For Colts, day of big gains is thrown for a loss Unitas-like Manning finds no joy in career-high game

Ravens 38, Colts 31

November 30, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Receivers enjoyed carte blanche in the Ravens' secondary. The running back ran to more daylight than November allows. The quarterback authored a performance worthy of the greatest player in franchise history.

For the Indianapolis Colts, this was offense unchained. Twenty yards at a gallop, more than 500 for the day.

And a loss for the ages.

"I'm not real big on games when we lose," quarterback Peyton Manning said after the Colts' historic return to Baltimore ended in a rip-roaring 38-31 loss yesterday. "I've just never been that way."

Indianapolis' precocious rookie operated with a veteran's elan, throwing for a season-high 357 yards and three touchdowns. Those were numbers that, in another era, would have stood as a typical John Unitas outing.

But Manning couldn't quite complete the two-minute drill the way the master once did. His interception at the Ravens' 20 on a tipped pass in the final minutes sealed a loss that will go down hard in the land of horseshoes.

"This was the most painful loss we had the whole season," said Manning, who lost for the 10th time in 12 games.

Agony in this instance is failing to hold a 14-point lead fashioned on Manning's potent arm, running back Marshall Faulk's nifty feet and wide receiver Torrance Small's uncanny ability to get open. It was taking a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter and giving up 17.

Colts coach Jim Mora found a silver lining.

"Peyton Manning had a great day," Mora said. "To me, that was his best game by far. You know it's encouraging to see him play like that because you know the future, what lies down the road."

Mora had a lot of offense with which to console himself. The Colts ran up a season-high 540 net yards, 339 in the first half. Faulk rushed for 192 yards, fourth-best in franchise history, and totaled a club-record 267 yards from scrimmage.

Small, a backup receiver until Marvin Harrison went out with a separated shoulder in the first quarter, had nine catches for 153 yards and one touchdown.

"Baltimore is good against the run, good against the pass," said Manning, who completed 27 of 42 passes. "But they are susceptible to the big pass. We thought we could get some big plays."

The Colts had a season's worth in one day. They had seven plays that gained more than 20 yards in the first half, and two more in the second half. They had 15 plays that covered 15 yards or longer. Faulk dialed long distance five times, including a 68-yard touchdown run and a 34-yard scoring catch.

Small had six plays of 15 yards or longer himself. His sizzling first-half performance (six catches, 112 yards, one touchdown) left Ravens cornerback Rod Woodson muttering to himself.

"Coming in at halftime, I said, 'If this guy catches another ball on me, I just need to retire,' " Woodson said. "I played better [in the second half]. I think we all sucked it up collectively and played better."

After squandering their lead, the Colts had one last chance at redemption. Manning was Unitas-like, moving the Colts from their 18 to the Ravens' 24 with four passes.

But his short hitch pass clattered off Faulk's hands and into the arms of safety Ralph Staten.

"Marshall has caught that ball a hundred times in practice," Manning said. "That ball never bounced off like that before."

Upside down

The Colts finished yesterday's game against the Ravens with big statistical advantages in many categories, but came up short where it counts, on the scoreboard. A look at the Colts' edges, and why the Ravens may have pulled it out:


Colts out-gained the Ravens by 226 yards, 540 to 314.

Colts averaged 8.5 yards per rushing attempt, compared to the Ravens' 4.3.

Colts were 8-for-13 on third-down conversions, compared to the Ravens' 4-for-9.

Colts had the time of possession edge, 33: 44 to 26: 16.

Colts had 26 first downs, compared to the Ravens' 18.


Ravens didn't commit a turnover.

Ravens had 219 punt- and kick-return yards, compared to the Colts' 129.

Ravens committed just one penalty for 10 yards, compared to the Colts' eight for 64.

Ravens' average field position to start a drive was at their 38-yard line, compared to the Colts' average of their 19.

Pub Date: 11/30/98

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