Four Days After Signing with Colts, Ratliff Starts at Corner Against New England
INDIANAPOLIS – Keiwan Ratliff couldn't have been happier Sunday.
And not, he said, just because he was a critical reason the Colts held the New England Patriots' wide receivers to 113 yards receiving in a prime-time, nationally-televised game Sunday night. Not even, he said, because he was an unlikely feel-good story.
His happiness, he said, came from something deeper.
He was, he said, content.
"People may not believe it, but it was like Christmas for me," Ratliff said. "Just being at home, and being around my family, then getting picked up and getting picked up, and they throw me out there in the fire . . . it's one of those things where I couldn't have written it up any better."
The holidays are a month away, but in a sense, Ratliff gave the Colts a present on Sunday night, too.
Ratliff, a second-round selection in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, was out of the NFL on Wednesday morning, having been released by the Colts twice this season.
But on Wednesday afternoon, Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson sustained a season-ending knee injury. The Colts re-signed Ratliff – who had been released in late October – that day, and over the course of the next two days, he worked, not knowing what his role would be Sunday.
Shortly before kickoff on Sunday, the Colts de-activated starter Kelvin Hayden with a knee injury, and they de-activated nickelback Dante Hughes, too.
When the Colts opened the game Sunday, Ratliff was starting opposite third-year veteran Tim Jennings.
"I just said (to Ratliff), 'Do what you do,''' Colts safety Bob Sanders said. "I said, 'Just play. Do what you do, and keep moving.' That's what we do."
Ratliff finished the game with six tackles – fifth on the team – and also had a pass defensed and a special teams tackle.
But he said Sunday night statistics weren't much on his mind.
Last Wednesday, he was moving from his house in Cincinnati when he received a call from the Colts that they wanted him to re-sign.
"I was trying to get everything tied up," he said. "I was waiting on a call, and luckily I got that call. My mom actually brought me some of my old Pop Warner games. I sat down and I watched those. I remember that football is a game of fun. That's one of those things I kind of got away from. It was more on the business side and today, I just went out and tried to have fun."
His matchup Sunday was far from easy. On various plays, he covered wide receiver Randy Moss – who last season set the NFL record for touchdown receptions in a season – and Wes Welker, one of the NFL's top possession and slot receivers.
Moss caught six passes for 65 yards and Welker caught seven passes for 37 yards. New England's longest pass play of the night was a 20-yard reception by Moss.
"It's tough, but at the same time, it's football," Ratliff said. "If you want to be a professional, you have to be able to handle yourself in situations like this. They gave me a call and they had confidence in me. I had to go out and show why they had that confidence in me."
ANOTHER CLUTCH KICK: Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri long has been known as one of the premier clutch kickers in NFL history.
On Sunday, he converted under pressure again.
And this time, he did it against his former team.
Vinatieri, who twice kicked game-winning field goals in the final seconds of Super Bowls for the Patriots, on Sunday kicked a 52-yard field goal with 8:05 remaining to give the Colts an 18-15 victory over his former team.
It was Vinatieri's longest field goal since 2002.
"To be able to get one on them was a great feeling for all of us," Vinatieri said. "It's always nice to hit them and help your team put some points on the board. It has been a little while since I've had one that long, but it left my foot and felt pretty good."
ALL IN: With Jackson, Hughes and Hayden – three of the Colts' top four cornerbacks out – the Colts at times played an unusual defensive backfield on Sunday.
With Ratliff and third-year corner Tim Jennings starting, the Colts at times played six defensive backs with Sanders, Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea, Melvin Bullitt and Matt Giordano in the game simultaneously.
"We just did what we do," Sanders said. "Most people think it's tough having a lot of safeties out there and two corners, but it's all about the next person in has to get in there and is expected to play well."
HARRISON DEEP: The Patriots only punted once on Sunday night, and when they did, there was a rare sight when it came down:
Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
Harrison, a 13-year veteran and eight-time Pro Bowl selection, returned 18 punts as a rookie in 1996, but returned just four since, two of which were fair catches. He last returned a punt in 2005, when he returned one 10 yards.
On Sunday night, he returned the first-quarter punt two yards.
HUGHES, HAYDEN INACTIVE: Shortly before kickoff, the Colts de-activated cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Dante Hughes.
The Colts' inactives were:
Hughes, Hayden, running back Clifton Dawson, center Steve Justice, linebacker Freddy Keiaho, wide receiver Roy Hall, tight end Tom Santi and defensive tackle Dan Muir.
Tyjuan Hagler started in place of Keiaho.
HOW THEY SCORED
PATRIOTS 00 06 06 03 – 15
COLTS 07 00 08 03 – 18
COLTS 7, PATRIOTS 0
Anthony Gonzalez 12 pass from Peyton Manning (Adam Vinatieri kick), 2:18 remaining first quarter. Drive: 15 plays, 91 yards, 9:02. Key play: Reggie Wayne 9 pass from Manning on 3rd-and-3 from Patriots 44.
COLTS 7, PATRIOTS 3
Stephen Gostkowski 29 FG, 10:24 remaining second quarter. Drive: 13 plays, 56 yards, 6:58. Key play: David Thomas 11 pass from Matt Cassel on 3rd-and-3 from Patriots 40.
COLTS 7, PATRIOTS 6
Gostkowski 35 FG, 1:31 remaining second quarter. Drive: 13 plays, 61 yards, 6:18. Key play: Jabar Gaffney 11 pass from Cassel on 3rd-and-4 from Colts 31.
PATRIOTS 12, COLTS 7
BenJarvus Green-Ellis 6 run (run failed), 7:12 remaining third quarter. Drive: 15 plays, 72 yards, 7:48. Key play: Cassel 7 run on 3rd-and-7 from Patriots 48.
COLTS 15, PATRIOTS 12
Gonzalez 9 pass from Manning (Wayne pass from Manning), 3:12 remaining third quarter. Drive: Nine plays, 57 yards, 4:00. Key play: Wayne 11 pass from Manning on 3rd-and-6 from Patriots 35.
COLTS 15, PATRIOTS 15
Gostkowski 29 FG, 11:33 remaining fourth quarter. Drive: 15 plays, 69 yards, 6:39. Key play: Randy Moss 11 pass on 3rd-and-8 from Colts 37.
COLTS 18, PATRIOTS 15
Vinatieri 52 FG, 8:05 remaining fourth quarter. Drive: Eight plays, 48 yards, 3:28. Key play: Gonzalez 24 pass on 3rd-and-9 from Colts 39.