The next playoff game on the schedule had the Indianapolis Colts visiting the Baltimore Ravens. The big story in this game was that it would be the last one linebacker Ray Lewis would ever play in Baltimore. After 17 seasons, he decided this season would be his last. Judging by the entrance he made coming into this game, he was ready to go. The other big story in this game was that Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was hospitalized with an undisclosed illness and was absent from the game. Quarterback coach Clyde Christensen ended up calling the plays. The Colts won the toss and elected to receive.
The kickoff went nine yards deep into the end zone for a touch-back and the Colts started at their 20. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck led his team onto the field and on the first play of the game, the Colts started out with some trickery as wide receiver Donnie Avery took an end around up the right side for a gain of 15. That was the only play that gained any yards for the Colts and they promptly punted the ball away. Return man Jacoby Jones fielded the punt at the 14 and returned it to the Raven 48.
With good starting field position, the Ravens went to work. On second and seven from the Colt 49, quarterback Joe Flacco found tight end Ed Dickson across the middle for a gain of 24 yards and a first down at the 25. A pass interference penalty on the Colts moved the ball to the 15. On second and six, running back Ray Rice fumbled and despite the fact that guard Marshal Yanda came out of the pile with the ball, the zebras still ruled the Colts had recovered the fumble. Replay showed that defensive end Lawrence Guy fell on the ball, but it squirted free and was recovered by Yanda. Still, the Colts were given possession of the ball at their 11.
A four-yard run by running back Vick Ballard and an eight-yard scramble by Luck got the Colts a first down at the 22. An illegal contact penalty on the Ravens, a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Reggie Wayne and some more shifty running by Ballard got the Colts down to the Raven 35. On third and five from the 30, the Ravens brought the pressure and Luck was sacked by linebacker Paul Kruger. The ball came loose and was recovered by defensive end Pernell McPhee at the 37. The Colts took over seven minutes off the clock and came away with nothing.
Speaking of ending up with nothing, the remainder of the first quarter featured two more punts and zero points scored. The second quarter began with the Ravens starting their next drive at their 29. Ray Rice was given a breather and running back Bernard Pierce entered the game. On second and four from the 35, Pierce ran up the left side for a gain of five and a first down. Flacco then found wide receiver Torrey Smith across the middle for a gain of 22 yards. Another five-yard run for Pierce and a seven-yard catch by tight end Dennis Pitta moved the ball to the Colt 26. From the 26, Pierce got loose for an 18-yard gain and that made it first and goal from the nine. The Ravens abandoned the running game and got as far as the five-yard line. On fourth down from the five, kicker Justin Tucker kicked a 23-yard field goal and the Ravens took a 3-0 lead with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter.
On first down from his own 20, Luck looked for Avery, but the ball was tipped by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and by all rights, Ray Lewis should have had an interception. The ball hit his hands, bounced off his chest and fell incomplete to the ground. Two more plays netted eight yards and the Colts were forced to punt again. Jones fielded the ball at the 19 and returned it to the 36. But a holding call moved them back to their 20. They went nowhere and punted the ball back to the Colts.
With eight minutes to go in the first half, the Colts took over at their 20. Runs by Ballard and an eight-yard pass to Wayne gave them a first down at the 33. Luck then found tight end Dwayne Allen across the middle for a gain of 22. Two plays later, Luck found Allen again for a gain of 13. The Ravens brought the blitz and Luck was sacked by Kruger and cornerback Corey Graham for a loss of six yards. On third and 14 from the Raven 36, Luck completed a short pass to tight end Coby Fleener for a gain of seven. That brought out kicker Adam Vinatieri for a 47-yard field goal attempt. The kick was good and the score was knotted at three with a little over two minutes to go in the first half.
A 37-yard kickoff return by Jones set the Ravens up with good field position. On third and four from the 43, Flacco found Jones across the middle for a gain of eight. On second and ten from the 49, Flacco hit Rice with a short pass and thanks to some good down-field blocking, Rice weaved his way down to the two-yard line. Fullback Vonta Leach finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run. Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 10-3 with 50 seconds to go in the first half.
