Ravens Advance To Face Broncos
In a very emotional Wild Card matchup, the 4th seed Baltimore Ravens defeated the 5th seed Indianapolis Colts by a score of 24-9 in what was Ravens star LB Ray Lewis’s last home game. Lewis will retire at the end of the season. With this win the Ravens final record at home when Lewis plays is an amazing 81-36-1. That works out to be a winning percentage of .686, to put this in perspective that is an 11-5 record if it was for one season. On the offensive side, the Ravens set a single-game playoff team record for total yards with 441. This win marks the 5th straight year that the Ravens have made it to the divisional playoff round. Next week the Ravens will travel to Denver to face the 1st seed Broncos on Saturday at 4:30 pm ET.
With the way the defense was playing today, Flacco did exactly what he had to do to win this game. The defense may have allowed 419 yards but, they only allowed 9 points which made Flacco’s job way easier. All he had to do was not lose the game and, he did better than that. Completing 12-of-23 passes, Flacco threw for 282 yards, 2 TDs, a QBR of 89.5, and a QB rating of 125.6. His 52 completion percentage may not look good but, he was able to throw for 282 yards on his 12 completion which is an average of 23.5 yards per completion. Flacco did have an interception dropped early in the game but this was his worst play. On his touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta, Flacco did a good job of escaping the pressure and finding Pitta. Throughout the game, Flacco was able to throw the deep ball well and was lofting it in very well, especially to Anquan Boldin.
This was a very uncharacteristic game for Ray Rice. In the regular season, Rice only had one fumble and that was against the Steelers in week 11. Against the Colts, Rice fumbled not once, but twice. Both of these fumbles occurred inside Indianapolis territory, once at the 15 and the other at the 40. Thankfully for the Ravens, and Rice, neither of the fumbles led to points for the Colts. These fumbles led to backup Bernard Pierce being used more in the game than the gameplan probably called for. Rice finished with 15 carries and Pierce had 13. On Rice’s 15 carries, he went for 70 yards. In the passing game, Rice only had one catch on 4 targets but, it was a very important catch. It was a screen pass that went for 47 yards and put the Ravens at the Colts 2-yard line with under 1 minute left in the 1st half. On the next play, FB Vonta Leach ran in for the touchdown. Overall, Rice will need to hold on to the ball if the Ravens want to make it far in the playoffs.
Pierce was the beneficiary of Rice’s fumbles. These fumbles allowed Pierce to be in the game and, as usual, he made the most of it. He ran for 103 yards on 13 carries with a long of 43 yards. Of his 13 carries, 4 of them went for first downs. One of these was a nice 18 yard run that put the Ravens inside the Colts 10-yard line. His other great run was the 43 yarder. It was a 3rd and 1 run to the right side. he received a few good blocks and was off to the races. With his play, Pierce keeps showing that he could be a starting running back in the NFL.
If you go by the box score, Smith didn’t have much of an impact on the game but, in fact, he did have an impact. The box score says he had 2 catches for 31 yards on 4 targets which is pretty uneventful. One of these catches was for a first down and, it was a leaping catch for 22 yards. I still find it hard to see how he was able to jump high enough to catchup the ball. Smith was able to get another first down by drawing a pass interference at the Colts 15-yard line. Thats not all, Smith also had some good block, which is rare for a wide receiver. On Rice’s screen pass, Smith was blocking way downfield and had his guy engaged all the time until Rice passed him. This downfield block allowed Rice to get to the 2-yard line. The other good block by Smith came on Pitta’s touchdown catch. At around the 5-yard line, Smith blocked his man which allowed Pitta to get into the endzone.
