When the National Football League released its 2011-12 schedule in early April, the 13th game of the season was marked on the calendar for both the Ravens and the fans in a number of ways.
The game gave Ravens fans another opportunity to voice their disapproval of that team from Indianapolis who left Baltimore for good on a snowy night in March of 1984. Another reason being the potential magnitude of the game itself and also the star power each team boasts. The Ravens heart and soul at LB Ray Lewis and Colts QB Peyton Manning on the opposite side. A late season, cold-weather, road-test in a noisy M&T Bank Stadium had both teams dreaming of playoff implications.
But going into this game, those things did not come to fruition. Both Lewis and Manning sat out the game because of their respective injuries. It was safe to say network TV execs weren’t exactly salivating about a Jameel McClain vs. Dan Orlovsky match-up.
Both teams were also expected to be contenders this season. While that’s proving true for the Baltimore Ravens, the Indianapolis Colts cannot say the same. They entered their match-up with the Ravens as the only defeated team in professional football. And that continued at a rowdy M&T Bank Stadium in front of 71,187 fans as the Ravens rolled over the win-less Colts, 24-10.
Grading the Ravens 24-10 victory over Indianapolis
Playing a team as hapless as the Colts are, it should have been a cake walk for the great Fu Manchu, and for the most part, it was. Flacco was efficient, throwing for 227 yards and two touchdowns. The two scores were both red zone TD’s, so that’s encouraging. He improvised well at times; that’s because the Colts have no one left who can make plays once a QB gets out of the pocket. His TD throw to TE Dennis Pitta was one of those extended plays, but he threw back across the field, a dangerous play that he wouldn’t dare attempt against better competition.
In the third quarter, Flacco threw into double coverage in the end zone to WR Anquan Boldin for his only INT of the day. Looking back, Boldin could have helped Flacco out a little bit in trying to go after the football, he seemed to take his eye off of it.
Running Backs: A
Ray Rice combined to touch the ball a total of 32 times, that’s usually the key to a Ravens victory. He rushed for 103 yards, the 5th time he’s gained over 100 yards this season, while also gaining 46 yards through the air. Rice ran decisive and hard, showing that quick burst through holes as he did last week in Cleveland.
He’s so low to the ground when he runs, its virtually impossible to bring him down via arm tackles, which is what the Colts tried and failed to do throughout the game. One note, Ray Rice did put one on the ground in the game, which is rare, only the 2nd fumble this season for him.
FB Vonta Leach continues to stamp his ticket to the Pro Bowl, as he blocked with his usual power. He spent most of the time helping to chip Colts DE Robert Mathis on the edge, but also did his part, running the ball three times in short yardage situations to get first downs.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B+
How much fun must it have been out there for the Ravens wide receivers? The Colts secondary played extremely soft against the wide outs, at times it really seemed as if they were just going through the motions. They had trouble covering all day, especially in the middle of the field.
Anquan Boldin had 5 catches for 57 yards. Torrey Smith, showed exceptional speed, nearly hauling in his 2nd touchdown on a ball that appeared overthrown by Flacco. Smith caught up to it, but was arm-barred by Colts CB Jacob Lacey, still nearly making the play. Smith ended the day with 5 catches for 48 yards and his 6th TD of the season, tying a Ravens rookie record held by RB Jamal Lewis in 2000. Pitta caught three balls for 29 yards and a score, while TE Ed Dickson had two catches for 19 yards.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line did a good job for the most part limiting the Colts two best players left on the field, DE’s Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Freeney recorded both of the Colts sacks, one of which he flat out bull-rushed G Ben Grubbs in getting to Flacco. Offensive tackles Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie played physical and handled the gamut of moves from Freeney and Mathis about as well as they could. Run blocking wise, the line did well, opening holes inside to the left for Ray Rice to run.
Defensive Line: B+
The Colts really didn’t have anywhere to rush the football, and QB Dan Orlovsky didn’t have much time to throw, because the defensive line kept the pressure on them all day. DE Cory Redding had another solid game, recording a sack (5th of the season) to go along with five tackles. DT Terrence Cody recorded two tackles. DT Haloti Ngata patrolled the middle and did not allow a whole lot to happen in there.
This group just continues to impress while LB Ray Lewis is out with an injury. LB Jameel McClain, the signal caller on the defensive side for the Ravens, led the team with six tackles. With McClain and Jarrett Johnson in the middle, there was just nowhere to run for the Colts.
But of course, the story on this day was the play of OLB Terrell Suggs. Suggs set a career high with three sacks, and all three were forced fumbles as well, none however were recovered by the Ravens. He gave Colts tackle Anthony Castonzo all sorts of problems in the game, beating him just about every way you could.
The secondary was not challenged at all by Orlovsky in this game. CB Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams combined for seven tackles and did a good job of keeping everything in front of them, not allowing Colts receivers to get over top in coverage. Again, its Dan Orlovsky we’re talking about, not Peyton Manning. Even backup CB Chykie Brown got in the act with three tackles and a pass defended in coverage.
Safety Bernard Pollard had himself an interception in the 2nd half. The secondary allowed that garbage-time TD to the Colts in the waning seconds, which might leave a bad taste in the mouth of some.
Special Teams: B
Lardarius Webb’s punt returns have been setting the Ravens offense up with pretty good field position lately, as he returned one 27 yards in the game. But punt coverage is still an area of improvement as they gave up an average of 30 yards on four punts. Punter Sam Koch landed two punts inside the 20. Kicker Billy Cundiff converted on a FG but was on the sideline most of the 2nd half, so that will be something to keep an eye on this coming week.
The Ravens took care of business and didn’t for one second toy with the idea of an upset from the Colts. The offense scored three touchdowns on four tries in the red zone, which is an improvement. Now let’s see it continue against playoff-caliber teams. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron may have called his most balanced game of the season to date. The defense just had too many play makers on that side of the ball and I’m sure defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano had a blast coaching this game. This group loves Pagano and they just feed off his energy. Under head coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens are now 10-4 in the month of December.
The top of the AFC continues to tighten each week, but the Ravens did what they were supposed to and that’s go out and beat up on deflated squads.
Other Ravens tidbits
- Very balanced offensive performance: 146 rushing yards, 212 passing yards
- First Ravens win against the Indianapolis Colts since December 12, 2001
- Ray Rice leads the AFC with 10 rushing touchdowns on the season, also went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season (1,029 yards)
- Joe Flacco has now thrown for over 3,000 yards for the third consecutive season (3,122 yards)
- Terrell Suggs with three sacks in the game, now with a career high 13 sacks for the season, leading the AFC
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