The first Colt I saw coming off the field was Tyjuan Hagler, and he told me that the Colts had done just what he said during our interview earlier in the week -- they had come to Baltimore, taken care of business and got the win. I talked to a couple of the other players as they came off and then sat in for Tony Dungy and Adam Vinatieri's press conferences before heading to the locker room. I'll have lots of audio and quotes from the winner's locker room up on Sunday, including players like Antoine Bethea, Jeff Saturday, Bob Sanders, Dwight Freeney, Gary Brackett, and Cato June just to name a few. So be sure to check back here on Sunday and at our Colts site on the Scout.com network for more postgame coverage and insight on what the Colts are thinking as they advanced to the AFC Championship tonight.
7:18... Reed's interception energized the crowd again, as did McNair's third-down completion on the run with just over 11 minutes left. Big play by Bethea getting his hands on Heap to disrupt him a bit while he tried to make a diving catch at the sidelines. It just became an even bigger play since McNair tried another medium-depth pass that was stolen away by Nick Harper. Ten minutes left and the Colts have the ball at their own 32. This is my last blog entry for a while folks. We'll be heading to the field and the locker rooms, but I'll be back with more later this evening to wrap it up.
7:03.... I'm not sure I would have bothered challenging the Colts' short gain with 6 minutes left since it was going to be a 3rd-and-4 anyway. Trailing 12-3 at that point in the game, I'm not sure why Ravens head coach Brian Billick didn't put more value on his timeouts. It really became a waste when the Ravens stopped the Colts anyway on the next play.
Nice punt and coverage by the Colts backing the Ravens up inside their 10.
What a weird play. Big pass by the Ravens and then Bethea knocks the ball loose and the Colts recover. But an illegal contact flag against Jason David gives the ball back to Baltimore. And then the Ravens get a terrific leaping grab by Heap and are at the Colts' 44. Ravens call another timeout and only have one left. Not a good place to be with your timeouts in a playoff game with a full quarter yet to play.
6:57... Ravens shoot themselves in the foot with a big holding penalty, and some fans boo when the Ravens go to an underneath pass route that brings them up short on a 3rd-and-18. Matt Stover boots a 51-yard field goal, and there's a spurt of enthusiasm, but it died pretty quickly.
The 11-play drive by the Ravens cost them over 7 minutes of time. 13 minutes left, 12-6 Colts. Attendance was announced at a record 71,162. The fans are sensing that the clock is working against them and are on their feet encouraging the defense as the Colts line up for their possession at their own 19.
6:31...On the Colts' opening possession of the first half, Dallas Clark makes a dandy catch deep and holds on despite taking a nasty lick. On the play where Clark dropped a pass a couple of plays later, OT Ryan Diem did a nice job of picking up OLB Adailius Thomas, who initially looked like he was going to try to slow Clark, but blitzed instead. The Colts get a 48-yard field goal from Vinatieri to go up 12-3.
Significant first half stats: The Ravens were 0-5 on third-down ... yardage was still even with 117 for Indy, 126 for Baltimore ... both quarterbacks were picked off once ... McNair was 9-12-60 while Manning was 8-17-77 ... Addai averaged just 2.1 yards per carry while Jamal Lewis bumped his average up to 4.7 with a strong second-quarter ... Harrison grabbed 3 passes in the second quarter, Addai caught the only other completion of the period for Indy ... McNair has hit five different receivers in the half ... Morris leads the Colts in tackles with six, Ray Lewis had 8 first-half tackles for Baltimore.
6:00... As the Ravens picked up just 5 yards on their first two plays near the two-minute warning, some of the fans starting booing. Sanders made a fine play tipping the ball away from Heap on third down. The Colts couldn't capitalize on the possession though. Despite bobbling the ball on the deep pass, Aaron Moorehead did a really good job of getting out of the initial, legal mugging the Ravens put on him inside the first five yards of his route. The fans were very unhappy that the Ravens didn't try to throw the ball on their last possession, which was puzzling since they have to kick off to Indy to start the second half.