One word to describe Boldin’s performance: record-setting. Ok that may be cheating but, he still had a great game. Before the game, Boldin felt he was going to have a great game. He went up to Flacco and said he felt like 200 yards today. How big of a day did Boldin have? Well, he set the Ravens single-game receiving playoff record with 145 yards. This 100 yard game is only the 3rd time a Ravens receiver has gone over 100 yards in the playoff. The last Ravens receiver to do this? Anquan Boldin. All of his 145 yards came in the 2nd half of the game despite having 2 targets in the 1st half. These 145 yards in the 2nd half are the most in the playoffs since Jerry Rice had 157 in Super Bowl XXIII. Boldin had 5 catches for those 145 yards which is an average of 29 yards per catch. Of these 5 catches, 4 went for first downs, and the other went for a touchdown. One catch was on a 3rd and 19. Boldin went deep and caught a 50 yard pass. He ran an out and up on another play for 46 yard where Flacco placed the ball perfectly over Boldin’s shoulder. Boldin’s touchdown catch was for 19 yards. It was a jump ball and the cornerback had his hand on the ball but, Boldin still corralled the ball.
After the game, Boldin said “I just wanted to go out and give everything,” Boldin said. “I think everyone in this locker room wanted to make sure this wasn’t our last game. I think we all have a goal in mind and we’re focused in on that goal. The only way we’re going to get there is if we go out there and give our all on the field.” He also said “I was real motivated [today],” Boldin said. “I’ve said it before, I came to Baltimore to win a championship. That’s my goal.”
While both tight ends for the Ravens may have combined for 3 catches, all of these catches were important. Lets start with the starter, Dennis Pitta. He had 2 catches for 27 yards. One of his catches was a 7 yard first down. The other was a 20 yard crossing route that went for a touchdown. Ed Dickson only had 1 catch for 24 yards. This catch was the Ravens first, first down of the game and got the Ravens rolling on offense.
Overall, the offensive line played well, especially when you consider the Ravens never used this line during the regular season. Due to starting LG Jah Reid being out, the line go shuffled up. Normal RT Kelechi Osemele went to LG, normal LT Michael Oher went to RT, and Bryant McKinnie came in at LT. The line only allowed 1 sack for a loss 13 yards. On this play, the pass rusher was never blocked on a play action pass.
On Pierce’s 18 yard run, both C Matt Birk and RG Marshal Yanda had great blocks. Yanda pushed his man 10 yards downfield and Birk probably blocked his man 7 yards downfield. Yanda also had a great block on Pierce’s 43 yard run. Pierce ran behind him and Yanda blocked his man down (to his left). Along with Oher’s great block to the outside, this springed Pierce for the big gain.
Speaking of Oher, that play was probably his best of the game, as the rest goes downfield. He twice allowed pressure which caused Flacco to throw the ball away. Penalty wise, he was only called for one. It was a 2nd and 10 on the Colts 15-yard line and Oher was called for a false start.
McKinnie had a great game. He played good enough to question what the line will look like next week. Obviously is Reid can’t play, it will stay like this. If Reid can play, it will be interesting to see if the coaches go with this line because it played so good or if they go with the normal line.
One word to describe Kruger’s performance: domination. Recently, Kruger has been on fire and the playoffs did nothing to stop that. With his 2.5 sacks yesterday, Kruger now has 10 sacks in his last 9 games after only getting 1.5 in his first 7 games. These 2.5 sacks don’t give enough credit to Kruger for how he played. There were two other instances when Kruger failed to bring down Andrew Luck for a sack. After the first time this happened, Kruger made up for it later in the drive with his first sack. It was a 3rd and 5 on Ravens territory on the drive after Rice’s first fumble. Kruger was able to knock the ball out of Luck’s hands. Pernell McPhee was then able to recover the fumble. His next sack was his half sack were he split it with Corey Graham for a loss of 6. Finally, his last sack was on a 3rd and 10 where he just ran right past the offensive lineman. This was for a loss of 8. If this isn’t enough, Kruger had pressure on almost every pass play, and finished with an amazing 5 QB hits, exactly half of the Ravens total for the game. On one of the few plays that Kruger dropped into pass coverage, he was able to knock down a pass. The only negative note for Kruger was an offsides penalty on a 2nd and 10. The Ravens will let this slip though due to his amazing performance, whats even more impressive is both of his solo sacks came on 3rd down.
