The Indianapolis Colts’ defensive mission was simple: Be the best defense Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“It’s going to be a 60-minute brawl, and that’s what it was,” said Redding, who had a first-quarter sack. “From start to finish, we wanted to be the best defense on the field today. Period.”
It was ugly for offenses, but beautiful for defenses. And the Colts edged the Ravens in nearly all of the important statistical categories.
They sacked Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco four times. He hadn’t been sacked the previous three games, and just three times this season. The Colts’ sack total was half of what they had generated in four games.
They limited the Ravens to 1-of-11 conversions on third down. Baltimore had entered with a 50 percent conversion rate.
They came up with turnovers, two on defense and one on special teams. The Colts’ Vontae Davis intercepted Flacco once, defensive tackle Montori Hughes fell on a fumble and reserve safety Colt Anderson came up with fumble recovery on a muffed punt.
The Colts still needed a final stop after Ahmad Bradshaw lost a fumble at the Ravens’ 11 with 1:49 remaining. Instead of a game-clinching score, it fittingly came down to defense.
“Never a bad situation,” Redding said. “That’s just more face time for the defense.”
Outside linebacker Bjoern Werner got to Flacco on first down for the second-year pro’s second sack of the game. The Ravens still gained one first down, but then took a chance on a fourth-and-3 deep pass.
“It was catchable,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I mean, it was a tough catch. It was a challenging play to make. Very challenging play to make. Those are not plays you see made every play in the National Football League.”
For the Colts defense, which allowed just 287 total yards, the mission was complete.
“I knew that it was fourth-and-short and this was to win a game,” Toler said of the last pass. “I knew they hadn’t completed a lot of deep balls like they would like to, so I assumed they might go deep.”
Smith gave Toler a hard inside move. Toler quickly deduced he was being set up for a deep ball.
“I fortunately got my head around, defense up front got great pressure, and I was able to get my hand in there with the ball,” Toler said.
The Ravens’ defense had its moments, too. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck threw two interceptions. The home team also lost two fumbles.
But Luck also made his share of plays. He threw a 6-yard TD pass to tight end Dwayne Allen. Then the third-year quarterback ran 13 yards for what proved to be the deciding score in the fourth quarter.
“It’s huge to survive our mistakes, in a sense,” Luck said. “It’s the epitome of a team football game, of a defense lifting us up, in a sense. We made our plays enough to get a win obviously. Kudos to the defense. What a heck of a job they did against a very good offense.”
Nobody was happier afterward than Werner, who had not registered a sack this season after notching 2.5 as a rookie last season. The 2013 first-round selection’s smile said it all.
“It’s always a relief,” Werner said. “(But) it’s not about me. It’s about the team. It’s so much fun when everybody plays good.”
Flacco acknowledged the Colts’ tendency to bring extra blitz pressure, especially on third downs.
“I know they came after us a pretty good amount of time and some of those times in third down, whenever it was, we were (in) five-man protections and when they do that and when they come after us, there’s a spot to go with the ball and we weren’t quite able to make those plays,” the Ravens quarterback said.
The Ravens’ 13 points were a season low. It was also the fewest points allowed this season by the Colts (3-2), who venture to Houston Thursday for an AFC South Division showdown against the Texans (3-2) at Reliant Stadium.
“We’ve showed this (before),” Toler said. “We had streaks and little sparks where we could be one of the elite defenses if we play our game. Today, we were fortunate to do that.
“We did our job pretty good.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.