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(Saturday, January 16th)
Final Score: Indianapolis 20, Baltimore 3
Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - Peyton Manning threw for a pair of touchdowns and the Colts took advantage of four Baltimore turnovers and numerous penalties to shut down the Ravens, 20-3, to advance to the AFC championship game.
The top-seeded Colts will be at home next Sunday against the winner of the contest between the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers.
Manning, coming off an unprecedented fourth NFL MVP award, connected on 30- of-44 passes for 246 yards and was picked off once, while Reggie Wayne had eight receptions for 63 yards and a score.
Indianapolis was on its way to a possible 16-0 record in the regular season before pulling its starters in the second half of a December 27 home loss to the Jets. The Colts were then throttled in Buffalo in the final week of the season, but secured a playoff win for the first time after a bye in the Manning era.
"I thought we had really good preparation coming into this game," Manning said. "I thought we came out sharp on both sides of the ball and really from the get-go set the tempo of the game."
Prior to Saturday, the Colts were 0-3 in their playoff opener after earning a bye, falling in 1999 (19-16 to the Titans), 2005 (21-18 to the Steelers), and 2007 (28-24 to the Chargers).
Austin Collie had a TD catch for Indianapolis, which beat the Ravens for an eighth straight time, including playoffs.
Joe Flacco finished 20-of-35 for 189 yards with a pair of interceptions for the Ravens, who were coming off a resounding 33-14 wild card victory at New England.
Baltimore's Ed Reed had a pair of interceptions, but one was negated by a penalty and he fumbled the ball away after the other pick-off. The Ravens had seven penalties for 64 yards, and many of those were costly miscues.
"Obviously we're not where we want to be right now," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We want to be to the point as a football team where we can win the divisional playoff game, we can win the AFC championship game and we can win the Super Bowl. We tried like crazy to be good enough to do that. We have to find a way to make our team better."
Ray Rice finished with 67 yards on 13 caries and also had nine catches for 60 yards in defeat. Baltimore had 234 yards rushing last week, but just 87 in this game.
"They did a tremendous job," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said of his defense. "I think when you look at what Baltimore has been able to do to teams over the last three weeks, our defense I think did indeed play hard, played well and tackled well. It was a heck of a performance."
Already holding a 17-3 lead at the half, the Colts never let the Ravens off the mat in the final 30 minutes. Baltimore punted on its first possession of the third quarter, and on the next drive Flacco's fourth down pass from the Indy 45 was tipped at the line and fell incomplete.
On the ensuing play, Reed picked off a deep ball intended for Pierre Garcon, but Garcon raced all the way down the field and stripped it away from the star Baltimore safety. The ball fell in the hands of the Colts' Dallas Clark, who returned it to the Indianapolis 28.
"Just like any ball carrier out in the open, you have to put that ball away," Harbaugh said. "The ball comes off your body low like that it's got a chance to be knocked out."
Just five plays later, Reed intercepted a ball over the middle and returned it to the Colts 11, but cornerback Corey Ivy was whistled for pass interference.
The Colts kept the ball and Matt Stover finished off the 14-play, 56-yard march with a 33-yard field goal, 1:34 into the final quarter.
"I thought that was important. We've been talking about overcoming some storms," Manning said. "There were plenty of storms on that drive for a couple of games. It was good to overcome that and get the points and make it a three- score game."
The misfortunes continued for the Ravens on their next possession. Rice was stripped of the ball by Raheem Brock and Clint Session pounced on it for the Colts at their 20.
Later in the game, Flacco's deep pass intended for Derrick Mason was intercepted by Antoine Bethea at the two-yard line with under five minutes left, and Jerraud Powers intercepted Flacco with 1:07 remaining.
The Colts got the ball first and drove 54 yards in 10 plays, capped by Stover's 44-yard field goal.
Jalen Parmele returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to the Indianapolis 40, but L.J. Smith was whistled for an illegal block. The Ravens then moved the ball 87 yards in 15 plays, covering nearly eight minutes before Billy Cundiff split the uprights from 25 yards out with 2:57 left in the quarter. Baltimore attained a 1st-and-goal from the eight, but the drive stalled after a pair of incomplete passes, the second of which could have proved disastrous. On third down, Bethea dropped a sure interception at the goal line with plenty of open space ahead of him.
After a series of punts, the Colts finally pushed ahead for good by moving the ball 75 yards in 14 plays over an eight-minute span. They converted a 4th- and-4 with a Manning pass to Joseph Addai for four yards to the Baltimore 31. Manning finished the march with a 10-yard pass to Collie in the left corner of the end zone with two minutes left.
The Colts then forced a three-and-out, and immediately went to work with 1:36 left in the half. They moved the ball from their own 36 and received a couple of breaks thanks to penalties, helping them extend the margin to 17-3 on Manning's three-yard TD pass to Wayne with three seconds remaining.
A pass interference penalty on Domonique Foxworth advanced the ball to the 14, and two plays later Manning threw to the end zone for Collie. The pass was broken up by Ray Lewis, but his helmet-to-helmet hit resulted in a penalty, giving Indy a 1st-and-goal at the seven. On third down, Wayne caught the ball off a slant pattern at the goal line and reached the ball across the plane before getting knocked back.
"I think that has happened every time we played Indy," Reed said of the Colts scoring late in a half. "You've got to protect the ball. We have to be smarter with the ball and make better decisions. You can't give up points, especially against a good team. Field position is definitely key. I'm pretty sure they won that battle."
After winning the Super Bowl over Chicago to conclude the 2006 season, Indianapolis was bounced by the Chargers in both the 2007 and 2008 playoffs...Addai was limited to 23 yards on 11 carries. He left late in the second quarter with a shoulder injury, but returned...The Colts held the ball for over 11 minutes in the second quarter.
01/17 03:01:55 ET
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