Saturday night the Colts stumbled, albeit just briefly coming out of the gate.
The offense did move the ball on its opening possession, but had to settle for a field goal. The defense gave up 87 yards the first time it came onto the field, but held Baltimore to a field goal.
If there was a little rust from not playing a full, real game in four weeks, it was apparently shaken off after a quarter and a half of football. However, for all intensive purposes, the Colts punched their ticket to the 2010 AFC Championship thanks to an eight play, 64 yard drive late in the first half that gave the Colts a 14-point lead heading into halftime.
"Our offense won some matchups, they (Colts defense) won some matchups. I thought that really paid off for us. We were ready to go against a good defense, playing with a lot of momentum," said Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning.
While the Colts were leading most of the key statistical categories the first 28:34 of the game, the 10-3 lead didn't "feel" all that safe. However, after the defense forced a Baltimore punt, Manning took over at the 36 yard line with 1:26 to play and two timeouts. MOST NFL teams would be playing for a field goal in that situation. The Colts are NOT most teams.
"Just normal Colts two-minute. That's what we do. Obviously, he's (Peyton Manning) a huge part of it. The guy makes great throws," acknowledged center Jeff Saturday.
The first two plays were vital to getting the offense thinking seven instead of three. The second time Donald Brown touched the ball in the game, he converted on an eight-yard reception. Then, on 2nd and 2, Peyton hit Dallas Clark for an 11-yard completion. Two plays, 19 yards and the Colts were quickly in Ravens territory and thinking about a TD instead of a field goal.
Of course if you are playing the Ravens, you can likely count on help from a couple of penalties, and Baltimore obliged.
Domonique Foxworth committed a pass interference penalty on a 1st and 10 from the 27 yard line that advanced the ball to the Ravens 13. Two plays later, Ray Lewis' unnecessary roughness penalty gave the Colts first and goal at the seven with :17 seconds to play. That was enough time for Peyton Manning to take three shots at the end zone before they would have to settle for a field goal.
On the third and final chance, Manning delivered, like he has so many times in his career. Peyton passed to Reggie Wayne just in front of the goal line, the pro bowler reached got the ball, if not his body across the goal line and the Colts had a nearly insurmountable 14-point lead.
"To me it wasn't even a thought to kick the field goal. Any play we run is going to take less than seven seconds. It is a tough scenario down there. They are dropping eight guys in coverage. Normally it is a great time to run the ball. But with no timeouts, you have to get the ball into the endzone," added Manning.
The defense had to be licking its chops at halftime thanks to that insurance score. Consider that they had played six quarters this season against the Ravens and had yet to allow a Baltimore touchdown. The Ravens would need two touchdowns and no points from Peyton Manning in the second half just to tie the game. Wayne liked his teams chances.
"We knew if we could get up on them, it kind of leaves their offense a little one-dimensional. We were able to that. The second half, we were just playing a little clock game," commented the Pro Bowl receiver after his eight reception performance.
The Colts did NOT play a perfect game Saturday against the Ravens. However, their second quarter execution, both on offense AND defense went a long way towards clinching a spot in the AFC Championship game.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times