Vinatieri's 51-yard field goal that bounced over the crossbar was his 32nd postseason field goal, tying him for first place all-time with Gary Anderson.
It's 9-3 at the half.
5:50... McAlister almost picked off Manning. Again, I don't know how Manning thought Harrison would be open. From behind Manning, all I saw was purple in the area he threw to. McAlister then stutters in trying to cut back to cover Harrison, and he's a step too late. 11-yard first down. And then the Colts go to a flea-flicker for another nice gain.
Some significant first quarter stats...Ravens were 0-3 on third-down conversions ... net yards were almost equal, 53 for the Colts and 58 for the Ravens ... McNair completed 6 of 7 versus 4 of 7 by Manning ... both teams were called for one 5-yard penalty ... Colts average drive start was the 45 versus the 33 for the Ravens ... Jamal Lewis averaged just 2.4 yards per carry, Addai just 1.8 ... all four of Manning's completions were to Reggie Wayne ... Rob Morris led the Colts with four tackles, Bart Scott had three for the Ravens.
5:33... I had the view from behind the Colts and I can tell you that pass that was picked off by Ed Reed had no business being thrown. At the time Manning let the ball go, Clark was blanketed. He didn't have a prayer. Nice leaping grab by Ed Reed. Fans booed when they said down by contact, but he was. Jamal Lewis is finding lots of real estate on the right side of the Colts defense. On two runs, after he made the first player miss, there was no Colt on that side for at least five yards. Ravens just found a nice soft spot between MLB Gary Brackett and safety Antoine Bethea to complete a pass to TE Daniel Wilcox to the five. Bethea is hitting tonight, though. On third-and-goal at the four, the Colts have their nickel package in with safety Marlin Jackson and two LBs. McNair tries to thread a pass to Heap and June tries to tip it while Bethea swoops in and picks it off. What a collision between those two though! Amazing that the rookie held onto it, especially after seeing how woozy June looked initially. The fans are creating plenty of noise in hopes of doing whatever they can to help the defense.
5:15 The Ravens line up for a field goal to start the second quarter. They tried to take a shot at a TD pass on their position but rookie Antoine Bethea picked up Todd Heap nicely in the end zone so there was no way McNair could get the ball in there. During the commercial break, Tony Dungy talked to the refs about them picking up the flag earlier on a pass intended for Reggie Wayne. He obviously disagreed with the call. Ravens' 40-yard attempt is good, 6-3 with 14:56 left in the half.
The Ravens receivers are dangerous after the catch. Mark Clayton almost got away after a nice spin move after a 19-yard catch.
Ravens are forced to punt after the Colts immediately wrap up Clayton on a 3rd-and-5 that comes up 2 yards short. They were obviously counting on him to be able to make a move. The Colts are doing a good job of keeping the receivers in front of them.
They just cranked up the music in the stadium to wake up the fans who were starting to slumber a bit. 2:49 left in the first and the Colts have the ball at their own 20.
4:54... Nick Harper makes a huge hit on Todd Heap and knocks the ball loose. Gary Brackett recovers at the Ravens 31. Call initially is a first down, but overruled on replay. Fans were VERY quiet while waiting for the decision and there were not many boos. It was pretty obvious to everyone in the stadium and in the press box that it was a fumble.
On Addai's subsequent fumble, Utecht recovered, but a Ravens player initially had his hands on it and one of his own teammates knocked it away from him. The Ravens' aggressiveness backfired there. It would have been their ball. The Colts get a field goal out of it. 6-0 Colts with 5:36 left in the first.
4:45... The Colts first defensive play against the Ravens was big, holding Lewis to one, but it was more important that they held him to 2 yards on a delay handoff to show they possibly aren't going to be vulnerable on draws and delays. Ravens don't seem to have an early answer for Reggie Wayne, but their goal-line group came up with some great stops on Addai when it counted deep. Scoring drive by Colts was 11 plays for 49 yards, taking 4:43 off the clock. It's 62 degees right now at the stadium and no precipitation. 3-0 Colts.
