"Your mindset has to be aggressive," Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan
said. "The overriding thing I see is a lot of teams playing mistake free as they
possibly can. That gives you a respectable loss. We're not shooting for that. We
don't even play defense that way. We're going to go into it playing to win."
The Ravens' approach is to be aggressive from their blitz schemes to their coverages.
"Peyton Manning is a student of the game, so if you sit back in zone, he'll beat you to death," linebacker Ray Lewis said.
The key is not to rely on a heavy blitz, but an unpredictable one.
The teams that have held Indianapolis to two of its lowest scoring outputs this season -- New England and Houston -- both play 3-4 defenses like the Ravens and disguise their pressure.
On Sunday, the Texans held the Colts without a touchdown for the final three quarters because they were effective in getting to Manning. The corner blitz caught them by surprise, as Dunta Robinson recorded two sacks.
The Ravens have never hesitated to send anyone, and four defensive backs have combined for 8 1/2 sacks.
So, when Manning stands behind center and begins his elaborate audible routine, the Ravens want him to think they can come from any direction.
"This is the ultimate chess match," cornerback Chris McAlister said. "You can never let him see what you're running as a defense. You have to change it up. He will look at you, point at you and change the route. It's a matter of deceiving him and showing him something that's false."
Few teams have been so bold against Manning, the frontrunner for NFL Most Valuable Player who has thrown 46 touchdowns, two shy of Dan Marino's 20-year-old mark.
Of the Colts' 427 passing plays, Manning has faced 115 blitzes (rushing six or more defenders), a remarkably low 27 percent of the time.
It's a hit-or-miss proposition to pressure Manning. Blitzing him has led to two fumbles and four sacks. When he has eluded it, he has completed 70 percent of his throws for a 140 quarterback rating.
Most coordinators have chosen to play it safe -- rush four linemen and drop seven defenders in coverage -- ever since Manning used his quick release to rip blitz-happy Green Bay for 393 yards passing and five touchdowns in Week 3.
That hardly discourages the Ravens.
"If you play with a limited mindset, you lose," said Nolan, whose defense has caused 28 takeaways (17 interceptions and 11 fumbles) and scored six touchdowns. "If you sit back and think 'bend don't break,' the 'don't break' is not going to happen."
SERIES HISTORY -- Fifth meeting. The teams have split the series with two wins apiece. The home team has won all four times. The Colts relocated from Baltimore in 1984.
Indianapolis won the last meeting in 2002 when a late pass interference call set up Mike Vanderjagt's 38-yard game-winning field goal.
--Peyton Manning can keep defenses off balance with his play-action fakes to Edgerrin James, the often overlooked NFL rushing leader.
The threat of James running can freeze safeties, allowing Manning to go over the top to Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley (all of whom have at least 58 catches and nine touchdowns).
"I think the biggest thing is stopping the run first," linebacker Adalius Thomas said. "Play action is a key to their vertical passing attack."
--Kyle Boller, one of the most scrutinized quarterbacks in the NFL this season, was named the AFC's Player of the Week.
"It's a great honor to get the award," said Boller, who threw four touchdowns Sunday against the New York Giants. "I have to give my teammates a lot of credit for that. Those guys really stepped up. The offensive line did a great job of protecting, and my playmakers went up and made plays for me. It just shows hard work pays off."
--Shutting down big passing plays has been the Ravens' forte.
The reason is they blitz frequently without putting themselves at risk. They will bring five players about half the time but rarely send more than that, which allows them to keep at least six defenders in coverage. The difficulty is figuring out which player is blitzing.
As a result, they have given up just one passing touchdown over 20 yards, the fewest in the NFL.
--Being physical on the Colts' receivers could help the Ravens get a rush on Manning. Chris McAlister and Gary Baxter are both big cornerbacks who could disrupt Indianapolis' passing attack by jamming the smaller Colts at the line of scrimmage.
"If we can slow their timing routes down and get our line a second or two, they can get to Peyton Manning," Baxter said. "It's how the New England Patriots played them in the AFC Championship Game. It's going to be very key that we do that."
--The Ravens signed receiver Todd Devoe to the practice squad.
