So I guess it’s fair to say that last Sunday’s win in New England was the Ravens Super Bowl, huh?
Six days after producing one of the best 60 minute efforts in franchise history, Baltimore’s purple birds gave a half-hearted effort in Indianapolis on Saturday night and saw their season end with a 20-3 defeat to the Colts. It marked the second time in four seasons that Baltimore’s campaign came to an end at the hands of the team that left Charm City 26 years ago.
January 13, 2007 was about the Colts kicking five field goals and out-defending the Ravens and their vaunted defense to scrape together a 15-6 win that took them to the AFC title game en route to their first (and only) Super Bowl crown. January 16, 2010 will be remembered as the night the Ravens threw a shoe in the backstretch and limped to the finish line, beaten by 30 lengths.
Saturday night came and went and the Ravens didn’t put up a whole lot of resistance.
Losing to the Colts isn’t shameful. Not at all.
Scoring three points in a playoff game is unacceptable, though.
If Saturday’s playoff game was chronicled in The Daily Racing Form, it would look something like this:
Ravens at Indianapolis: Baltimore…broke out gamely, wobbled at the mid-way point, offered little in the home stretch.
It was a game for a while. The Ravens surrendered an early field goal on Indy’s first drive, but bounced right back to tack on a 3-pointer of their own and the first quarter looked like it had the makings of a good heavyweight fight.
Unfortunately, Baltimore’s field goal near the end of the opening quarter was the last time they’d draw blood all night.
The Colts raced out to a 17-3 halftime lead thanks in large part to the best quarterback in the world, a slew of capable pass catchers and yet another exhibition in poor play calling/clock management from the Ravens coaching staff that opened the flood gates.
With 1:55 to go in the 2nd quarter, Baltimore trailed 10-3 and got the ball on their own 18 yard line. A Ray Rice run for 4 yards sparked a time-out from Indy, who clearly wanted the ball back with a chance to score before the half ended — no doubt noting that the Ravens were getting the ball to start the 2nd half.
The next play after the time-out was an incomplete pass to Mark Clayton. No need for an Indy timeout to stop the clock.
Third down brought another incomplete pass. The clock stopped with 1:38 to play in the half.
And when Indy got the ball back on their own 36 and 1:26 to work with – plus two time-outs – it was all over but the shoutin’. Peyton Manning methodically worked the Colts down the field and into the red zone, aided partly by a Ray Lewis “helmet to helmet” call that kept the drive alive with 22 seconds remaining in the half.
Reggie Wayne’s 3-yard TD catch on the final play of the second quarter was the crucial blow of the half, extending the Colts’ lead to 14 points and forcing the Ravens to come out somewhat more aggressive in the 3rd quarter.
The only problem?
“Somewhat more aggressive” didn’t get the message to join the Ravens on the field for the 3rd quarter.
With the the defense fighting for their lives and making Manning work harder than he would have otherwise preferred, the offense produced a colossal turd in the final 30 minutes. Baltimore ran the ball just five times in the 3rd quarter, a sure sign of a mixed-up offensive game plan, and when they threw it (8 times), it was as predictable as the Good Humor man coming down the street just after dinner on a summer night. Joe Flacco appeared apprehensive to throw the ball downfield all night — most likely because no one in white worked hard enough to get open — and was almost always satisfied with a short dump off to Ray Rice that generated little momentum or yardage.
And with the Ravens showing little interest in getting back in the game, the Colts followed their lead and took the air out of the ball in the 4th quarter while holding a 20-3 advantage.
It was boring, to say the least, but when you’re ahead by 17 points and the other team isn’t making you sweat it out, why do more than you have to?
This was always going to be a tough night for the Ravens.
The Colts haven’t lost a game they were trying to win all season. They’re 15-2 for a reason and it’s not by accident.
But at this stage of the campaign, two wins away from the Super Bowl, one might have expected more heart from the Ravens than they showed on Saturday in Indianapolis.
I know I certainly did.
Maybe Saturday night was nothing more than a 15-2 team beating a 10-8 team by the 20-3 score they were SUPPOSED to win by. In the aftermath of the game, Indianapolis didn’t seem all that shocked that they won 20-3. It was as if they expected it.
Frankly, we might have over-valued the Ravens and their chance for success in Indy.
But like I wrote above — losing to the Colts is one thing. Scoring three points and putting Rip Van Winkle to sleep in the process is another thing entirely.
This was not the way the Ravens wanted to go out.
Out of gas, out of energy and out of answers.
It all came to a crashing halt at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night.
The Colts are the better team.
That’s a definite.
But the Ravens didn’t give them their best shot on Saturday. Not even close.
That too, is definite.