OWINGS MILLS, Md. — We’ve only reached the middle of the week, but let’s call a spade a spade.
There’s very little to be excited about as the Ravens prepare to host the winless Indianapolis Colts at M&T Bank Stadium. Players and coaches have already paid the Colts more compliments than they deserve considering their last win came months before the 134-day lockout that threatened to interrupt the season.
Yes, the Colts’ 21-point fourth quarter against New England on Sunday raised a few eyebrows at the Ravens’ facility in Owings Mills, but it came after Indianapolis was trailing 31-3 entering the fourth quarter. However, coach John Harbaugh is paying the Colts plenty of respect despite the absence of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning under center all season.
“I thought they looked pretty good [on Sunday],” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, they got in the no-huddle [and] the quarterback sparked them. They’ve got playmakers everywhere on offense.”
Yes, the same Dan Orlovsky who helped guide the Detroit Lions to an 0-16 record in 2008 will be under center as Indianapolis tries to win its first game of the year.
For a matchup typically full of palpable electricity with the cerebral duel between Manning and linebacker Ray Lewis — who is expected to miss his fourth straight game on Sunday — this contest feels too hollow.
So, what is there to focus on from a storyline standpoint? The infamous departure of the Indianapolis franchise from Baltimore in the middle of the night in March 1984? Does animosity still linger?
“I haven’t been here that long,” coach John Harbaugh said. “You guys have been here the whole time, so that’s what you guys write about every year. So, I don’t know.”
In reality, asking players to comment about the history of circumstances that took place before many of them were born isn’t going to spark compelling discussion. Even the lack of buzz from the fan base this week suggests the recent animosity toward Indianapolis has far more to do with what’s transpired on the field over the last decade than the fallout from the franchise’s heartless exit.
The Ravens haven’t defeated Indianapolis since Dec. 2, 2001, with Lewis the only remaining member from that team being Lewis. For longtime veterans such as linebacker Terrell Suggs and safety Ed Reed, Sunday marks an opportunity to do something they haven’t been able to do before in their long careers.
“Indy is definitely always a team that plays us tough,” safety Ed Reed said. “We’ve never beaten them.”
The memories of two playoff defeats, including the Ravens’ last playoff game in Baltimore in January 2007, should provide just enough to sharpen the focus for a team needing to win its four remaining games on the schedule to secure home-field advantage and a first-round bye.
Perhaps an even bigger incentive for motivation on Sunday is the memory of what happened to the Ravens in 2007 when they traveled to Miami to take on the 0-13 Dolphins. Though they were struggling at 4-9 in an injury-plagued season in which former coach Brian Billick was dismissed at year’s end, Suggs remembers the embarrassment of losing to those Dolphins and doesn’t want history to repeat itself against Indianapolis.
“A little slant route got us,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said in reference to former Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo’s 64-yard touchdown to beat the Ravens in overtime in December 2007. “This is the NFL, and they are professionals, and we expect them to line up and come up in here and play. Yeah, definitely. They are just as big a threat to us [as] if we were playing anybody else.”
To compare them to Pittsburgh or New England is clearly a stretch, but caution exists when facing a team that has nothing to lose. The Colts are trying to avoid the stigma of losing every single game of a season and the permanent place in the record books next to the 2008 Lions and the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Their eight-game winning streak against the Ravens over the last decade just adds to the motivation for the Ravens. Unlike the Colts, who are trying to avoid history, the Ravens look to make history — in a positive way, that is.
“They have had our number,” Suggs said. “Like I said, we know what we are playing for; we know what they are playing for. They are trying to get their first win. We are trying to pile these wins up and go on a playoff run. That’s what is most important to us. Here they come. Let’s do it.”