As I researched last week's Playoff Primer about the Patriots, I started to get the feeling that New England was headed for a letdown. So, I got an early jump on Baltimore, watching their earlier matchup with the Colts on Friday night and again on Monday. I didn't take copious notes, as most of my viewing was from a treadmill, but here are some observations from that game in Week 11:
— Anyone who thinks the Colts are a vastly superior team to the Ravens had better take a close look at the Ravens, this game, and the way they dismantled the Patriots on Sunday. This game was a battle from start to finish. The Colts went right down the field to take an early 7-0 lead.
But following that, the Ravens had four consecutive drives in the first half to take the lead — and finally did, when Billy Cundiff hit his third field goal of the half. The Colts came right back and scored another TD to go up, 14-9, but the Ravens kicked another field goal before halftime to make it 14-12.
The second half was the same story. In all, the Ravens had 10 drives in the game, and had a chance to take the lead on every single one. The fact that they couldn't manage a touchdown was the only thing that kept them from winning. So if you're thinking blowout, or even feeling confident, it's time to start getting concerned about this Baltimore team.
— It's been a few weeks, but Dallas Clark's first-quarter TD catch — where he stuck his right hand up, caught the ball, and never needed to put his left hand on it — is worth watching over. And over. And over. Simply awesome.
— For those that may not remember, this was the game that Tom Santi made a cameo appearance on the field and not on the injury list. With the Ravens focusing on Clark (the TD reception would be his only of the game), Manning targeted Santi and he made six catches. He also had a costly fumble at the goal line when he got windmilled by Ray Lewis and company; had Santi scored on the play, the Colts would have had their only two-score lead of the game. At the time, they were up 14-12.
Don't look for Santi again this week, as he's back on the Injured Reserve list for the second time in his two-year career. The Ravens will no doubt look to slow Clark down again, so keep an eye on Jacob Tamme and Gijon Robinson this time around.
— Joe Flacco has been injured, and hasn't played well in recent weeks. But he showed what he can do when healthy — and why scouts raved about his arm when he was a draft prospect out of Delaware, a Football Championship Subdivision school. Midway through the third quarter, on a second down from his own seven-yard line, Flacco dropped back, and with the pass rush closing down on him, uncorked a beautiful deep ball from his own goal line that traveled over 50 yards in the air.
Just as impressive as the throw was the catch by Derrick Mason, who somehow wrested the ball away from Jerraud Powers, who had good coverage on the play, for what went in the books as a 45-yard gain. The Ravens would drive to the Indianapolis 12, before Cundiff missed a 30-yard field goal that turned out to be the difference in the game.
— Speaking of Mason, he was matched up against Jacob Lacey for much of the game, and he did some damage, catching nine balls for 142 yards. 45 of those came on the aforementioned play, but the Ravens were obviously looking to exploit the Mason-Lacey matchup — he was targeted 16 times.
Kelvin Hayden was inactive for this game the first time around. With the Colts rested and at full strength this time, Indy can use Hayden or Powers against Mason this time around and limit Baltimore's biggest threat in the passing game. Aside from Mason, Ray Rice had seven catches and no other Raven had more than two.
— The key sequence from this game, and the one most fans are most likely to remember (aside from the Clark catch) is the goal-line stand the Colts made early in the fourth quarter. After Mason made a catch on the left sideline on Lacey, Antoine Bethea barely kept him out of the end zone at the one-yard line.
The Ravens tried to sneak the ball in with Flacco, and he was stopped. Then they tried to power it in with Willis McGahee, and Gary Brackett leapt over a block to stone him. On third down, Clint Session did the same thing, smashing into McGahee, losing his helmet, but not allowing the Ravens' touchdown-specialist (he had 14 in the regular season) to fall forward into the end zone.
The subsequent Cundiff field goal gave Baltimore its final lead of the game at 15-14, but the Colts had one more drive in them, and Stover kicked the game-winner three minutes later.
— As the Colts were running out the clock in the fourth quarter, Fabian Washington made a tackle of Joseph Addai on the sidelines. I Tweeted at the time it appeared to be a serious knee injury, and it was. Washington was placed on IR after the game.
— Three other noteworthy plays by the Colts in this one:
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