Ravens - Colts: midweek notebook

Colts: This could turn into a big week for Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.<br><br> Not only did the Colts annex their second straight AFC South title on Sunday with a win over the Houston Texans, but Irsay might find out this week what the city has in mind for a new stadium for his ballclub.

Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson is expected to make known what the city's plans are regarding the issue of a new stadium for the Colts and how it will be paid for. Peterson would like to have a plan in place to put in front of the Indiana Legislature when it convenes in January.

And, of course, there is still that matter of QB Peyton Manning remaining on pace to break the NFL's single-season record for touchdown passes in a season.

Manning had two touchdown passes in the Texans game, giving him 46 for the year. He needs two to tie and three to break the mark that was set by former Miami QB Dan Marino in 1984.

The Colts play host to the Baltimore Ravens in a nationally-televised game on Sunday night.

"It's special," Irsay -- who received a game ball after the Houston victory -- said of the team's back-to-back division championships. "It's the first time since the Bert Jones teams in the mid-'70s that we've done it, so it's really special.

"You know the thing you're most proud of this day and age with the salary cap is being in the playoffs five out of six years and being able to sustain that greatness over a period of time. So we're really excited. We know that we have at least one playoff game (at home) and we're hoping to have more."

NOTES, QUOTES

--TE Dallas Clark's availability for the Texans' game wasn't known until just before kickoff. He played in the game, but not before he had to convince the team's coaches and trainers after sitting out the Tennessee game a week earlier with a strained left calf.

"That's a first for me. I've never tried to pull that card. I've either been out or been in. But the calf feels fine. I think that I'm beat up everywhere else now," Clark said.

--PK Mike Vanderjagt hasn't been happy with the Colts' decision to try other people in the role of kickoff specialist this season. Vanderjagt handled the duties earlier in the year but has been replaced by P Hunter Smith, PK Matt Bryant (when Vanderjagt had a hamstring injury), PK Jason Baker and now PK Martin Gramatica.

"I've got nothing to say," the normally outspoken Vanderjagt told reporters after Sunday's win over the Texans. He had three field goals in the game from 30, 44 and 45 yards out. "It's nothing against you guys (the media)."

--"You definitely want the division title to get us into the playoffs. But by no means is this where we want to stop. We did this (win the AFC South title) last year. It's great that we did it, but I'm not wearing the (commemorative caps and T-shirts) because the one I want to wear is the Super Bowl shirt." -- Colts DE Dwight Freeney on his decision, along with most of the other Indianapolis players, to keep the celebrating at a minimum after Sunday's division-clinching win over Houston.

--Freeney had three of the Colts' five sacks against the Texans, giving him 13 for the season. That ties the single-season franchise record that he set as a rookie in 2002. He has recorded 37 career sacks in three seasons. Freeney has now registered three of the top nine sacks seasons in franchise history.

--DE Robert Mathis, who had three sacks in the earlier season meeting with Houston, had just one sack on Sunday. Mathis, however, has 10 1/2 sacks for the year to rank second on the team behind Freeney.

--WR Marvin Harrison has 829 career receptions after his three catches Sunday against the Texans. He has now moved past Larry Centers into seventh place on the NFL's all-time receiving list.

--RB Edgerrin James ran for 104 yards against the Texans, giving him a league-leading 1,395 yards. James, who won NFL rushing titles in 1999 and 2000, is 10 yards ahead of Seattle's Shaun Alexander and 18 yards ahead of New York Jets' Curtis Martin.

--CB Jason David has intercepted a team-leading four passes as a rookie starter this season. David has started seven of the team's 13 games in 2004.

--C Jeff Saturday is continuing to rehab his injured right calf and will attempt to return to the starting lineup for the Baltimore game. Saturday has missed the last two weeks with a torn right calf muscle. He saw limited practice time last week with hopes of playing against Houston but was a pre-game scratch.

--Indianapolis registered its fourth turnover-free game at Houston. It was the 14th time since 1998 that the Colts didn't turn the ball over. The franchise is 12-3 when it doesn't have turnovers.

--With their 23 points Sunday, the Colts broke their single-season record for points, which they set a year ago. Indianapolis has scored 454 points, passing the 447 points from 2003. The team is averaging 34.9 points per game and are on pace to score 559 points. Minnesota has the league mark with 556 points set in 1998.

--Indianapolis is 5-2 this season in games in which it has had fourth-quarter drives with the score differential a touchdown or less. The Colts have registered wins over Tennessee, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Minnesota and Houston while losing to New England and the Jaguars.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. THE TEXANS:

PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus -- Ho-hum. Another day, another strong passing game for the Colts offense. QB Peyton Manning completed 26-of-33 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns. Yes, he didn't break Dan Marino's 20-year record for touchdown passes in a season. But he did direct Indianapolis down the field when the game was on the line. WR Reggie Wayne was the receiver of the week, catching seven passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, and coming up with two big third-down receptions to keep second-half drives alive. RB Edgerrin James also had seven catches. The pass protection suffered at times, however, which caused Manning a few anxious moments.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- James continues to show that he has fully recovered from knee surgery that curtailed his season in 2001. He had 104 yards rushing against the Texans, most of those yards coming in the second half when the Colts were trying to grind it out and take time off the clock. As he has throughout his career, James is at his best in the fourth quarter.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- Sure, the Texans had an occasional big play or two through the air. But Houston was held to just 125 total passing yards and QB David Carr was sacked five times, intercepted once and fumbled once. Standout WR Andre Johnson was limited to just three catches for 34 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: C. The Colts' up-and-down run defense had its problems in-between the 30-yard lines as RB Domanick Davis had 128 yards in 23 carries and scored a touchdown. But when the Colts had to come up with big stops in the second half, they responded.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The addition of PK Martin Gramatica seemed to pay immediate dividends. Gramatica had four of his six kickoffs reach the goal line and he also had one touchback. PK Mike Vanderjagt booted three field goals, including two in the second half with the outcome of the game still in question. P Hunter Smith averaged 37.7 yards on three punts. The punt and kick coverage was better than in previous games.