Devoe takes the place of quarterback Josh Harris, who the Cleveland Browns signed to their active roster. Harris was the Ravens' sixth-round pick out of Bowling Green. Devoe spent training camp with the Ravens.
Harris will take the roster spot of Browns' quarterback Jeff Garcia, who was placed on injured reserved earlier this week.
--The Ravens are 2-1 against the AFC East this season.
--The Ravens are second in the NFL in three-and-outs with 53, just two fewer than the Miami Dolphins.
--When the Ravens score 21 points or more, they are 35-9 since 1999.
--The Ravens are 6-1 when Terrell Suggs records a sack.
--Only two quarterbacks have thrown for 300 yards against the Ravens in their past 18 games.
BY THE NUMBERS: Ten -- Number of teams that have passed for three or more touchdowns against the Ravens since 1999 (a span of 100 games).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The football gods clearly have a sense of humor. To give (Colts coach) Tony Dungy that offense and me this defense when you know Tony would like to shut out every team and I would want to pass every play." -- Coach Brian Billick on how the Ravens' and Colts' profiles are opposite of their coaches' backgrounds.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Jamal Lewis is scheduled to play 40 to 45 snaps, which probably means a little over 20 carries. Chester Taylor, who has run for 100 yards in consecutive games, will play 15 to 20 snaps.
What will help the Ravens against the Colts' passing attack is Deion Sanders getting closer to a full recovery from a foot injury. Because the Ravens will play a good part of the game in nickel to counter the Colts' three-receiver sets, Sanders will be counted on either to play on the outside or in the slot against Brandon Stokley.
The Ravens will continue to rotate on the right side of the offensive line. Mike Flynn and Bennie Anderson will split time at right guard, and Orlando Brown and Ethan Brooks will do the same at right tackle.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--QB Kyle Boller has thrown eight touchdowns and two interceptions over his last five games.
--SS Ed Reed has scored six touchdowns in 45 career games.
--LB Terrell Suggs has 2 1/2 sacks over his last seven games.
--K Matt Stover has a field goal in all 13 games this season.
--LB Ray Lewis had his streak of 10 or more tackles end at 21 straight games.
--TE Todd Heap scored his first two touchdowns of the season Sunday against the Giants.
GAME PLAN: In order for the Ravens to record an upset, the Ravens have to control the clock. That means they will rely on a heavy dose of running back Jamal Lewis up the middle. To keep the Colts from stacking the line, the Ravens will take the occasional deep shot either to tight end Todd Heap or receiver Clarence Moore. Quarterback Kyle Boller must convert third-and-short situations to extend drives.
Defensively, the Ravens have been outspoken in how they will try to pressure Peyton Manning. Their mindset is producing pressure and creating turnovers. The Ravens are quite unpredictable in their blitzing and are aggressive in sending cornerbacks and safeties. The key is not to overlook stopping running back Edgerrin James, the NFL's leading rusher.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Ravens secondary vs. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning: The Ravens have given up three or more touchdowns in just 10 of 100 games since 1999. Manning has thrown for three or more touchdowns in nine of his past 11 games.
--Ravens running back Jamal Lewis vs. Colts run defense: Lewis is expected to run exclusively between the tackles to soften up Indianapolis' defense. The Colts have allowed five 100-yard rushers this season.
--Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden vs. Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney: Ogden is considered the best offensive tackle in the NFL and has only been beaten twice in pass protection this season. Freeney leads the AFC with 13 sacks.
--RB Jamal Lewis (ankle) is questionable but will start and play 40 to 45 snaps. He is scheduled to receive about 20 carries.
--LB Bart Scott (knee) is questionable and the special teams player might be inactive.
--CB Gary Baxter (hand) is probable and participated in all drills. He will start.
--NT Maake Kemoeatu (leg) is probable and participated in all drills. He will back up Kelly Gregg.
--WR Clarence Moore (shoulder) is probable and participated in all drills. He will start.
--G Edwin Mulitalo (illness) is probable and participated in all drills. He will start.
--CB Deion Sanders (foot) is probable and participated in all drills. He will play nickel back.
--LB T.J. Slaughter (head) is probable and participated in all drills. He will play on special teams.
--RB Chester Taylor (thigh) is probable and participated in all drills. He will back up Jamal Lewis.
