No record is no solace for secondary

Defense keeps Manning from TD mark, but unit would have preferred win

Ravens Gameday

Colts 20, Ravens 10

December 20, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

INDIANAPOLIS - There is a measure of satisfaction to be taken from last night's performance for the Ravens.

Historically, they will not get the tag.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning failed to break the record for most touchdowns in a season in his team's 20-10 win last night. Manning needed three to break Dan Marino's mark of 48 touchdowns set in 1984, but walked away with just one.

In a solemn Ravens' locker room afterward, members of a secondary that limited Manning to his lowest touchdown output of the season showed no joy.

"We wanted to come out and win, and that was the bottom line," cornerback Chris McAlister said. "It's always nice to stand here after the fact and say `Yeah we're happy he didn't break the record against us.' But that doesn't matter. I'd rather him break the record and us walk away with a victory."

Manning completed 20 of 33 passes for 249 yards, modest numbers for a player who was on pace to lead the most prolific scoring offense in league history.

What Manning did not do was commit a turnover. The Ravens best chance to create one came on the game's opening drive when Manning marched the Colts to the Ravens 7.

On second down, Manning tried to force a pass in the middle of the field to Marvin Harrison, but hit dime (sixth) defensive back Chad Williams instead.

Williams, though, was unable to hold onto the ball, and the Colts eventually converted a 24-yard field goal.

"We had some good spurts out there tonight," nickel (fifth) back Deion Sanders said. "We let down periodically, but overall I think we played a competitive football game."

After the field goal, the Ravens defense forced punts on five straight series. They did so primarily playing with Sanders and Williams in a defensive set that is usually saved for third downs.

While playing with two extra defensive backs in for linebackers usually means trouble against the run, the Colts were not able to take advantage.

Running back Edgerrin James was held to 69 yards on 22 carries, and was largely a non-factor. In fact, on their most important offensive possession of the game, the Colts chose to ride Manning.

Up 10 with 8 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Colts called pass plays on six of eight plays rather than playing it safe and running the football.

The Ravens' secondary, which had not been called for any penalties to that point, got whistled for four illegal-contact penalties (including two on one play). They smelled conspiracy.

"That did not make any sense," said Sanders, who was hit with two of the penalties. "We were playing that physical the whole game. The referees do a great job, and I'm not going to criticize them or the job they did, but it's hard to understand on a drive like that with the game on the line, especially when the calls had nothing to do with the play."

Said cornerback Gary Baxter, "I've never seen a game where you have four [illegal contacts] back-to-back. It's almost like you were scratching your head saying, `Maybe they are putting him down there to get the record.' As a player, we didn't like that, but we just kept fighting. It was a lot of flags thrown, and I don't think that other side got any thrown on defense."

The Ravens held Manning, nonetheless, as they did for all except one play. Marvin Harrison beat McAlister on a post route, which turned the Pro Bowl corner completely around, for a 29-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

"It was a great performance," Sanders said. "I don't know how many yards but I'm sure the performance did not end the way they wanted it to. The balloons didn't drop and nobody showered them with roses because that record was not to be gotten tonight. I promise you that."

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