Ravens: 6 Colts: 15
The Colts came into a hostile stadium (Manning commented on the number of middle fingers flashed at their team bus) and beat the Ravens at their own game. It was a crushing end to such a promising postseason. It wasn’t a case of Peyton shaking off his playoff ghosts and lighting the field on fire. It was a determined, methodical Colts team refusing to be bottled up by the Ravens and making enough plays when it mattered to convert on 5 field goals. When the 51-yard attempt bounced on the crossbar and dropped over you had a sense that it wasn’t going to be the Ravens day. When you hold Peyton Manning out of the end zone you should win the game … but not today.
What Went Wrong?? All the little things . . .
– Start with the three-and-out on the Ravens opening offensive series. The play calling was unimaginative all day — but this lackluster start set the tone for the day.
– Ray Lewis played with such effort that he knocked 2 or 3 turnovers away from his surprised teammates. No fault of Ray’s — he had no way of knowing that Reed had a lock on the ball — just an indicator of how things went against the Ravens all day.
– The Ravens needed their defense to get into the endzone for them — their best chance would have been on some of the interceptions that went awry. Even the lateral by Reed to McAlister was denied by a quick whistle.
– Sam Koch had one of his poorer days — a couple of his short punts left the Colts with a short field.
– The couple of times the Ravens had the Colts pinned down back against their goalline, they were unable to come up with the big play.
– McNair never seemed to find open receivers down field. Except for the dump offs in the flat, he looked very frustrated. I had been calling for him to look for Demetrius Williams — but that proved to be disastrous when Steve’s only look in that direction resulted in a critical interception late in the fourth quarter.
– The #1 defense in the NFL could not stop the Colts from just running the ball up the gut in the final minutes to seal the deal. I couldn’t understand why the Ravens were reluctant to pull their safeties up tight to the line. You knew that Peyton with his poor showing was not going to risk any interceptions on that final drive.
– This was not one of Billick’s better efforts in terms of play-calling. Maybe we were a victim of our own arrogance regarding looking down on the Colts’ defense.
– The late pass to Heap on the goalline for the interception was a killer.
What Went Right?? Not enough . . .
– Ed Reed had to be the best player on the field. He was like Superman flying around to the ball and making plays.
– Ogden did a great job handling Freeney on a bum toe. The one holding call was very questionable . . . in fact the officials responded on the next series with one of their classic make-up calls. When it comes to the playoffs, the refs let a lot more things go in the area of offensive holding — so it was especially surprising that they picked that play to throw the flag.
– It was nice that Stover came through in the clutch — nailing a key field goal that was at the very limit of his range to bring the Ravens to within 6. At that point you still had the feeling that they would catch a break late and somehow pull it out — but it just wasn’t to be.
– Corey Ross held on to the ball and did not cost the Ravens any field position. This might have been his best game. He looked solid all day.
– Jamal ran the ball hard all day. You couldn’t fault his effort. Heap made an incredibly athletic one-handed snag down the middle for a crucial reception.
Where Do the Ravens Go From Here?? Backwards is my guess
– Now McNair becomes a liability — he probably is too old to be the leader to the Promised Land . . . and we don’t have a good strategy in place for grooming his replacement.
– Too many older players are getting beyond their window of effectiveness — Ogden might be gone; Jamal should be gone; Ray Lewis is not getting any younger . . . the list goes on …
– The Ravens continue to restock well in the draft — but for next year there will be too many holes to fill.
– Some of the free agents like Adalius Thomas will be expensive to retain … I’m not sure what the salary cap situation looks like
I would finish with an enthusiastic “Let’s Go O’s” — but I’m not totally out of touch with reality.
Ravens, thanks for the ride — I liked your chemistry — I liked your attitude — it just didn’t happen.