Colts coach Tony Dungy admits that he wouldn't have minded at all if Colts QB Peyton Manning had thrown three more touchdown passes against Houston last week.
Manning had two first quarter touchdown passes against the Texans, giving him 46 for the season. He needs two more to tie and three to break Dan Marino's 20-year old NFL single-season record.
"We're going to have a lot of (media) people here this week and that's going to be the focus of it. But we've got a very tough game. We're playing against a (Baltimore) defense that gives up less than two touchdowns, period," Dungy said.
"Everybody's going to assume that (Manning) is going to get two or three (touchdown passes). But we're going to be focused on winning the game.
"I think Peyton and the entire offense has done a great job of keeping the right things in focus in the midst of all this."
With Baltimore coming to the RCA Dome Sunday night, Manning just wants to get it over with.
"There will be no ceremony, in the game or after the game," he said just in case he would happen to tie or break Marino's record. "Everybody knows that I feel uncomfortable just talking about it. If it does happen, after the fact, then it would be easier to talk about it. But I'm telling you, I feel like it's getting harder.
"I mean, I really do. I felt like it was hard to throw two against Houston and Baltimore has given up a whopping 10 (touchdown passes) all season. It's going to be a tough challenge to get it in the end zone, period, whether it's throwing or running."
One thing is certain. If Manning had a choice, he'd rather concern himself about getting the win rather than talking about setting records.
"It's such a pivotal game for both teams. It's one we have to win. So it's really hard for me to get into (all the talk about the touchdown pass record)," he said.
"We're in such a pivotal situation. I need to keep doing my job to help my team win. There's so much on the line still. I know we're in the playoffs, but there are still other things for us out there. I can't let anything else get in the way of that."
SERIES HISTORY: Fifth meeting. The series is tied at 2-2, with the home team winning each game. Indianapolis won the last meeting between the two franchises, posting a 23-20 victory on October 13 2002. PK Mike Vanderjagt kicked five field goals, the final one coming from 38 yards out with four seconds remaining in regulation. Vanderjagt tied his career-best single-game field goal total in the win. The last meeting in Baltimore was won by the Ravens 39-27 on Dec. 2, 2001. Indianapolis won the first meeting of the two franchises, 26-21, on Oct. 13, 1996.
--Colts coach Tony Dungy has 1-0 career record against the Ravens, winning a 22-10 decision on December 29, 2001 while he was the head coach at Tampa Bay.
--Dungy (1992-95) and Baltimore coach Brian Billick (1992-98) worked together as defensive and offensive coordinators with the Minnesota Vikings under coach Dennis Green.
--Indianapolis radio analyst Ted Marchibroda has served as the head coach of both Indianapolis (1992-95) and the Ravens (1996-98). Marchibroda was also the head coach of the Baltimore Colts from 1975-79. He led the Baltimore Colts to three AFC playoff appearances (1975-1976-1977) and the Indianapolis Colts to the 1995 AFC Championship game.
--The Colts clinched their fourth divisional title in the past 21 years (1987, 1999, 2003, 2004) with the win over Houston last week. Indianapolis defended a division title for the first time since 1975-77 (AFC East).
--Indianapolis enters Sunday night's game with Baltimore with a six-game winning streak, it's longest since 2002-2003 and the longest in-season streak since the franchise won 11 straight in 1999.
--The Colts have either owned or shared the AFC South lead in 41 of the 48 weeks of the division's existence.
--Sunday night's game will be the fifth national television appearance since the start of the 2004 pre-season and regular season.
--Indianapolis has produced three straight seasons of double-digit victories, the first time that the franchise had accomplished that feat since 1975-77. The Colts were 10-6 in 2002, 12-4 in 2003 and are 10-3 so far this year.
--In three career games against the Ravens, QB Peyton Manning has completed 84-of-130 passes for 951 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. Manning has a 1-2 won-loss record against Baltimore.
--Manning goes into Sunday's game with a 68.9 season completion percentage. He has thrown for 3,919 yards this year and is on the brink to become the only player in league history to have thrown for more than 4,000 yards in five consecutive seasons. He has a 126.3 passer rating, which is 13.5 points better than Steve Young's NFL record of 112.8 which was set in 1994.
