Dejected `D' reins in Colts

Unit holds offense to 5 field goals, can't believe `embarrassing' loss

The defense

Ravens Extra

January 14, 2007|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

The end obscured the means.

Although many Ravens fans will grimace at the reminder of yesterday's 15-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC divisional playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium, the outcome overshadowed a solid performance by the Ravens' defense.

The NFL's top-ranked unit - in yards, points and first downs allowed as well as interceptions - limited the high-octane Indianapolis offense to five field goals by Adam Vinatieri.

But that was of little solace to Ravens players who have prided themselves on doing what it takes to secure wins, not moral victories.

"It is embarrassing," cornerback Samari Rolle said, "because we worked so hard all year long to try to get a playoff game at home, and then you get it at home and you lose. It doesn't even matter."

Still, it's difficult to find fault with a defense that kept the Colts' offense, which is ranked in the top three in the NFL in first downs (first), points (second), passing (second) and total yards (third), out of the end zone for only the second time this season.

The Ravens contained Indianapolis to 261 yards of offense (the Colts averaged 379.4 during the regular season), 15 first downs (down from an average of 23.5) and no touchdowns in the red zone (Indianapolis had converted two-thirds of its trips inside opponents' 20-yard line).

Quarterback Peyton Manning compiled a season-worst 39.6 passer rating, recorded his second-lowest completion rate (50 percent on 15-for-30 passing) and threw two interceptions.

"I can't tell you I thought about anything else all week besides trying to pick up Baltimore's blitz," said Manning, who threw for 170 yards - just 4 yards more than his season low. "I can't tell you how many different looks we studied, and I didn't sleep real well all week because you're constantly thinking and playing the game over and over in your head."

Free safety Ed Reed, however, said the defense's strategy wasn't centered solely on Manning, who was the regular-season leader in touchdowns (31) and passer rating (101.0).

"It's not just Peyton Manning that we're playing against," Reed said. "Everybody tries to make it Peyton, Peyton, Peyton, and that's the problem. We came out and did our game plan to a T. We knew what we wanted to do and we executed. Obviously, they got three points here and three points there and that's all they needed to get the `W.' It's all about the `W,' and it's a team effort on either side of the ball."

It seemed at times that the Colts tried to catch the Ravens napping by lining up quickly after a play and snapping the ball. But the Ravens were just as quick to call their defensive formations and were flagged only once for having 12 men on the field, on Indianapolis' game-clinching drive late in the fourth quarter.

"It's tough to get in sync against these guys," Colts coach Tony Dungy said afterward. "They don't let you. You know you are going to get a play here and there. When you get that opportunity, you have to make it count. We didn't get the touchdowns, and we talked about that. Fortunately, our defense came through in the red zone, and that helped us."

The same could not be said of the Ravens, whose offense produced just two field goals by Matt Stover. It was a result that left linebacker Bart Scott slightly befuddled.

"Obviously, it was a battle of field goals, and somebody's going to come out on top," he said. "We didn't make enough field goals and make enough points. But I didn't imagine losing at all - let alone losing by field goals."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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