Ravens 24 Colts 10 (The MANNING OR NO MANNING, WE FINALLY BEAT THE COLTS Game)
Much to the delight of the contingent of Ravens fans who can’t get the Miami game in 2007 out of their minds, the Ravens came out on Sunday and did exactly what they should have done in dominating a winless Colts team for four quarters. Sure, they didn’t come out and hang 40 on the scoreboard like many would have liked, but a late (as in, last play of the game late) touchdown by Indy made the score look a lot closer than the game actually was.
After winning the opening toss and deferring, the Ravens forced Indy into a 3-and-out, took the ensuing drive following a Pat McAfree punt 60 yards for a touchdown, and the game was effectively over from that point. Baltimore led 10-0 after a quarter, and 17-0 just a few minutes into the second. Only a long kick return (more on that later) to set up an Adam Vinatieri field goal got the Colts on the board, as they were smacked around like the winless squad they are all afternoon.
The Ravens held Dan Orlovsky and the horsehoes to just 2/14 on third down conversions while allowing only 167 total net yards for the game. Seventy-six of those yards came on the game’s final possession, after Chuck Pagano had removed several of his starters. Orlovsky picked on rookie cornerback Chykie Brown in that last drive, otherwise the Ravens could have very realistically held Indy to under 100 total yards for the day.
Terrell Suggs continued his Defensive Player of the Year-worthy season with three more sacks, each one coming with a forced fumble on Orlovsky. It would be nice if one of Suggs’ mates could fall on one of these damn fumbles some time soon, but hey – they didn’t really need the turnovers yesterday; hopefully the ball will start bouncing our way in more crucial situations. The Ball So Hard University Dean now has 13 sacks, a career high and good for best in the AFC.
On offense, Ray Rice went over 100 yards in consecutive games for the first time in his career, piling up 103 yards on 26 carries and adding a touchdown. Rice fumbled for the first time since the Jacksonville game, but again, let’s just be thankful he’s getting it out of his system in a blowout game, and not in a nail-biter down the stretch.
Joe Flacco was calmly efficient in throwing the ball against a poor and depleted Colts’ secondary, going 23/31 for 227 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. It was just the second time in the last ten games that Joe has thrown two or more touchdowns, which is something for idiot analysts and fantasy football nuts to pick apart on ESPN or NFL Network, but we Ravens fans know it’s not really important. The team is 8-2 in those games, so it’s all good.
Joe’s second touchdown pass, to Dennis Pitta, was one of the best plays he’s made all season. Pitta was initially covered on the play, a 3rd-and-goal from the seven yard line. Flacco looked like he was going to try to run for the end zone (and likely be stopped) but instead dragged the play out to his right, nearly reaching the sideline before firing back across his body to Pitta standing alone in the end zone. It’s the kind of play that commentators will chastise him for (and they did) as being dangerous, the cliche “recipe for disaster,” but at the same time it’s the exactly type of thing that big dummy in Pittsburgh has tormented the Ravens with for years. As Kevin Van Valkenburg of the Baltimore Sun says, it’s probably the kind of thing Flacco will have to do a little more of should the Ravens want to get their crack at Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in February.
Flacco’s interception came on a 21-yard throw into the Indy end zone, where it looked like Anquan Boldin could have done a LOT more to help his quarterback, but instead seemed more worried about avoiding a potential big hit from the safety, who eventually picked the pass off. Q just watched as the ball sailed a couple feet over his head, and continues – for whatever reason – to not be nearly the same receiver inside the end zone as he is outside of it. Throwing to him in the end zone seems to end in frustration far more often than not, as evidenced by his paltry three scores on the season.
Joe was almost betrayed on his first touchdown of the day as well, as Torrey Smith bobbled an easily catchable ball before eventually corralling it against his body. It was Smith’s sixth touchdown of his rookie campaign, tying a Ravens record formerly held solely by Jamal Lewis for his performance in 2000.
The Ravens had an up-and-down day on special teams.
First, the good: Lardarius Webb had another good day returning punts, following up his great week in Cleveland by averaging 19 yards on three tries. The new wrinkle of putting Haruki Nakamura back there by Webb as an extra late blocker has paid immediate dividends, and Webb looks close to breaking another one sooner rather than later.
Ed Reed also returned a punt, and again did some goofy “oh, I’m not gonna run it, OH YES I AM!” move that he was lucky to not get blown up on. I’d beg Ed to stop the madness, but at this point we all know it’s not going anywhere. Ed always has a plan, but he’s usually the only one who knows what it is.
On the other hand, it was obvious that Billy Cundiff, despite playing, was still being bothered by that left calf injury that threatened to sideline him for the game. His kickoffs were about 15 yards shorter than usual, and the line drives that he usually boots through the end zone were instead falling to earth at about the goal line. The low trajectory gave the coverage team no time to get down the field, and they allowed a long return that set up the Colts’ only non-junk time points of the day. Sam Koch tried his luck in the third quarter, and was also unable to record a touchback. Hopefully Cundiff heals up this week and is ready to go in San Diego.
The Ravens kept pace in the AFC, joining the Patriots, Steelers, and Texans as 10-win teams, and will need to continue piling up the W’s if they want to stay atop the division and conference. They are now 4-0 without Ray Lewis, who will be aiming to return to action against the Chargers in Week 15, and 3-0 with Joe sporting the Joe Manchu mustache. They put to rest a decade’s worth of frustrations against Indy, beating them for the first time since 2001, but the task gets a lot more difficult next week against the resurgent Bolts in Southern California.