Colts Beat Ravens, 31-3, for First Victory in Lucas Oil Stadium
INDIANAPOLIS – This time, the Colts left nothing to chance.
This time, they didn't need a late rally, or a miracle, and didn't have to hope for an opponent's mistake.
This time, they took an early lead. They held that lead.
And they never let it get close.
And this time, they christened their new home field. At last.
The Colts, who twice in the last four games rallied for victories in improbable, dramatic fashion, won for the first time in Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday afternoon, and they did so in dominant fashion, 31-3, over the Baltimore Ravens in front of 66,153.
"It was a long time coming, getting that first win here," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said after the Colts forced five takeaways and took a lead of 31-0 early in the third quarter en route to their most one-sided victory since a 41-10 victory over New Orleans in the 2007 regular-season opener.
"It was good to see us really play from the opening whistle. It's just been a long time, but that's the way we can play when we're on top of things. . . .
"It was good for our young guys to see how we can play when we are on top of things."
The victory gave the Colts their first home victory since last December, and their first victory in the new, state-of-the-art, retractable-roof facility that opened in August in downtown Indianapolis. They had lost two preseason games in Lucas Oil Stadium, and lost their first two regular-season games.
They also lost their last two games in the RCA Dome last season – the regular-season finale to Tennessee and an AFC Divisional Playoff game to San Diego.
"It feels very good," said Colts defensive end Robert Mathis, whose season-high three sacks led the Colts' most-dominant defensive game of the season. "We thought we were going to have to move back across the street for a minute (to their former home, the RCA Dome), but we're happy to get that first win."
It also gave the Colts their first winning streak since late last season.
"This is exactly what Colts football is all about," Mathis said. "First to last whistle . . . everybody – offensive, defense and special teams. We're just happy to get it going."
The Colts, who spent the week talking about playing with passion and energy, on Sunday did just that, taking a 17-0 lead after the first quarter, then extending the lead to 24-0 at halftime and 31-3 entering the fourth quarter.
"I thought we came out and played sharper," Dungy said. "We played with a little more energy. That's what it takes. We have to play that way to be good. We had it for five or six minutes and we had it today. We need to build on it."
The Colts not only had it Sunday, they had it in a game in which they got familiar-style games from familiar names.
Eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes, with no interceptions. Eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison caught two touchdown passes, his first multiple-touchdown game since 2006. Two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne had another touchdown, and so did running back Dominic Rhodes.
"It was certainly fun to get a win, especially here at home," said Manning, who completed 19 of 28 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for a passer rating of 134.7.
"It had been disappointing that we hadn't won a home game yet. We played an excellent team today and we did play well. We got off to a fast start, and the defense did an excellent job holding them to three points. That was impressive."
The victory pulled the Colts (3-2) within two games of AFC South-leading Tennessee (5-0), which was idle Sunday.
And the story of the game was about more than the Colts' offense. A lot more.
The Colts' defense, which entered the game ranked 32nd in the NFL against the run, limited Baltimore – ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing – to 51 yards on 19 carries. In the first half, as Indianapolis pulled away, the Ravens rushed 12 times for 14 yards.
The Ravens finished the half with three first downs.
They Colts also forced three turnovers by halftime, and with the defense limiting the Ravens' running game, the pass rush had a chance to focus on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. The Colts finished the game with four sacks, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions.
"That's how we're built," Dungy said. "We've got to get off to fast starts and get ahead of people. When we get ahead, it lets us play to our strength. But we have to be able to play no matter what style the game turns out to be. I think our guys just played better."
The Colts a week ago scored the game's final 21 points to rally from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to win in Houston, 31-27. They scored the game's first 31 points on Sunday, meaning in a little more than 40 minutes, they outscored their opponents, 52-0.
"It all started with the last five minutes of last week against Houston," Colts safety Melvin Bullitt said. "We said to ourselves this week that every game we're going to play like we did those last five minutes and we weren't going to give up anything.
"Today, we went out there and we did what we were supposed to do."
Said Colts middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett, "We talked about playing with that passion that we had the last four minutes of that last game. I think that was our message early on in the game, 'Let's play the whole 60 minutes like that last four minutes.'''
On Sunday, the Colts forced two first-quarter turnovers and scored touchdowns on two of their first three possessions to take early momentum.
On their second series, Manning completed his second-longest pass of the season, this one a 67-yarder to Harrison. The touchdown bomb gave Indianapolis a 7-0 lead.
"We wanted to be aggressive," Manning said. "Against Baltimore, they're such an excellent defense and they're so smart, you have to pick and choose your times to be aggressive, but you do have to be. If you just sit back on your heels, that's what they feast on.
"We wanted to take some shots down the field."
Of the 67-yarder to Harrison, Manning said, "That was big to hit. That kind of set the tempo for the first half."
One possession later, Manning drove the Colts 61 yards on 10 plays, with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Wayne with 2:43 remaining in the quarter giving Indianapolis its largest lead of the season, 14-0.
Wayne, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, finished with eight receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. Harrison, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, finished with three receptions for 83 yards.
"That's the way Baltimore plays," Dungy said. "They come after you. They blitz. They overload things. They try to crowd the running game, and you have to make big plays. We saw it on tape. We saw it in our games against them the last couple of times.
"A lot of times you're just throwing a half a step early because of the rush or a free guy there. You have some opunities to get big plays, but it's not going to be a pretty game, a consistent-drive-the-ball-15-plays game. They won't let you play like that.
"You have to make big plays and we felt our receivers would if we could get things blocked up."
Including a 44-20 Indianapolis victory in Baltimore last season, the Colts' first-team offense at that point had scored touchdowns on eight of its last 11 possessions against the Ravens.
Manning's three touchdown passes were a season-high, and he missed having his 18th four-touchdown game when a touchdown pass to Wayne in the fourth quarter was called back by penalty. His passer rating also was a season-high.
Manning had missed training camp and preseason after off-season knee surgery.
"All I've ever known is taking every rep and going through every single practice and playing every preseason game, so this year it was frustrating not to be in those situations a) for me personally, and getting by timing down and b) to sort of try to put my stamp, if you will, on the offense," Manning said. "We did miss some time there. We have been kind of working through that these four games.
"Certainly, it's all about trying to be consistent in this league, but today's game was more like what we expect around here."
On the Ravens possession after Wayne's touchdown, defensive end Raheem Brock forced a fumble by Ravens running back Le'Ron McClain. Colts linebacker Freddy Keiaho recovered at the Ravens 27.
Four plays later, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri's 37-yard field goal made it 17-0, Colts.
Manning finished the first quarter having completed 7 of 11 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 145.8 passer rating.
The Colts extended the lead to 24-0 late in the first half on a five-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Harrison. Four plays earlier, backup running back Dominic Rhodes' 38-yard run gave Indianapolis 1st-and-10 on the Ravens 13.
The Colts extended the lead to 31-0 early in the third quarter with a 1-yard run by Rhodes. The Ravens then used 8:10 to drive for a 37-yard field goal by veteran kicker Matt Stover.
"We've just been a little bit off on things," Dungy said. "We haven't been as sharp as we needed to, and we still saw signs of it today. We had touchdown passes called back. We're just a little bit off on some things – penalties – and that's the way we've been.
"But we saw more of the sharpness today and we definitely had an energy level. We just have to keep that going and bring our young guys along and see if we can get sharper."