--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. Harrison needs 32 receiving yards to have 11,000 career receiving yards. Heading into this week's game with the Ravens, Harrison has 10,968 yards and 96 touchdowns.
--RB Edgerrin James has 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.
--DE Dwight Freeney has a league-leading 13 sacks this 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. The Colts have never had a player lead the league the sacks.
--DE Robert Mathis has 10.5 sacks for the year to rank second on the team behind Freeney and third in the NFL. Freeney and Mathis have combined to give Indianapolis the top sack tandem in the league this season.
--The Colts lead the NFL in takeaways (33) and turnover differential (plus-18), the best margin of their 21 seasons in Indianapolis.
--With their 23 points against Houston last week, 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 is on pace to score 559 points. Minnesota has the league mark with 556 points set in 1998.
--The Colts have put together a 269-99 scoring advantage, 26 sacks, 19 takeaways and a 69-14 edge in points off turnovers during their current six-game winning streak.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1,000 and 10. WRs Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley are attempting to reach 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdown receptions. Harrison has 13 TDs and 896 yards while Wayne has 11 touchdowns and 971 yards and Stokley has accumulated nine TDs and 936 yards.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Back-to-back (division) titles are alright, but I want the whole thing. We were one game away from the big game (in 2003). That's our focus. Winning the division? It's alright. But it's not where we want to be." -- Colts RB Edgerrin James on his goals for the post-season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
It appears as if the Colts will have C Jeff Saturday back in the starting lineup for Sunday night's game with Baltimore.
Saturday missed the last two games as he recovered from a torn right calf injury that he suffered Thanksgiving Day at Detroit. With his return, OG Rick DeMulling -- who subbed for Saturday against Tennessee and Houston -- will move back to left offensive guard.
--LB Cato June was held out of practice on Wednesday due to a sore ankle and a sore thigh. He is expected to play against the Ravens.
--WR Brandon Stokley did not practice Wednesday as he nurses a strained groin. Stokley's availability for the Baltimore game will be determined at the end of the week.
--C Jeff Saturday practiced for the first time in a week on Wednesday. Saturday may be able to start against the Ravens after missing the last two games with a torn right calf muscle.
--OG Tupe Peko practiced Wednesday and could see playing time on Sunday. Peko has been bothered by a high right ankle sprain for the past four weeks.
--S Gerome Sapp saw light work on Wednesday but is not expected to play against Baltimore. Sapp, who began the year with the Ravens, missed last week's game with bruised rib cartilage.
GAME PLAN: The running game -- establishing it for the Colts' offense and stopping it for the Colts' defense -- will most likely determine what happens Sunday night.
Indianapolis will try to get the offense untracked early and try to set the tone early. The Colts enjoy dictating the flow of the game and making opposing teams change their offensive game plans.
Playing with a lead allows the defense to pin its ears back and get after the opposing quarterback.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Colts QB Peyton Manning vs. the Ravens defense. Manning has had some success against Baltimore in the past, but the Ravens should be as healthy as they have been all year.
--Ravens RB Jamal Lewis vs. the Colts run defense. The Colts continue to struggle at times with power running offenses.
--Colts pass rush vs. Ravens QB Kyle Boller. Indianapolis is second in the league in sacks this season. DE Dwight Freeney has 13 to lead the league while DE Robert Mathis is close behind with 10 1/2.
--FS Bob Sanders (knee) has not practiced for three weeks and is considered doubtful for the Baltimore game.
--SS Gerome Sapp (ribs) saw light work on Wednesday and is questionable for Sunday night.
--C Jeff Saturday (calf) returned to practice on Wednesday. He is listed as questionable for the Ravens.
--WR Brandon Stokley (groin) was held out of Wednesday's practice and is considered questionable.
--TE Dallas Clark (arm/shoulder) practiced on Wednesday and is expected to play this week.
--LB Cato June (ankle/thigh) did not practice Wednesday but should be able to start against the Ravens.
--DE Robert Mathis (back) saw light work on Wednesday but will play this week.
--OG Tupe Peko (ankle) has practiced the last two weeks and could see playing time on Sunday.
--DT Josh Williams (shoulder) was able to practice on Wednesday with no problems and should be able to start this week.
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