4:26... Well, Lee Greenwood got the fans riled up with "God Bless the USA" and when each player of the Colts defense was announced, the fans here boomed "sucks!" after each name. Classy, huh? No love lost here. Now they're announcing the Ravens and the place is going nuts. The sea of white towels is impressive.
4:14 The Ravens Marching Band is on the field doing a rendition of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. Should be interesting. Not a tune that I normally associate with marching bands, but they have a great sound and a lot of energy.
The Colts will come out at 4:26 and the Ravens at 4:29. The stadium is packed and the fans are looking pretty calm during the band's performance. But that's going to change very quickly in the next ten minutes.
Skies are darkening a bit, the stadium lights are on.
4:02...Ray Lewis got the fans waving their towels as he danced and jumped around a bit. I just saw a question in the blog forum asking about Gilbert Gardner being scratched and his future with the team. I think the fact that it was decided early in the week that Freddy Keiaho would be playing Gardner's strongside spot in goal-line situations and the fact that he was one of the guys replaced on special teams doesn't provide a very good outlook for his future. He's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
The Colts just left the field to more boos as the Ravens continue to wrap up their pregame warmups.
3:56... They just handed out the game inactives to us:
Colts - WR Ricky Proehl, DB T.J. Rushing, DB Tim Jennings, LB Gilbert Gardner, DE Bo Schobel, OG Matt Ulrich, OT Daniel Federkeil, WR John Standeford
Ravens - CB Jamaine Winborne, CB David Pittman, CB Derrick Martin, RB P.J. Daniels, FB Nick Luchey, OL Mike Kracalik, WR Devard Darling, WR Clarence Moore
The stadium is filling up. It's probably three quarters full now.
3:43... The runnning backs, receivers and quarterbacks, as well as punters are on the field. Now the secondary just arrived as well. More booing of course for the Colts as they came out. They are at the end closest to me, so it's a bit tougher to see the Ravens at the moment.
Expect to see lots of white towels waving in the stands. Even though the vendors were selling the purple ones mentioned earlier, all fans were given a white one coming in that says "It's Time to Hunt" on them.
3:31... The kickers and their holders and snappers came out in uniform, the first to hit the field in anything other than sweats. The Colts' unit got a hearty round of boos, as did a few others who just trotted out, including Dominic Rhodes, Terrence Wilkins and Jason David.
To answer a few of your questions so far, it's quite warm and there is currently no rain. The field looks good. There is no wind. The flags on the uprights are barely moving at all. Inactives haven't been released yet.
3:17... Okay, I think all is well, the laptop is working, the links are all set up to our blog forum where YOU can ask questions before and during the game. Check back here after you ask your question in the blog forum and I'll do my best to fill you in with what's going on from my view in the press box.
It was an interesting walk into the stadium. I talked to a number of Colts fans on my way in and most said that they weren't getting razzed too much. There was one area by a gate where Ravens fans were congregating and booed Colts fans as they walked by. But I don't think it's been to bad for the folks. I haven't seen a bunch of Colts fans, but I would say I passed maybe 30-35 on my way in.
The Ravens fans are definitely cranked up for the whole Colts bitterness gig. People were handing out signs outside that said "No Way Irsay" and some vendors were selling purple towels to wave that said "Indianapolis Sucks." But perhaps the most interesting item for sale and that a number of Ravens fans were wearing was a purple tee-shirt jersey that had "Unitas 19" on the back and "Beat Indy!" on the front. Perhaps the most original and fun thing I saw though was the signs that were being handed out that said, "Hey Colts, your ride is here" with a drawing of a Mayflower moving van on it.
Ravens fans are having a ball and are filling in. The stadium is maybe an a quarter full at this point.