I think it was fitting for the Ravens to not give up a touchdown in Lewis’s final home game. He will be remembered for being a great defensive player and for leading one of the greatest defenses ever. Therefore, giving up no touchdowns is the perfect end. It is also fitting that Lewis led the team with 13 tackles. He played all 87 snaps and had one great play that made everyone remember what made him great. On the snap, Lewis knifed through the offensive line an stopped the running back for a loss of 1. This is exactly the type of play Lewis would make all the time a few years ago. In pass coverage, Lewis allowed four first downs on four passes. He was also helped out by a dropped pass. One play that he will never live down was his dropped interception. Haloti Ngata tipped the ball at the line-of-scrimmage and it went right to Lewis. Somehow, the ball hit Lewis right in the hands but he wasn’t able to catch it. After the game, he blamed his arm brace for the drop. But, this game wasn’t about his performance. It was about his last game in Baltimore. To give out one last memory, Lewis went in on the final kneel down of the game. This marked the first offensive play he has ever taken part of. Even better, after the snap, Lewis did his introduction dance for one last time in the middle of the field. You can see his final introduction here and the dance at the end of the game here.
Over the course of the season, Ellerbe has shown he is a great blitzer, and nothing changed yesterday. On a 3rd and 7, Ellerbe flushed Luck out of the pocket on a blitz. Luck had to try and run for the first down and he was stopped well short. The next example of this was on a 2nd and 10. His pressure forced Luck to try and throw the ball away. Since the ball didn’t make it back to the line-of-scrimmage, Luck was flagged for intentional grounding. This caused a loss of down, loss of 16 yards, and took 10 seconds off the clock because there was only 22 seconds left in the half. Lastly, Ellerbe blitzed on a run play and tackled the running back for a loss of 2 yards.
Williams only gave up 3 catches yesterday but, 2 of them were for first downs. The first was a 3rd and 4 which put the Colts near midfield. The other first down completion was much more important. It was the play after Ellerbe forced the intentional grounding. The penalty put the Colts out of field goal range. As they were just on the edge of field goal range before, they needed to get about 25 yards to get a field goal. This is exactly what Williams allowed setting up a 52 yard field goal which Adam Vinatieri made. On the positive side, Williams had an interception on a 4th and 1 very late in the game. Corey Graham tipped the pass and Williams was there to catch it. However, on the return, Williams was chased down by Luck which has to be embarrassing.
As stated above, Graham tipped a pass on a 4th and 1 inside the Ravens 20-yard line with time running down. Other than this, Graham also had a half sack with Kruger for a loss of 6 yards. Graham allowed 3 passes for 1 first down. The one first down was for about 20 yards with 30 seconds left in the 1st half.
The two most memorable plays for Brown were penalties, never a good sign. He was called for an illegal contact on a 2nd and 10. The other penalty was on a punt return. He was called for a hold which lost the Ravens 16 yards. On defense, he gave up 1 pass for 1 first down.
Even Ed Reed got into the pass rushing. He blitzed on a 3rd and 9 and tipped a pass on the Colts first drive. Just like his good friend Lewis, Reed dropped an interception. Luck was under pressure and just trying to throw the ball away but he never saw Reed. Reed jumped in front of the receiver. He did everything right, except catch the ball, which is kind of important. He just straight up dropped it. It was a diving catch but, the Ed Reed of a few years ago makes the play.
Just like Brown, Pollard was called for two penalties but, these two are a little more controversial. The first was a “blow to the head of a receiver.” On this play, you can clearly see that Pollard led with his shoulder. Its not like his shoulder hit the receiver either. His shoulder hit the receiver in the arm and chest. The only part of Pollard to touch the receiver’s head was his facemask and the facemask barely grazed the helmet of the receiver. This is just another example of the bad helmet-to-helmet calls throughout the NFL right now. On the next play, Pollard was called for a taunting penalty after the play against the Colts bench. After the game, Pollard said a Colts assistant cursed at him and then a player shoved him. While the Colts shouldn’t have done this, Pollard shouldn’t have reacted. After each of these two plays, the stadium united with more “bulls***.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the video this time. Other than penalties, Pollard broke up two key passes. The first was a 3rd an 2 play where the Colts receiver already had the first down but was hit right away by Pollard. The receiver dropped the ball and it was ruled that he never had full possession of it. The other play stopped another first down. Pollard also finished with 4 tackles.