Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett isn't about to reveal his game plan against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis offense, but he did say on Friday that trying to trick Manning could be folly.
"Some teams try, but you're not going to go out and disguise things," Haslett said. "He studies, he knows coverage, he understands what it means when there's two [defensive backs] back there, when there's three [defensive backs]. He has seen it all. He knows where he's going to go with the ball. He rarely makes mistakes."
Haslett discounted the notion that Manning has struggled against 3-4 defenses in the past.
"Most teams don't play them with a 3-4 because the Colts play multiple wide receiver sets and you have to be in some other personnel grouping," he said.
DeAngelo Hall agreed with Haslett's assessment on trying to trick Manning,
"You might confuse him for a quarter, a half, maybe three quarters, but at some point he's going to figure out what's going on and be able to execute that offense," Hall said. "He has played in every stage possible and he knows what's coming before it comes."
Best chance against Manning?
Try to contain him, Haslett said.
That could mean applying more pass pressure on him – Haslett has been aggressive with his blitz calls this year – and using as many as six defensive backs in certain situatoins.
"Our guys are excited about the challenge," Haslett said. "And we're looking forward to it. I think being at home, with our home crowd, will help. Hopefully we can slow him down enough that we can force him into a couple errors."
Easier said than done.
This is a quarterback in the top five of most NFL career passing records: 51,373 passing yards (third), 4,378 pass completions (third) and 377 touchdowns (third).
He is a four-time league MVP and has 10 Pro Bowl nods.
This season, Manning, 34, has completed 67.6 percent of his passes this season for 1,609 yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Haslett said he was aware of Manning's ability well before he entered the NFL as the top overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.
Haslett first encountered Manning in New Orleans when he was a sophomore in high school.
"I was in my third year coaching in the NFL and I was with Jim Mora in New Orleans coaching the Saints," Haslett said. "Obviously the Manning family has a great tradition in New Orleans and I've known Archie [Peyton's father] a long time. Peyton would come over to our off-season training camp as a sophomore and throw passes. And he was better than any quarterback we had."