It's the same old Colts, to Baltimore's delight RAVENS 38, COLTS 31

From The Sidelines

November 30, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

For Baltimore fans who suffered through the pratfalls of the Bob Irsay era, this was all so familiar.

The Indianapolis Colts jumped to 17-3, 24-10 and 31-21 leads yesterday, held a big edge in first downs and time of possession and still blew the game.

Isn't that the story of the Irsay Colts?

Jim Irsay now runs the Colts in place of his late father, but they're still the same old Colts. They have dropped 23 of their past 28 games after the 38-31 loss to the Ravens.

Baltimore fans found it so much more satisfying rooting against the Irsay Colts than for them.

Unfortunately, some of the fans could have been flagged for being tacky. Some of the anti-Irsay signs were in poor taste, and when they spotted Jim Irsay in the press box, they started a distasteful chant.

Simply beating the Colts, who had a 26-18 edge in first downs and a 540-314 margin in yardage, was enough. Peyton Manning passed for 357 yards and three touchdowns and still lost. Like his father, Archie, Manning may be destined to be a valiant loser for most of his career with the Colts.

Marshall Faulk rushed for 192 yards and may run right out of Indianapolis as a free agent at the end of the year.

Despite all that, the Colts lost because Ravens quarterback Jim Harbaugh came up with a big game, passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns, Priest Holmes ran for 103 yards, Corey Harris had 193 yards in kick-return yardage and Jermaine Lewis set up a touchdown with a spectacular 53-yard catch while spraining his ankle.

The Ravens' defense gave up 24 points in the first half, and Tony Siragusa said: "We started getting a little cocky. This brought us down to ground level again."

The defense regrouped and held the Colts to a touchdown in the second half.

Highlights and lowlights of a game that Baltimore fans will savor until the teams meet again:

Turning point: Trailing 38-31 and trying to force overtime, the Colts had a second-and-one at the Ravens' 24 with 1: 13 left. But Manning's pass bounced off Faulk's hands and into the hands of Ralph Staten for the interception that wrapped up the victory. Staten wasn't smart enough to simply go to the ground and let the Ravens run out the clock. He tried to return it and fumbled, but DeRon Jenkins made an alert recovery.

Great gesture: Harbaugh spotted John Unitas and went over at the end of the game to hand him the game ball. It was a gesture that Harbaugh said he hadn't planned. He jokingly said: "Don't give me that much credit. I'm not that smart."

Holmes file: It wasn't surprising that Holmes got 103 yards rushing against the league's second-worst rushing defense. What was surprising is that he was held to 10 yards on seven carries in the first half before getting warmed up. He also dropped a touchdown pass early in the third quarter. Holmes admitted that the "whole time I was talking to myself about how did they let me get free like this?" When the ball arrived, "All I could hear was coach Ted Marchibroda saying, 'Look it all the way in,' and as soon as I was thinking that, the ball came out. It was one of those lessons you learn from."

Harbaugh file: This was the Harbaugh the Ravens thought they were getting when they traded for him. He could have had four touchdown passes if Lewis hadn't come down a yard short of the end zone with his 53-yard catch and Holmes hadn't dropped a sure scoring pass. Harbaugh jokingly said the Colts knew him and didn't think he could throw long. He also scrambled for a key first down in the fourth quarter.

Second guess: After Holmes had run five straight times in a fourth-quarter drive that was similar to the one that ran out the clock in Cincinnati last week, the Ravens' brain trust decided to have Harbaugh throw on second-and-eight at the Indianapolis 32. The pass was incomplete and stopped the clock. After Holmes got only 3 yards on the next play, the Ravens had to kick a field goal.

The Ravens also went for a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 24-21 midway through the third quarter. It worked, but it's too risky to give up a sure point to gamble for two that early in the game. The Ravens blew a game to Jacksonville doing that with a 15-point lead in 1996.

Leaky secondary: The Ravens' secondary was out to lunch. Starters Rod Woodson and Duane Starks were beaten frequently and had Faulk double-covered in the first quarter when Faulk out-jumped Starks in the end zone for a touchdown while Woodson watched the play. Starks was benched in the second half, though he was injured early in the game.

Missing man: Rookie Patrick Johnson finally got into the game in the second half as a third receiver after Lewis went down. But the Ravens only play him when they have no other option. He's going to have to start over next year.

Double duty: Harris, signed in August after being cut by Miami, not only made his fifth start in place of the ailing Kim Herring, but returned five kickoffs for 193 yards to give the team good field position.

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