Sunday, January 17, 2010
Make it 8: Ravens lose to Colts....Again
The Ravens were eliminated from the playoffs last night, losing 20-3 to the Colts in a game they were never really even in. The Ravens hung with the Colts for all of one quarter before the Colts broke the game wide open in the second quarter. And when the Ravens were down 17-3 going into halftime, the game could have been called and Ravens fans would have probably been OK with that.
Why? Because when the Ravens play the Colts they become the same team they've been during the last 8 times they've played Indianapolis: A very poor one.
The Ravens haven't scored a touchdown versus the Colts since Troy Smith rushed for a TD against them in garbage time during a 2007 Indy rout of the Ravens.
And last night, whenever the Ravens put themselves in place to close the gap, they immediately coughed up the ball, killing any chance of making last night's game...a game.
Take for instance Ed Reed's interception of Peyton Manning in the 3rd quarter. Reed made a perfect read of Manning and jumped in front of Pierre Garcon to pick off the pass. He returned it 38 yards before Garcon, making a great play as a defender, punched the ball out of Reed's hands and into the arms of Dallas Clark. It was as if the whole thing was planned from the start.
Instead of the Ravens taking over on offense at around the Colts 15 yard line, the Colts were basically pushed back 38 yards to start the drive. The drive resulted in a Matt Stover field goal to put the game well out of reach, 20-3.
Another Reed interception on the next Colts drive was wiped out because of pass interference. And a long Ray Rice run, which would have set up a chance for a late touchdown, ended in a fumble after Rice kept trying to break tackles.
It was the old one step forward, five steps back routine. And the Ravens hit each note.
On offense, the Ravens couldn't get anything started against the Colts, as usual. Their first drive was the Ravens longest drive of the season at 7+ minutes but the Ravens faltered in the red zone and had to settle for a Billy Cundiff field goal. Little did we know it would be the Ravens lone score of the game. On the drive Joe Flacco made some great passes and the receivers were doing a great job getting open. Derrick Mason caught a pass without a Colts defender on the TV screen. You don't see that happen very often.
But aside from that drive, the Ravens were stuffed at the line of scrimmage whenever Rice tried to run. He ended up with a good average of 5.2 yards per carry, but only rushed 13 times ending up with 67 yards. Most of his yardage came late in the game when the Colts backed off the line and allowed the Ravens to run the ball. And most of those yards came on the aforementioned run which resulted in a fumble.
As for Flacco, it's probably good the season is over. He was dealing with injuries for most of the season and had trouble reading defenses and picking up blitzes. He looked a little better last night, with more pep in his step than usual, but he threw 2 bad interceptions. For his career in the playoffs, Flacco has thrown 1 TD and 6 INT despite his 3-2 record. Flacco should go home, relax, get healthy and watch a lot of game film from this season and figure out why he looked worse in the pocket in his second season than he did as a rookie.
On defense the Ravens played about as well as you can against Manning and the Colts. If any other playoff team could hold the Colts to 20 points and 275 total yards, they'd probably win the game. The Ravens held the Colts to a field goal to start the game, a small victory after the Colts had marched down the field at will. They eventually pressured Manning in the second half, but the game was over by then. The Ravens defense also played well on third down and forced the Colts to punt 6 times.
You just have to tip your cap to the Colts, as much as it pains me to do it. They've had the Ravens solved for years on offense and defense. And until the Ravens can get an offense that can hang with the Colts, the Ravens will keeping losing to them.
All in all, 2009 will go down as a disappointing season. Coming off an AFC Championship appearance, the Ravens were supposed to be improved with Flacco in his second year, but at 9-7, the Ravens were a team that always found a way to erase any momentum they'd gained with a penalty, a missed field goal, a turnover, or some other kind of mistake. Sure, last week's rout of New England was fun, but you can't help but wonder what could have been if the Ravens had played better in the regular season. Maybe they would have gotten a home playoff game. Maybe they wouldn't have had to face the Colts.
We'll never know.
One small positive going forward, the Ravens don't face the Colts in 2010.