Tag Archive | "Andrew Luck"

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Chapter 17: The Last Ride of 52

Posted on 02 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

 

 

Your lowest moment is always when you feel your greatest pain. When I tore my triceps, and the doctor looked at me and she told me that, you know, I was out for the year. And I said, ‘Doc, are you sure?’ I said, ‘Nah. Doc – there’s no way I’m [going] to be out for the year with just a torn triceps. I’ve been through way worse.’ And she was like, ‘Ray, you know, nobody’s ever come back from this.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know, nobody’s ever been Ray Lewis, either.’ ”

– Ray Lewis (January 2013)

 

 

 

AFTER ALL THAT THE RAVENS had been through in their rocky December – three losses in a row, the firing of Cam Cameron, the preseason-style game in Cincinnati to end 2012 – the road to a Super Bowl was still very much alive in January. And there’s nothing to stir the passions of Baltimore football fans like seeing the stolen blue horseshoe and the five-letter word that’s associated with evil in the land of pleasant living: I-R-S-A-Y. The Indianapolis Colts were coming to Baltimore again, a visit that still elicits plenty of emotion from the over-40 crowd.

And this time it wasn’t the bravado and no huddle mastery of Peyton Manning that would confront the Ravens. Peyton was staying warm in Denver, waiting to see if the Ravens would be journeying to the Mile High City next week. This time, the Colts had a different hotshot quarterback in Andrew Luck. The Ravens could never solve Manning – and still couldn’t earlier in December – but this time it would be a different look and a different team coming from Indy. In 2011, a gimpy version of the Colts on the last legs of the Dungy era and the Jim Caldwell head coaching run, were shellacked 24-10 by the Ravens in Baltimore as quarterback Dan Orlovsky ran for his life amidst a purple swarm all afternoon. Orlovsky wouldn’t be running the show this time.

This time, Caldwell would be running the Ravens offense and the guy who was running the Baltimore defense in 2001 would be the head coach of the Colts. There were plenty of emotions with the return of Chuck Pagano to Baltimore and the quarterback prodigy of John Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, who groomed Luck at Stanford as head coach of the Cardinal, before Indianapolis and owner Jim Irsay made him the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in April 2012 after jettisoning Manning, who wound up in Denver.

Pagano had successfully battled leukemia over the previous three months, and the #Chuckstrong campaign in social media was as solid as the Colts had been on the field in his absence. During his absence, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians stabilized a youthful team around Luck. Indianapolis was the surprise team in the AFC with an 11-5 record, including 9-2 down the stretch. They had played a last-place schedule all year, but had been impressive throughout the year and brought a wave of emotion with them from the friendly heart of the Midwest as Pagano’s health and strength was a rallying point for them all season.

Pagano had believed it a cruel, strange twist of fate that he even got the Colts head coaching job the previous January. As the Ravens went down the field on the final Lee Evans-Billy Cundiff drive in Foxborough, Pagano was thinking that he was finally going to the Super Bowl.

“If we win that AFC Championship Game that would’ve put me two weeks further out and no coach can have any discussion about a job,” Pagano said. “I would venture to say that Indy would’ve had to get their guy in place and they had already interviewed with a bunch of guys. I don’t think that it would’ve happened for me with the Colts. I know there were more qualified candidates than me, guys they had talked to in the process.”

Instead, the Ravens suffered the agonizing defeat and Pagano got the Indy job the next day. “It’s crazy how fate and destiny works,” he said. “I thought I’d be going to Indy that week. I just had no idea it’d be to be coaching the Colts. I thought I’d be coaching the Ravens defense in the Super Bowl.”

Now, a cancer survivor in remission with thin strands of gray hair returning to his previously bald head, Pagano was back in Baltimore on the sidelines as the head coach of an NFL playoff team almost 12 months later. He was coming back to Baltimore in an attempt to end

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Mike Chappell

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Mike Chappell talks the disappointing season for the Colts

Posted on 17 December 2015 by WNST Audio

Mike Chappell

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking at who’s going to win the NFL Conference Championships

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

The NFL’s version of the final four is upon us, and the Seattle Seahawks are poised to defend their crown and repeat as champions. In the NFC, Russell Wilson is going after his second Super Bowl ring, as well as Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. In the AFC matchup, Tom Brady has a chance to climb the Mt. Rushmore of 4 time Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, joining Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Andrew Luck leads the upstart Indianapolis Colts, as the only quarterback in the tournament who is attempting to win his first Lombardi Trophy.

