Mark Barron has faced Peyton Manning only once, two years ago as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

It wasn't the most monstrous of Manning performances: three touchdown passes, 242 yards in a 31-23 Denver victory. Even so, in the minds of Barron and his teammates, it was as if Manning knew every call by the Tampa defense. It's like he knew what was coming.

"We came away from the game thinking he had cheated or something, the way he was calling it out," Barron said. "Seriously. He's a smart guy, man. He knows the game."

Prof. Manning brings his act to St. Louis along with the rest of the Denver Broncos for a noon kickoff Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome. Of course, the show comes complete with all the gestures, gyrations and verbal signals that have become part and parcel of Manning's game over these many years.

"Omaha! Omaha!"

"I did hear 'Omaha,'" Barron said of that 2012 game. "He's been doing that for years. He has a lot of terminology that he uses. It's like he really has his own language."

But is it real? Or fake?

"You don't really know," Barron said. "You don't know if something he's saying is actually real or if it's a dummy call."

Since Manning won't be supplying decoder rings Sunday, it's up to the Rams to figure that all out. Or ... just ignore it.

"You try not to think about that at all," linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said. "I think he has way too many code words."

Nothing personal Peyton, but Dunbar doesn't plan on listening.

"You don't want to play that cat-and-mouse game with him," Dunbar said.

Defensive tackle Kendall Langford agrees.

"It's crowd noise," Langford. "You can't get caught up in listening to that because it'll slow you down. Just go out there and play your game. Do your job. Do your 1/11th, and hopefully we can get it done."

Teams have tried just about everything in an effort to slow Manning down over the years. Blitzing like crazy. Dropping eight men in coverage. Distracting him with circus clowns. Not much seems to work, unless you have Seattle's defensive personnel or Bill Belichick's brain.

Make no mistake, the Rams have studied those tapes, looking to beg, borrow or steal anything they can to slow Manning.

But even for a defensive coordinator as creative as Gregg Williams, you don't reinvent the wheel 10 games into the season. Especially when you're facing Manning.

"Really, you don't change a lot of things you're doing," Williams said. "When people start doing that type of stuff is when big accidents happen. We've just got to be who we are. We've got to be a lot more focused in a couple of situations, in a couple of formations, that they'll present. …

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