COACHING: A -- Smart play calling and an improving (but up-and-down) defense continue to provide big plays for the Colts on both sides of the ball. Offensive line coach Howard Mudd has done a masterful job this season is filling the numerous holes created by injuries to several key starters. Defensive line coach John Teerlinck also deserves some kudos for the continued maturation of DE Robert Mathis and the decision to move DE Raheem Brock inside on occasion.


BALTIMORE RAVENS

INSIDE SLANT

The Ravens will increase the workload of Jamal Lewis to 40 to 50 snaps Sunday in Indianapolis.

Lewis, who missed two games with a sprained right ankle, played just one half in a 37-14 rout of the New York Giants because the Ravens didn't want to wear him out.

He had a few bursts and finished with 32 yards rushing on eight carries. His ankle was heavily taped and still gave him some pain.

There is some question how effective Lewis will be on Indianapolis' hard turf. But the Ravens, who need this win to stay in the playoff hunt, would push the limit with Lewis in certain situations.

"If he has to go 60 snaps, he will," coach Brian Billick said. "I think he's ready for 40 to 45 snaps."

With Lewis taking back his starting job, the Ravens will reduce the playing time of Chester Taylor. The backup has put together consecutive 100-yard games, the same amount Lewis has totaled this season.

Taylor likely will only play 15 to 20 snaps Sunday.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Nickel back Deion Sanders returned from a toe injury that had sidelined him the previous four games.

While Sanders' biggest contribution came on a lateral by Ed Reed after an interception - setting the Ravens up for a field goal at the end of the first half - he did not appear to be favoring the injury while playing about 30 snaps.

"It's good," Sanders said. "I think it's just a trust issue going on with myself and my toe. But throughout the game I was able to dismiss the pain and perform."

--After watching his former team suffer its second-worst beating of the year, Ravens senior offensive consultant Jim Fassel was not gloating.

Fassel, who coached the Giants for seven seasons before losing his job last year, said he felt for his old team.

"With all those guys that I'm so close to, it's like you're playing your brother or cousin," he said. "You know them. You still want to beat them bad. But there is nothing more to it. I really don't take pleasure in beating ... people I have respect for."

--Chester Taylor has had two straight 100-yard rushing games.

The Ravens' backup running back finished Sunday with 104 yards on 25 carries. Taylor has 674 yards this season, just 9 fewer than starter Jamal Lewis. Taylor will have his role reduced to 15 to 20 snaps Sunday in Indianapolis with the return of Jamal Lewis.

--RB Jamal Lewis is expected to play 40 to 45 snaps Sunday after being limited to one half in a 37-14 win over the New York Giants. He will still heavily tape his tender right ankle.

--CB Deion Sanders had no setback in his first game back since injuring his foot on Nov. 7. He will play nickel back Sunday in Indianapolis.

--LS Joe Maese was inactive because of a stiff back but should be able to play Sunday in Indianapolis.

--QB Kyle Boller had his first four-touchdown game of his career. The second-year starter had only seven touchdowns in his previous 12 starts this season.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. GIANTS

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Kyle Boller was efficient for most of the game, especially in the red zone. He showed a good touch on jump balls to 6-foot-6 Clarence Moore and 6-5 Todd Heap in the end zone. He made some plays out of the pocket with his feet for crucial yardage in the first half. It was a pretty good effort against a horrendous defense. Heap, who played his first full game since Week 2, once again became Boller's go-to guy and had five catches for 76 yards. The only concern is Travis Taylor's increased drops.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Jamal Lewis had a solid burst after missing the past two games with a sprained ankle. He showed quick feet and carried some tacklers in one half of work, leaving with 32 yards rushing. Backup Chester Taylor turned in a steady performance, always churning, falling forward and gaining yards. He had 104 yards rushing, his second consecutive 100-yard effort.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- The Ravens had an easy day given the inexperience of Giants rookie quarterback Eli Manning. The Ravens got into his head early with pressure and batting down three passes. Safety Ed Reed delivered yet another interception at a critical point, allowing the Ravens to get a field goal at the end of the first half. End Marques Douglas was key in his ability to collapse the pocket.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Ravens forced two fumbles out of running back Tiki Barber, who had yet to fumble all season. Nose tackle Kelly Gregg made moves in the middle to disrupt the running game in the backfield. Inside linebackers Ray Lewis and Ed Hartwell also were stout at the point of attack.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Kicker Matt Stover continues to be the offensive MVP, hitting three field goals. Long snapper Mike Solwold, signed a day before the game to replace injured Joe Maese, had some high snaps. Punter Dave Zastudil had only 28.9 yards net average. B.J. Sams is impressive as a gunner, but still is scary handling punts and kickoffs. Kickoff coverage could use some improvement, too.

COACHING: A -- The Ravens could have easily overlooked the Giants with pivotal road games against Indianapolis and Pittsburgh looming. For the first time this season, the Ravens were aggressive in the red zone, taking several shots in the end zone. The defense moved around and constantly confused rookie quarterback Eli Manning.

If you are reading this article via a news portal, you can find the original on RavensInsider.Com
URL: http://www.ravensinsider.com


Ravens Insider Top Stories