Ever since the Patriots caught fire after their dismal performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in front of a national football audience, I’ve been predicting a Patriots – Seahawks finale. I still believe that after this Sunday’s games are over, those are still the two teams that will be left standing.

I expect the Patriots to activate Jonas Gray, and come out running against the Indianapolis Colts. Gray rushed for over 200 yards in Lucas Oil stadium, and with the addition of LeGarrette Blount, I expect more of the same this Sunday. Bill Belichick is a master of situational football, and just like he abandoned the run in the Patriots’ win over the Baltimore Ravens in the prior week, he will once again adapt his personnel to match his opponent.

On the other side of the ball, I do not believe that the Colts can go up to New England without a running game, and get away with it. They will go only as far as Andrew Luck will take them, and Belichick will take away what Luck does best, he will commit more players to defend the pass, and dare the Colts to run on his defense.

The Seattle Seahawks look to be a team on a mission. They are peaking at the right time, and their defense is the difference maker. They  have solid corners, unbelieveable safeties, active linebackers, and a defensive line that at times is dominant. They have a mercurial quarterback in Wilson, arguably the best running back in the NFL in Lynch, and they don’t beat themselves. They are also the most complete team in the playoffs.

The Green Bay Packers have come this far with sheer grit and determination, and on the arm of Aaron Rodgers. His calf injury has hindered his play, but on one leg he is still better than most NFL QBs on two legs. The key to the Packers having a chance is to unleash stout running back Eddie Lacy, but I do not see his offensive line opening up holes for him. He’ll have to make his own, and although he is capable of just that, I don’t believe it is going to be enough.

 

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Ravens-Colts: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 04 October 2014 by Luke Jones

A 3-1 record through the first quarter of the season has made a statement that the Ravens are a playoff-caliber team, but a road win against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday would scream they belong among the NFL’s elite.

Despite an offense that was ranked 29th in the NFL last season, the Ravens bring a revamped unit to Lucas Oil Stadium that’s ranked sixth in total yards and tied for seventh in points per game, which could lead to a shootout against an Indianapolis offense ranking first in total yards and averaging a league-leading 34.0 points per game. Of course, the Colts’ numbers benefited from playing two woeful teams, Tennessee and Jacksonville, in their last two games while the Ravens have only played one game away from M&T Bank Stadium so far this season.

The Baltimore secondary has faced much scrutiny this season and will face its biggest test in quarterback Andrew Luck and the NFL’s top-ranked passing game. The Ravens rank 24th in pass defense, but a stout run defense has often made opponents one-dimensional and the pass rush finally showed up in a convincing 38-10 win over Carolina last Sunday.

Sunday marks the 11th all-time meeting between the Ravens and Indianapolis in the regular season with the Colts holding a 7-3 advantage. Baltimore is winless in four regular-season trips to Indianapolis. The good news for the Ravens is they got the best of the Colts in their only meeting against Luck that came in the 2012 postseason, which also served as their only playoff win against Indianapolis in three tries.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to begin a difficult stretch of four of five games on the road with a win on Sunday …

1. The Baltimore running game wins the time of possession battle as Justin Forsett is the leading rusher in an attack that goes over 125 yards on the ground again. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak always prefers establishing the run, but it will be even more critical in a game with such a prolific offense on the opposing side. Indianapolis is allowing 4.4 yards per carry, which indicates the Ravens should be able to move the ball effectively on the ground to set up play-action passes. The recently-injured Bernard Pierce will see some action unlike last week, but Forsett will still lead the Ravens in rushing yards in what will be a three-back timeshare.

