INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts and Ravens will meet again this Sunday with their history well-documented over the last few seasons.
Sunday's contest will pit the Ravens taking on their former defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano, and his youthful group of players that are fresh off tying the third-largest turnaround in NFL history.
The Ravens have fought injuries defensively all season but appear to be getting healthy at the right time, carving out an NFL-best fifth consecutive trip to the playoffs.
Perhaps no return to the field will be more anticipated that that of linebacker Ray Lewis this weekend.
Lewis tore his right triceps during October, but he is off injured reserve and back on the active roster.
The 17-year veteran announced Wednesday this postseason run will be his last, and Pagano has fond memories of coaching the heartbeat of the vaunted Ravens defense.
"Anybody that had an opportunity to play with Ray and spend time with Ray would say the same thing. Obviously he's a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer," Pagano said.
"We all know what he's done on and off the football field, so it was like everybody else who had an opportunity to be around the guy, (they) will cherish that for the rest of their lives."
Baltimore safety Ed Reed has been the constant mainstay in the back end of the Ravens defense.
Reed has eight career postseason interceptions, and his ball-hawking ability has not gone unnoticed by Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
"He seems to have an unbelievable feel for the game of football, almost to know what you guys are doing almost before you know what you're doing," Luck said. "He shows up in different spots. Obviously, very athletic, great ball skills, can sort of catch like a wide receiver, run like a punt returner. He's just a good football player."
On the other side of the football, the Ravens offense is fresh off one of its best years in franchise history.
The 398 points scored and the 16 turnovers committed rank among the tops in club history, and quarterback Joe Flacco has been the leader of the attack in each of the last five seasons.
Flacco is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to start a postseason game in his first five seasons, and he has a 5-4 all-time record in the playoffs.
The Ravens attack still relies heavily on Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice.
This will be the fifth straight game the Colts have faced a Pro Bowl running back, and Rice also is a major threat in the receiving department with 61 catches.
"(Rice) is the key to their success and along with Joe Flacco and all the other weapons that they have on offense," said Cory Redding, who spent the last two seasons in Baltimore.
"He can catch the ball just as good as any receiver out there. It's going be a nice little challenge just like every other back we've faced throughout the whole season. He's a big part of their offense."
Baltimore heads into this weekend with 34 players on their roster who have experienced the playoffs, while the Colts have 25.
The Ravens spent the final weeks of the season trying to heal, dropping four of their final five contests. The Colts carry momentum from winning five of their past six games.
Another tidbit in Sunday's game involves Pagano facing a team he called home for the last four seasons and Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell taking on a team that he was a part of from 2002-11.
All those storylines will be put to rest come 1 p.m. on Sunday. For the Colts, it is time to continue writing this season's story.
"Coach Pagano told us before the season that we are not in a rebuilding phase. It's more like reloading, because we're here to play now," tight end Dwayne Allen said. "We're not building for next year and years to come. Even though we plan to be successful in years to come, it's about now."
Ravens 24, Colts 10 – December 11, 2011
The Colts traveled to Baltimore late in the 2011 regular season searching for their first win of the year. With quarterback Dan Orlovsky making the start, the Colts struggled to get consistent drives going until late in the contest. Baltimore got things started on its first drive with quarterback Joe Flacco finding wide receiver Torrey Smith for an eight-yard touchdown with 10:09 remaining in the opening frame. The Ravens added a Billy Cundiff field goal on their next possession and took a 10-0 lead into the second quarter. Baltimore built its lead on the third possession when running back Ray Rice scored from six yards out to push the lead to 17-0. Indianapolis scored on its next possession when kicker Adam Vinatieri hit a 22-yard field goal. Down 17-3 at halftime, the Colts went three-and-out on their first drive of the second half. The Ravens took advantage when Flacco hit tight end Dennis Pitta on third-and-goal from the seven-yard line. The game's final score came on the last play of the contest when Orlovsky hit tight end Jacob Tamme on a 13-yard scoring pass.
Ravens running back Ray Rice versus the Colts defense: The Colts finished the year facing four straight Pro Bowl running backs and will add another to that list this weekend. Rice had 1,143 rushing yards and also was tied for second on the team with 61 catches. Indianapolis is hoping to get starting defensive end Cory Redding and nose tackle Antonio Johnson back to add much-needed depth along the defensive front.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck versus the Ravens defense: Luck finished the season with three straight games without an interception but knows the history Baltimore's defense has when it comes to creating turnovers. Safety Ed Reed still is a Pro Bowler and is known for game-changing plays. Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis is expected to make his return this weekend from the torn triceps he suffered in mid-October.
-The Colts have reached the postseason in 10 of the past 11 seasons.
-Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano spent four seasons (2008-10: DB Coach, 2011: Defensive Coordinator) with Baltimore.
-Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is the first signal-caller chosen No. 1 overall to start a postseason game as a rookie.
-Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne's 83 postseason receptions are good for fifth all-time. His 1,128 receiving yards rank seventh in NFL history.
-Colts outside linebackers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have 12.5 combined sacks in the playoffs.
-Colts defensive end Cory Redding (2010-11) and safety Tom Zbikowski (2008-11) both played for the Ravens.
-The Ravens have reached the playoffs for a fifth straight season, the longest active streak in the NFL.
-The Ravens had six players selected to the 2013 Pro Bowl – Jacoby Jones, KR, Vonta Leach, FB, Haloti Ngata, DT, Ed Reed, FS, Ray Rice, RB, Marshal Yanda, OG.
-Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had a career-best 3,817 passing yards in 2012.
-Ravens running back Ray Rice led AFC running backs with 61 catches.
-Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones ranked first in the NFL with a 30.7-yard averaging, including three scoring returns in 2012.
-Ravens wide receiver Tandon Doss grew up in Indianapolis and played at Indiana University.
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on how describing his relationship with Harbaugh family):
"You know, John gave me the opportunity. I left the NFL and went back to college for a year. When he got the job in Baltimore, he gave me the opportunity to go back and coach the secondary there for him. Then he gave me an opportunity to be a coordinator once Greg Mattison left and went to Michigan. So I would not be standing here today if it wasn't for John Harbaugh and the opportunity that he gave me. He's a fine man, really good father, unbelievable football coach. What he's done with that program and that team over the course of the last five seasons is incredible. He's got a great work ethic and all that stuff but he's a great friend, great mentor and he's always been a great sounding board for me. I owe him a lot for what he did for me and my family."
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the definition of "mojo" and how it relates to Colts):
"Well, like I said, we wanted to play our best football at the end of the year. You know, to win five out of the last six games, to go into that last football game and play a complete game in all three phases and have contributions from everybody. Guys that were known and guys that were unknown, it was just from a confidence standpoint, all those things, you want to go in on a high note. You want to go in with that mojo, with that momentum rolling. So I think we, obviously playing the way that we played last Sunday and weeks prior to that, we get to go into this ballgame feeling pretty good about ourselves."
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on Vick Ballard):
"You know, Vick, you can go talk to him and you know he doesn't say much, he just goes about doing his job. In a short period of time, he's become a really good pro, and he's tough as nails. He'll play hurt. He spends time working at his craft. The success that he's had, it doesn't shock any of the offensive coaches. Coach (David) Walker has done a great job with him. He's just steady, and he's always there when you need him."
Colts offensive tackle Winston Justice(on advice to those without playoff experience):
"Nothing, I mean I think it's going to make them more anxious. This is a big game, but every game we play is big. We have a young team so when you have a young team, there isn't going to be that many guys that have played in a playoff game because this is their first year. So you can't really make them too nervous. It's naturally going to come out because you have that final feeling of a playoff game, meaning that if we lose, it's over, we all go home. I think that naturally makes us play better."
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri(on how special this season has been):
"I think a lot of people outside of this building were surprised at where we're at right now. I don't think anybody in this room had any anticipations other than where we're at right now. We knew we had a good team. There's been some ups and downs and some crazy things that have happened this year, Chuck (Pagano) battling through the cancer thing and B.A. (Bruce Arians) stepping in. It's been an interesting year, but it's been rewarding for us all. I think the book is not done being written yet."
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh(on Andrew Luck):
"A great player, great guy. I don't know him real well other than through Jim (Harbaugh). We've met and talked, just following him because he was there the whole time with my brother at Stanford. Obviously, he felt strongly about him and just have the utmost respect for him."
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh(on if he has seen drop off in Reggie Wayne's game):
"No drop off at all. As matter of fact, I think his game has gone to another level with some of the things he's done. In that offense, he's doing a lot of things that he hadn't been asked to do before and he's doing them very well."
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh(on why Indianapolis has embraced Chuck Pagano):
"Why wouldn't they? He's a great guy. He's got a great personality. He's a fine coach and a great family man."
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco(on memories of being rookie starter in the 2008 playoffs):
"I just remember it was a great opportunity. I mean it was the chance to play another game and go win a playoff game which hasn't been done too many times, and then you give yourself a chance to go win next week. Like I said, I remember it being a great opportunity and you know I just kind of tried to go about business as usual and go play my normal game. I guess a lot of teams will hype it up and try to maybe make it something more than it is, and pump into it a little bit, but the biggest thing is just stay comfortable and take advantage of the opportunity."
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco(on Jim Caldwell pushing him in his fundamentals):
"Oh yeah, Jim has been great ever since he's been here. I think the biggest thing that he's done for me and our offense, the communication level improves into something that we might not have had before."