INDIANAPOLIS –The Colts have entered into many tough venues in franchise history, some of those coming in playoff action.
What awaited them in Baltimore in the Divisional Playoffs after the 2006 season truly was memorable.
Head Coach Tony Dungy exhorted his veteran-heavy team to "weather the storm" from the torrent he anticipated as the Colts returned to the city of their birth in 1953. Though that was the seventh time the franchises were to meet, Dungy expected a hornet's nest.
He got it. A veteran club kept its composure, though, realizing that 45 men were going to battle 45 men, nothing more. Indianapolis prevailed, 15-6. It was a ticket to the next round and a step toward eventually winning Super Bowl XLI.
The Colts and Ravens meet Sunday in M&T Bank Stadium, the 13th time the franchises have battled since Baltimore returned to action in 1996. The Colts, who have completed 29 seasons in Indianapolis, hold a 9-3 overall series edge that includes wins both times the clubs have met in the post-season.
Additionally, the Colts hosted the Ravens in the Divisional Playoffs after the 2009 season, winning, 20-3, on the way to Super Bowl XLIV.
Head Coach Chuck Pagano joined the Ravens two years after the first playoff battle between the teams, and he was Baltimore's secondary coach in the 2009 affair.
Pagano is versed on emotions in the series that extend beyond the playing field and while he referenced it in today's full-squad meeting, it was not something on which he spent a great deal of time.
"We really didn't talk much about it. It's what we've always said since week one, it's about us and it's about the process," said Pagano. "We have another game because of the sacrifices made by everybody in the organization, all the coaches and players. They put everything they had into it to get to this point. We're going to stick to the process."
Resident graybeard Adam Vinatieri is one of about six current Colts were alive when the team re-located. He has a vague memory of 1984, but has a much more vivid recollection of the playoff atmosphere in Baltimore seven years ago.
"(I remember) a little bit," he said of the relocation. "I was not in the league at the time. I do remember when it went down. I definitely remember six years ago when they were pretty fired up.
"That was a good (atmosphere). I don't know if there's many more angry ones than that, maybe when I went to Oakland (after the 2002 'Tuck Rule' game). They were pretty fired up."
Tom Zbikowski and Cory Redding moved along with Pagano this year to the Colts. Redding played the last two seasons in Baltimore and concedes there still is a feeling among fans about past history.
"Yeah, I got a big understanding of how much they (Ravens fans) hate them (the Colts). The feeling still is there. I'll leave it at that," said Redding.
Andrew Luck's father, Oliver, played with the Houston Oilers before the franchise moved to Tennessee in 1997. Luck was an Oilers fans and with his father attended a few events held by the Texans when they were established in 2002. Luck is aware of the feelings involved by some spectators in this series.
"So, we've heard," said Luck of what Colts veterans have shared about the reactions of some fans. "You figure any playoff game is going to have a great atmosphere. I don't think we'll get too caught up in that."
Pagano joined the Colts just a couple of days removed from the Ravens making a great run in last year's playoffs. Baltimore took New England to the closing seconds in the conference title game before falling.
A matter of hours later as he departed for Indianapolis, Pagano noticed the Baltimore paper.
"I remember seeing the paper when I left town. I was driving the Mayflower out of town," said Pagano. "I fully understand (the scope of the rivalry). They had me in the cab, if I remember right.
"We talked about it this morning as a team what transpired. (There are) passionate, passionate fans in the NFL, and they're (Ravens fans) no different than anybody else. They (Colts players) understand how people feel."
The key for the Colts to succeed on Sunday was the blueprint in 2006 – understand the game is played on the field.
Vinatieri scored all the club's points that day, and his 35-yard field goal with 23 seconds left ended the fray.
"I know when you win a game on the road, especially a playoff game, it was pretty quiet in there," said Vinatieri. "They were pretty spirited before that game. I'm sure there some memories still there. That's okay, there are 45 players who are suited up that are going to step out on the field. It's a football game, and we have to go out there and play well."
PAGANO LAUDS RAY LEWIS – Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis announced today he will be retiring after his 17th season. Pagano worked with Lewis for four years and has praise for the 12-time Pro Bowler.
"All great, all fine," said Pagano of his memories. "Anybody who had an opportunity to play with Ray and spend time with him would say the same things. He's a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. I'm pretty sure they'll introduce the defense, and he'll be the last one out. He'll incite a riot, so to speak. There will be a ton of energy on that team and sideline and in that stadium. He's their leader. Any time you get your leader back, it's an added spark."