2. Indianapolis uses a no-huddle attack to keep the Ravens’ pass rush on its heels and to help a very shaky offensive line. Even with a big lead, the Colts pushed the tempo against Tennessee last week, and they’ll use a similar style to keep the Baltimore front on its heels and to protect an offensive line that’s already surrendered 13 quarterback hits and 22 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s no secret that three-step drops limit any defense’s ability to get to the quarterback, but the Ravens have been especially vulnerable to this over the last couple years and a quicker tempo will make the defense too flatfooted in the second half, especially with Chris Canty unlikely to play and Terrell Suggs less than 100 percent.

3. Colts cornerback Vontae Davis and bracketed coverage finally make Steve Smith look human, but Torrey Smith catches a touchdown and posts a season-high 105 receiving yards. After collecting 429 receiving yards in four weeks, the elder Smith will finally receive consistent attention befitting a No. 1 receiver as Davis will shadow him and receive extra help whenever possible. Steve Smith will still have a presence, but it will be Torrey Smith with a dynamic performance against an Indianapolis defense ranking 21st in pass defense. The fourth-year wideout will catch a long score on an effective play-action fake that makes new starting free safety Sergio Brown — filling in for the suspended LaRon Landry — bite.

4. A secondary that’s been shaky all year finally crumbles as Luck throws for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees stood up for the play of his pass defense this week, but the Colts have too many weapons for top cornerback Jimmy Smith to account for and no one else inspires enough confidence to slow such a passing game. Cornerback Lardarius Webb wasn’t listed on the injury report for the second straight week, but it’s impossible to have any expectations for him until he finally takes extensive snaps in live-game action. An improved pass rush against Carolina helped mask issues in coverage, but the Ravens won’t be able to do the same with Indianapolis using an up-tempo attack, which will lead to a long day for the back end of the defense.

5. Quarterback Joe Flacco has another strong afternoon, but the Baltimore offense can’t quite hang with Indianapolis in a 30-24 loss to snap a three-game winning streak. At the start of the season, I wouldn’t have given the Ravens much of a chance to win this one, but a stronger-than-expected Baltimore offense and the Colts’ less-than-impressive offensive line will make this a close one. In the same way that the Colts’ two wins have come against less-than-stellar competition, I can’t be convinced that a shaky road win over Cleveland is enough evidence that the Ravens can carry over performances on the road like what we saw against Carolina last week. Flacco will play at a high level against a very ordinary defense, but the Baltimore defense won’t force enough stops against Luck and the Colts to pull out the road upset.

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Ravens-Colts: Five predictions for wild-card Sunday

Posted on 05 January 2013 by Luke Jones

The Ravens meet the Indianapolis Colts in the postseason for the third time ever on Sunday and will be looking for their first playoff triumph over the franchise that used to play in Baltimore.

Of course, the Colts no longer enjoy the services of Peyton Manning for this playoff matchup as the future Hall of Fame quarterback broke Baltimore’s heart to end its 2006 and 2009 seasons. Indianapolis has begun a new era this year with rookie head coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano providing the inspiration in beating leukemia as the Colts made the playoffs with a rookie quarterback and an 11-5 record after last season’s 2-14 disaster.

The Ravens already had plenty of incentive in advancing to their fifth postseason in five years under coach John Harbaugh, but Wednesday’s announcement that future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis intends to retire after the season almost made the game an afterthought in the buildup this week. It figures to be a scene unlike any other in the history of Baltimore sports as Lewis walks out of the tunnel to not only play in his first game since Week 6 but also perform his decorated pre-game dance for the final time.

Indianapolis leads the all-time regular-season series with a 7-3 record and owns a 2-0 mark over the Ravens in the postseason while Baltimore looks to improve on its NFL-best mark of winning at least one playoff game in each of the last four seasons. The Ravens are the only team in the league to advance to the postseason in each of the last five years.

