A Capsule Look at Sunday's Colts-Ravens Game
COLTS (2-2) vs. RAVENS (2-2)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT
Lucas Oil Stadium
Colts – Tony Dungy, seventh season as Colts Head Coach (75-25, 82-30 including playoffs) and 12th season as NFL Head Coach (129-67, 138-76 including playoffs).
Ravens – John Harbaugh, first season as Ravens and NFL head coach (2-2).
Colts – 2-2, 2nd in AFC South.
Ravens – 2-2, 2nd in AFC North.
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS
Colts – 2007.
Ravens – 2006.
2008 NFL RANKINGS
Offense – Overall, 17th (313.2 yards per game); Rushing, 32nd (67.8 ypg); Passing, 7th (245.5 ypg); Defense – Overall, 24th (353.0 yards per game); Rushing, 32nd (188.5 ypg); Passing, 4th (164.5 ypg).
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).
Colts – Peyton Manning (96-154 completions, 1,031 yards, 59.2 pct., 5 TD, 5 INT, 79.2 passer rating).
Ravens – Joe Flacco (62-106 completions, 603 yards, 58.5 pct., 1 TD, 4 INT, 61.9 passer rating).
Colts – Joseph Addai (60 carries, 213 yards, 4 TD).
Ravens – Le'Ron McClain (63 carries, 266 yards, 4 TD); Willis McGahee (50 carries, 170 yards, 1 TD).
Colts – Reggie Wayne (25 receptions, 350 yards, 3 TD); Anthony Gonzalez (17 receptions, 225 yards, 0 TD); Marvin Harrison (17 receptions, 164 yards, 1 TD).
Ravens – Derrick Mason (21 receptions, 261 yards, 0 TD).
Colts – Dwight Freeney (3), Robert Mathis (2).
Ravens – Terrell Suggs (3).
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?
Colts – The Colts, the five-time defending AFC South champions, have split their first four games, losing their regular-season opener, 29-13, to the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium, and losing to Jacksonville on a last-minute field goal in Week 3, 23-21. They have rallied in dramatic fashion for their two victories – from a 15-point, third-quarter deficit to beat Minnesota, 18-15, in Week 2, then from a 17-point deficit with 4:04 remaining to beat the Houston Texans, 31-27, this past Sunday.
Ravens – Over the last two weeks, the Ravens have played two of the AFC's best teams, losing late leads in each game. Two weeks ago, they led Pittsburgh in the fourth quarter before losing the game – and the division lead – in overtime. This past week, they held leads of 10-3 and 10-6 against unbeaten Tennessee before Titans quarterback Kerry Collins passed 11 yards to tight end Alge Crumpler with just under two minutes remaining.
QUOTES TO NOTE
"It's a huge game for both of these teams. We're both 2-2. We definitely want to keep up with our division, so it's definitely going to be one of those dogfight type of games, and we're going to be up for it."
--- Colts Middle Linebacker Gary Brackett
"This is not where we wanted to be, but, hey, it is what it is. This game is the most imant to us, just like the next following game after that is going to be the most important game to us. So, we're taking it by a week-by-week basis. We just want to, after the game is all said and done, we want to be 3-2. That's all we care about right now, regardless of who we were playing, and I'm pretty sure they're looking at it the same way. So this game is important because it's this week."
--- Ravens Wide Receiver Derrick Mason
The Ravens, after losing nine of their last 10 games last season, are in a very real sense a different team this season than last.
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.
"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 are the same as last season – and the same as most seasons before that.
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."
Three key head-to-heads . . .
• Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett versus Ravens running backs Le'Ron McClain and Willis McGahee. Not a true one-on-one matchup, but as often has been the case for the Colts this season, how they fare against the opponent's running game will be key. Through four games, Indianapolis ranks 32nd among 32 teams against the run, allowing 188.5 yards per game. The fewest yards for which an opponent has rushed against the Colts has been 156 by the Houston Texans last week. McClain, a second-year fullback, leads the Ravens with 266 yards and four touchdowns on 63 carries, and McGahee – a Pro Bowl selection last season who has been hampered by rib and chest injuries this season – has rushed for 170 yards and a touchdown on 50 carries.
• Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis versus Ravens offensive tackles Jared Gaither and Adam Terry. Freeney, after missing the last seven games of last season with a foot injury, has returned and been effective consistently, with three sacks in his first four games. Against Houston last week, he had a sack and a forced fumble, as did Mathis, who had his second sack of the season. Mathis made one of the game's key plays in Houston, sacking quarterback Sage Rosenfels and forcing and recovering a fumble on the play that led to the Colts' go-ahead touchdown. Gaither, a second-year veteran from Maryland, has started the first four games of the season, replacing retired Jonathan Ogden, one of the premier left tackles of the last decade. Terry is a fourth-year veteran from Syracuse.
• Colts offensive tackle Charlie Johnson versus Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. Johnson, a versatile third-year veteran, started the first two games at guard before moving to left tackle, where he has started the last two games. The Ravens' defense uses a variety of complex, changing blitz schemes, but they depend on Suggs – a six-year veteran from Arizona State – to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He has 48 sacks in three seasons, and after registering a career-low five last season he has three through four games this season.
RAVENS IN REVIEW
The Ravens 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.
The Ravens in recent seasons have been one of the NFL's best defenses, and that's true this season beyond the obvious statistics. Baltimore leads the NFL in yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and passing yards allowed, but also has held opponents to a cumulative quarterback rating of 44.6, lowest in the NFL. They also have limited opponents to 46.2 percent passing, 4.90 yards per attempt and three passes of 25 yards or more – all league-leading statistics.
The Colts and Ravens have played eight times since 1996, including one postseason game. The Colts lead the series, 6-2, including a victory in the lone postseason meeting. The Colts have played the Ravens five times since 2002, with Indianapolis winning all five meetings. Sunday's game will be the Ravens' third trip to Indianapolis during that span. Indianapolis beat Baltimore, 22-20, in the RCA Dome in September of 2002 – Tony Dungy's third game as the Colts' head coach – and again, 20-10, in December of 2004. The Colts beat the Ravens in Baltimore, 15-6, in an AFC Divisional Playoff following the 2006 season and again, 44-20, in November of last season.
On November 22, 2007, the Colts scored 37 first-half points en route to a 44-20, playoff-clinching victory over the Ravens (4-9) in front of a rain-soaked 70,513 fans at M&T Bank Stadium. The Colts clinched a sixth consecutive playoff appearance with the victory. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning tied his season-high with four touchdown passes, leaving the game after his final touchdown pass with 12:37 remaining in the third quarter. Three of Manning's touchdowns went to wide receivers – one to Reggie Wayne in the first half and one in each half to rookie wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez. The fourth went to running back Joseph Addai. Manning completed 13 of 17 passes for 249 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions for a season-high passer rating of 157.5. Defensively, the Colts forced five turnovers, held the Ravens to 243 total yards and did not allow an offensive touchdown until 14:10 remained. The 44 points for the Colts, who scored touchdowns on their first four possessions, were the most scored against the Ravens since 1998 and the Colts' 37 first-half points were the fourth-most in franchise history.