A Capsule Look at this Week's Colts Opponent, the Baltimore Ravens
Synopsis: The Colts, after splitting their first four games, on Sunday will play a familiar opponent with a look both old and new.
The Baltimore Ravens, an AFC North team and one the Colts have played six times since 2001, including each of the last two seasons. The Colts have had success against the Ravens, winning the last five meetings, including a 15-6 victory in the playoffs following the 2006 season.
The Colts also beat the Ravens last season, 44-20, on a nationally-televised, prime-time game in Baltimore.
The Ravens at the time were struggling, in the middle of a nine-game losing streak, but Baltimore is in a very real sense a different team in October of 2008.
They have a new coach, John Harbaugh having replaced longtime head coach Brian Billick, and a new quarterback, with Joe Flacco – the team's first-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft – having emerged as the starter at the position in training camp.
Under Harbaugh, the Ravens won their first two games, and have played two of the early-season leaders in the AFC – unbeaten Tennessee and 4-1 Pittsburgh – strong before losing late leads the last two weeks. The Ravens held leads of 10-3 and 10-6 against Tennessee before Titans quarterback Kerry Collins passed 11 yards to tight end Alge Crumpler with just under two minutes remaining.
A key play late in the game went against Baltimore, as defensive end Terrell Suggs was penalized for hitting Collins in the head after a third-down incomplete pass.
"It's hard to believe they lost that game (against the Titans Sunday), taking nothing away from a very good Tennessee team," Colts President Bill Polian said.
In one significant way the Ravens' look hasn't changed.
The Baltimore defense, one of the NFL's best for much of the past decade, has held opponents to an average of 14.8 points per game, and ranks first in all three major statistical categories – total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and passing yards allowed.
Polian said the Ravens also feature one of the NFL's best rushing offenses, with fullback/running back Le'Ron McClain and running back Willis McGahee combining for more than 400 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
The Ravens are ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing.
"I'm sufficiently frightened having watched just the Baltimore offense to not sleep very well for the rest of the week," Polian said. "They run the ball as well as anybody in the National Football League and they run it with three backs, not two, who are outstanding. . . .
"Their quarterback (rookie Joe Flacco) for a rookie is tremendously poised. I was really taken with the fact that he is so poised. (Offensive coordinator) Cam Cameron is a great offensive coordinator, so as I say, I've seen enough. We have our hands full with this club. That's for sure."
2008 Record: 2-2, 2nd in AFC North.
Head Coach: John Harbaugh, first season as Ravens and NFL head coach (2-2).
Last game: The Ravens led 10-6 in the fourth quarter before the Titans drove 80 yards on 11 plays, with Collins throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Crumpler with 1:56 remaining to give Tennessee a 13-10 victory. Playing at home, Baltimore outgained Tennessee 285-210, and held the Titans to 14 first downs. Tennessee rushed for just 47 yards and Collins completed 17 of 32 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
2008 NFL Rankings: Offense – Overall, 24th (289.8 yards per game); Rushing, 4th (153.8 ypg); Passing, 31st (136.0 ypg); Defense – Overall, 1st (192.5 yards per game); Rushing, 1st (64.0 ypg); Passing, 1st (128.5 ypg).
2008 Leading Passer: Joe Flacco (62-106 completions, 603 yards, 58.5 pct., 1 TD, 4 INT, 61.9 rating).
2008 Leading Rusher(s): Le'Ron McClain (63 carries, 266 yards, 4 TD); Willis McGahee (50 carries, 170 yards, 1 TD).
2008 Leading Receiver(s): Derrick Mason (21 receptions, 261 yards, 0 TD).
2008 Leading Sacker: Terrell Suggs (3).
2008 Turnover Breakdown: Plus-1 (8 forced, 7 committed).
First-round draft choice: Joe Flacco, quarterback. With the No. 18 overall selection of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Ravens selected Flacco, a quarterback from the University of Delaware.
Flacco, who originally signed with Pittsburgh, played sparingly as a freshman for the Panthers, then transferred to Delaware, where he started two seasons, throwing for 2,783 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior in 2006 and 4,263 yards and 23 touchdown as a senior last season.
With Kyle Boller and Troy Smith injured, Flacco emerged during training camp as the Ravens' starter, leading the team to victories in the first two regular-season games. The only other rookie quarterbacks in NFL history to lead their teams to victories in their first two games were John Elway and Ryan Leaf.
Key free agents acquired: Brendon Ayanbadejo (Chicago), LB; Jim Leonhard (Buffalo), S; Frank Walker (Green Bay), CB.
Key free agents lost: Devard Darling (Kansas City), WR; B.J. Sams (Kansas City), CB.
2008 Review: The Ravens, after losing nine of their last 10 games last season, started this season 2-0, winning two games at home – 17-10 over Cincinnati and 28-10 over Cleveland. A Week 2 game at Houston was rescheduled because of Hurricane Ike.
The victory over Cleveland moved the Ravens – who won the 2006 AFC North title – into first place in the division, but they have lost their last two games in heartbreaking fashion to two teams leading their divisions.
In Week 4, the Ravens led AFC North-leading Pittsburgh, 13-3, in the third quarter before losing, 23-20, in overtime. On Sunday, Baltimore led Tennessee 10-3 and 10-6 in the fourth quarter before Tennessee rallied with a touchdown in the final two minutes.
Last time in Playoffs: 2006.
Last time in Super Bowl: 2000.
Super Bowl Championships: 2000.
2007 Pro Bowl Selections: Jonathan Ogden, OT; Ray Lewis, MLB, Willis McGahee, RB; Ed Reed, S.
Quotable I: "There are a lot of different ways to look at close losses. Initially, they're a lot harder to take than a bigger loss, but in the long run, there's going to be a lot of things we can learn from these games, and as long as we come out better because of it and start winning these types of games, that will definitely make us better."
--- Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco
Quotable II: "This could be the turning point of our season. We don't have a choice. We've got to bounce back. If we sit here and dwell on this, it will bury us and we can't have that.''
--- Ravens Defensive Tackle Justin Bannan