Here’s what to expect as the AFC North champion Ravens attempt to exorcise some demons against Indianapolis at M&T Bank Stadium …

1. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce will combine for 170 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Indianapolis has played abysmal run defense this season and allows an average of 5.1 yards per carry, good for 31st in the league. This was on full display in Week 16 when the Colts allowed 345 rushing yards in a win over Kansas City. The Colts do not have a good front seven as its defensive line and veterans Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have struggled mightily in adjusting to Pagano’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will offer a heavy dose of Rice and the rookie Pierce to open up the middle of the field as Indianapolis tries to put eight men in the box early in the game. The Ravens will use a similar formula to the one used against the New York Giants in Week 16 when they rushed for 224 yards on 45 carries to wear down the New York front. A similar plan would keep the Indianapolis offense off the field and tire out a vulnerable, underwhelming defense.

2. Showing impressive poise in his first playoff game, Andrew Luck will have a respectable day and connect with T.Y. Hilton for a long touchdown pass. The No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft has lived up to expectations in his rookie season, throwing for 4,374 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions while orchestrating seven game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, the most by an NFL rookie quarterback since the 1970 merger. Luck has even cut down on the interceptions by not throwing one in the final three games of the regular season, with two of those games coming against a formidable Houston defense. The speedy Hilton led all rookie receivers in 100-yard receiving games and touchdown receptions while finishing second among rookies with 861 receiving yards. With plenty of attention being paid to the timeless veteran Reggie Wayne, Hilton will get behind an improving but inconsistent secondary to catch a deep ball from Luck for a touchdown.

3. Ed Reed will put his stamp on the game with an interception in what could be his final appearance as a Raven in Baltimore. The 37-year-old Lewis will receive most of the attention Sunday — and rightfully so — but the writing appears to be on the wall for the 34-year-old Reed, who hasn’t engaged in any contract talks with the organization since before the 2011 season. Reed declined commenting on his intentions after the season, saying he wasn’t “in that mindset” now, so you know the Pro Bowl safety will be looking to bait a rookie quarterback into making a mistake. Reed has appeared to guess recklessly instead of taking calculated gambles more often than not this season, but the future Hall of Fame defensive back always seems to rise to the occasion in the biggest games. Last year, Reed had an interception and broke up six passes in two postseason games. It may not be a highlight interception return for a touchdown, but Reed will pick off Luck to give Ravens fans a potential final thrill.

4. An effective running game will allow Joe Flacco to thrive using play-action as Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin have strong days against the Indianapolis pass defense. It goes without saying how big this postseason will be for the fifth-year quarterback as his rookie contract is set to expire and he plays his first playoff game without former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. The Colts defense hasn’t been as bad against the pass (21st in the NFL) as it’s been against the run, but Indianapolis will be susceptible to play action as the Ravens run the ball extensively. Inside linebackers Kavell Conner and Jerrell Freeman are not particularly good in pass coverage, meaning Pitta and Boldin could have a field day over the middle, intermediate portion. It doesn’t need to be a 300-yard passing day by Flacco for the Ravens to win, but the Baltimore quarterback will be efficient and take some shots vertically against cornerbacks Cassius Vaughn and Vontae Davis to keep Indianapolis honest in trying to defend the run. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 225 passing yards and a touchdown should be plenty against the Colts.

5. With a returning Lewis playing in his final game in Baltimore, the Ravens will have the higher energy level to beat Indianapolis in a 27-17 final. When the 37-year-old linebacker made his announcement on Wednesday, the Ravens regained the emotional edge previously enjoyed by the underdog Colts, who played so admirably with their head coach battling cancer. I’m not envisioning Lewis making much of an impact physically, but the Ravens are the better team in this one despite failing to show it in the month of December, losing three of four before the Week 17 loss that amounted to little more than a preseason game. The Baltimore offense struggled at home against Pittsburgh and Denver in December, but those units finished first and second in yards allowed this season. This Colts defense is a far cry from those defense and the Ravens will have a very productive day playing in their home stadium. The energy level at M&T Bank Stadium may be unlike any we’ve ever seen in what’s already regarded as one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. That wave will give the Ravens an extra boost to dispose of the Colts in a fairly comfortable fashion. All other factors aside, the Ravens just aren’t losing in Lewis’ final game in Baltimore. The football gods simply won’t allow it.

 

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