Ravens have grown up since 2002 loss to Colts

OWINGS MILLS -- Three years ago, the Baltimore Ravens were ravaged by a salary-cap roster purge and linebacker Ray Lewis' season-ending shoulder injury. <br><br> Yet, the then-youngest team in the NFL still pushed the Indianapolis Colts to the brink before a controversial pass-interference call assessed to cornerback Gary Baxter in the final seconds led to a narrow defeat.

Former Ravens receiver Qadry Ismail's theatrical dive after an incomplete pass and resulting flag set up Mike Vanderjagt's game-winning field goal for a 22-20 Colts victory at the RCA Dome. Afterward, Ismail admitted that he exaggerated his reaction to slight contact in a touch of salesmanship bought by the officials.

"It came down to the wire," cornerback Chris McAlister said. "Q, wherever you're at, flopping around on the sideline. No one touched him on an overthrown ball."

This is a much different edition of the Ravens (8-5), one filled with veterans and eight returning Pro Bowl selections from last season. However, Indianapolis (10-3) is an eight-point favorite.

"It's OK, that's how we like it," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We have always been the underdogs."

BIG BROTHER: The Ravens victimized Peyton Manning's little brother, Eli Manning, last week in a 37-14 win over the New York Giants. The rookie posted a zero quarterback rating, and was intercepted twice and fumbled once before mercifully being benched for Kurt Warner.

However, Sunday night's nationally-televised encounter promises to be a more challenging, cerebral experience.
"Big brother is a little wiser, a little smarter, a little more mature in the game," McAlister said. "It's going to be a toug task."

Peyton Manning, of course, is three touchdowns shy of retired Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino's single-season touchdown mark of 48 established in 1984.
The Ravens don't sound like a team consumed with not becoming the answer to a sports trivia question.

"I don't think that's going to be a factor for us," Baxter said. "We are aware of the record, but at the same time, we're one of the top defenses, too. We're not even going to think about it."

Manning has passed for at least three touchdowns in nine of 13 games this year. The Ravens have allowed three or more passing touchdowns in only 10 of 100 regular-season games under coach Brian Billick, most recently allowing three to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.

The Ravens have only allowed 10 touchdown passes and have held opposing quarterbacks to an NFL-best 65.6 quarterback rating.

"Honestly, as a defense if you went into it thinking about stopping the record, you went into it with the wrong purpose," Lewis said. "Our purpose is to win a football game. That's our true goal."

TRAINING ROOM: The Ravens added Suggs (shoulder) and safety Will Demps (shoulder) to the injury report with probable listings. Running back Jamal Lewis (ankle) and nickel back Deion Sanders missed a portion of team drills Friday. Linebacker Bart Scott (knee) was downgraded to out. The Colts ruled out rookie safety Bob Sanders (knee).

QUICK HITS: Quarterback Kyle Boller has thrown nine touchdowns and just three interceptions in his last eight games, and the Ravens are 8-1 when Boller doesn't throw an interception this season. He throws an interception only once every 46 pass attempts, a percentage of 2.2 percent, tied for fifth in the NFL.
… Colts wide receiver and Ravens safety Ed Reed remain good friends after rooming together at the University of Miami. Wayne doesn't hold a grudge for his pet python dying under Reed's watch in 2001.
… Colts running back Edgerrin James leads the NFL in rushing with 1,395 yards and in yards from scrimmage with 1,814. At his current pace, he will run for a career-high 1,717 yards and total 2,223 yards from scrimmage three years after reconstructive knee surgery. "He's been phenomenal for us," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. … The Colts lead the NFL in takeaways (33) and turnover differential (plus-18), the best margin in their 21 seasons in Indianapolis.

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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