With time running short, Luck took to the air and completed passes to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Wayne to move the ball to the Raven 43. An intentional grounding penalty moved them back to their 41, but Luck found Hilton again for a gain of 25 yards. With no more time to run a play, Vinatieri was brought in to try a 52-yard field goal. He snuck it inside the right upright and the kick was good. At halftime, the score was 10-6 in favor of the Ravens.
With ten minutes to go in the third quarter, the Ravens took over at their 25. Throughout the entire first half, wide receiver Anquan Boldin had been invisible. It was time for him to make some noise. From the 25, Flacco found Boldin for ten yards. On second and six from the 39, Boldin caught a deep ball on the right sideline for a gain of 46 and a first down at the Colt 15. A false start moved them back five yards, but Flacco was unfazed and found Pitta on the right side for a nice 20-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Tucker made the point after and the Ravens increased their lead to 17-6 with eight and a half minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Colts started at their 20 and they knew they had better get the ball rolling. A couple of runs by Ballard, a 17-yard completion to wide receiver LaVon Brazill and a nice six-yard scramble on third and two by Luck moved the Colts to the Raven 43. Luck continued to spread short passes to his receivers and a 20-yard pass to Wayne set them up with a first down at the 14. The Ravens really brought the pressure and the drive stalled at the eight-yard line. Vinatieri made his 26-yard field goal attempt and the score was now 17-9 with 40 seconds to go in the third quarter.
From the 21, Flacco hooked up with Boldin again for 21 yards and a first down at the 42. Rice got the call on the next play and took off up the left side for a big gain. As he was running, the ball was knocked loose by safety Joe Lefeged and bounced forward. It was recovered by linebacker Pat Angerer at the Colt 29. The Colts put together a decent drive on the strength of a 19-yard catch by Wayne and a 24-yard run by Ballard. Still, they couldn’t put the ball into the end zone and the drive came to an end at the Raven 22. It’s a rare occasion that Vinatieri misses a field goal, but his 40-yard attempt sailed wide right and the Colts came away with nothing again.
The Ravens got the ball back at their 30 and knew one more touchdown would most likely put the Colts away. A nine-yard pass to Smith and a 43-yard run by Pierce got the Ravens in business at the Colt 18. On second and ten, Flacco put up a high pass into the end zone for Boldin. Despite having a man in his face, he was able to bring the ball in for a touchdown. Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 24-9 with nine minutes to go in the game.
The Colts wouldn’t go down without a fight and went from their 20 down to the Raven 18. On fourth and one from the 18, Luck looked for Wayne but the pass was picked off by cornerback Cary Williams at the 15. That sealed the deal and the Ravens ran out the clock. Final score: Ravens 24 Colts 9. It was a great and emotional day for the Ravens as their defense brought relentless pressure and Ray Lewis got a win in his last home game as a Raven. What I was thinking as the game came to a close was that it may also be the final home game for safety Ed Reed. Both he and Lewis are destined for the Hall of Fame.
For the Colts, Andrew Luck completed 28 of 54 for 288 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and one lost fumble. Reggie Wayne led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 114. Vick Ballard led the ground game with 91 yards on 22 carries. As a team, the Colts rushed for 152 yards on 30 carries. Defensively, safety Antoine Bethea and defensive end Cory Redding tied for the lead in solo tackles with six.
For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 12 of 23 for 282 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Anquan Boldin was the star of the show and had 145 yards on five receptions and a touchdown. Bernard Pierce led the ground game with 103 yards on 15 carries. Ray Rice also had a good day with 70 yards on 15 carries. He also had 47 yards receiving and lost two fumbles. As a team, the Ravens rushed for 172 yards on 32 carries. Defensively, the Ravens brought the pressure and sacked Luck three times. He was also knocked down ten times. Fittingly, Ray Lewis led the team in solo tackles with nine and he also had one tackle for a loss and one pass defensed. Up next for the Ravens is a trip to Denver to take on the Denver Broncos. In week 15, they met in Baltimore and the Broncos came away with a dominant 34-17 win. I’ll be back tomorrow morning with a recap of the Seahawks-Redskins game.