To combat Peyton Manning, the Seahawks defense is going silent this week
The Seahawks defense will keep the chatter to minimum Sunday and communicate with coded messages and hand signals so they don't tip off the Colts' quarterback.
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON — Shhhhh. Silence, please.
No talking allowed. Not this week. Not against Peyton Manning.
Or else he might hear you. And he'll take what you say and input it into that computer-like brain he has beneath the Indianapolis Colts helmet. Then he'll decipher your calls, formulate the perfect audible, make those crazy hand gestures before the snap and throw a game-winning touchdown pass like he has time and time again.
So the Seahawks defense will keep the chatter to minimum Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium and communicate with coded messages and hand signals.
"Peyton Manning presents unique problems in that he is so intelligent and he accumulates so much knowledge throughout a game that the less that we communicate verbally as a defense, the less cues we'll give him to what we're doing," coach Jim Mora said. "A lot of times, in a no-huddle situation, we'll send a call into Lofa (Tatupu) and he'll disperse it verbally.
"Well, Peyton is a guy that will hear that and he'll pick up on it. And we don't necessarily want to give him a legitimate pre-snap read. And we certainly don't want to tell him "Hey Peyton we're going to play this coverage" by verbalizing it. So we're going to try to be silent in our communication and nonverbal in our communication. And hopefully that works and hopefully it helps us."
To combat one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, the Seahawks defense is stealing a tactic used by most quarterbacks and will wear wristbands with formations and schemes.
It's a new wrinkle and something relatively new for Mora.
"I've done it, (but) maybe not to this extent though," he said. "We're pretty extensive this week. And I believe we need to be. We need to be with the guy we're playing against. He's one of those guys that really nothing gets by him. Nothing."
In most situations, Tatupu, who's expected to return at middle linebacker, receives the defensive call from the sideline and shouts instructions to the other linebackers and defensive front.
This week Tatupu will bark out a number, which coordinates to a number and defensive scheme on the wristbands of the rest of the defense.
"There are other quarterbacks that also have a similar grasp for the game, but hey, if they want us to try it, we'll try it," Tatupu said. "It's not our call. It's coach's. I just run the plays they give me.
"It's (different) because you hope they look at the right number. It will be interesting. We'll see how it works."
Only Manning forces this type change in defensive schemes.
In his 12th season, the three-time MVP award winner, is off to one of the best starts in his career. Through three games, he's completed 66 of 96 passes (68.8 percent) for 983 yards with seven touchdowns, two interceptions and a 117.7 passer rating.
The Colts (3-0) lead the league in passing offense and they're fourth in total offense.
"He does things a little differently and he runs that offense differently then most quarterbacks so you have to adjust," defensive end Patrick Kerney said.
The Seahawks (1-2) are looking for any advantage, particularly with a defense that's riddled with injuries to Tatupu (hamstring), cornerbacks Ken Lucas (groin) and Josh Wilson (ankle) and strong safety Jordan Babineaux (neck).
"When you play him, it's a little bit like a poker game," Babineaux said. "You don't want to tip your hand because he's seen it all."
At 33, Manning shows no signs of wearing down even though he's started 179 consecutive games since his rookie season, second only to Brett Favre (272).
Manning, who led the Colts to a Super Bowl in 2006, will likely move past Fran Tarkenton (47,003 yards) and Warren Moon (49,325) into fourth place on the all-time passing yards list behind Favre, Dan Marino and John Elway.
Manning also needs six wins to surpass Tarkenton for fourth place on the all-time wins list behind Farve, Elway and Marino.
Seahawks secondary assistant Larry Marmie, who was the defensive coordinator at Tennessee during Manning's freshman season, said Manning had the look of a legend the moment he saw him.
"It's been about 15 years since I was with him as a freshman and I can honestly say the things that he's accomplished since then have really not surprised me because as a freshman, a true freshman, when he came in he had the special quality," Marmie said. "Peyton had it. Whatever it is, he has it.
"He just had a certain aura about him. When they (offensive linemen) were in there lifting, he wanted to be with them. He won the players over quickly with his personality, his attitude, his work habits, his respect for the upperclassmen. "
Former Tennessee quarterback Jerry Colquitt was a fifth-year starter before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the season opener in 1994, which elevated Manning from third to second on the depth chart. When Todd Helton, the Colorado Rockies first baseman, went down with a knee injury in the fourth game, Manning beat out freshman Branndon Stewart and became the Vols career passing leader.
"Peyton never acted like a freshman," said Colquitt, a UT graduate assistant in 1996-97. "A lot of freshmen are just happy to on the team or to be in the stadium, but Peyton was different."
First-year Colts head coach James Caldwell said Manning's work ethic separates him from his peers.
"He's gifted," Caldwell said. "God blessed him with all the physical tools that you need to be an outstanding player in this league. He's mentally gifted as well. He's very, very bright, and he has great work habits. Often times, you don't find that combination."
Mora knew early on that Manning was special.
Back when he was a defensive backs assistant with the New Orleans Saints, Manning, then a 17-year-old senior at Isidore Newman High in New Orleans, would work out with the Saints quarterbacks during offseason 7-on-7 passing drills.
"Even with (former Saints quarterback) Jim Everett and the talent he had, Peyton was the best quarterback on the field," Mora said. "You'd go to his high school games and you'd watch him play, and you know that cliché, 'He's like a man among boys'? It was just that way.
"I mean, he was just big. He was fast. He was smarter. He had a whip for an arm. He made great decisions. It was a joke watching him play against these guys. The funny thing is, he still looks that way today, even though he's playing against this elite competition, he still just stands out in everything he does."
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