INDIANAPOLIS - - The second time around this season against the Indianapolis Colts' quicksilver defense wasn't any better for Joe Flacco and the Ravens.
Eight quarters, six field goals, no touchdowns and two losses.
The Ravens' season came to a halt Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, swallowed up by the Colts' often-overlooked defense. The 20-3 loss in the AFC divisional playoffs lacked the drama of a 17-15 loss to the Colts on Nov. 22 in Baltimore, but it carried the same postmortem: The red zone is the dead zone for the Ravens' offense.
After a promising start, the Ravens' offense was throttled by the Colts for three turnovers - including two interceptions - and missed chances. The Ravens marched to the Indianapolis 6 on their first possession, but melted down again and had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff.
A dropped pass by fullback Le'Ron McClain and a bad decision by Flacco snuffed the drive and became a troubling trend for the game. After McClain dropped a second-down pass, Flacco threw into double coverage for Mark Clayton in the end zone. But safety Antoine Bethea nearly intercepted the ball and the threat was gone.
"They played Todd [Heap] high on the fade route," Flacco said. "I couldn't see Kelley [Washington] in the flat. Mark kind of popped to me. ... Bad decision."
Flacco has yet to produce a touchdown in three career games against the Colts going back to a 31-3 regular-season loss here a year ago. On Saturday, he completed 20 of 35 throws for 189 yards and two picks, not much different from the November loss when he was 23-for-35 for 256 yards and one interception.
"We had an opportunity in the scoring zone and came away with three points again instead of a touchdown," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "And that wasn't the plan. We had some opportunities we didn't convert on third down like we anticipated. We knocked on the door a couple times and weren't able to get any points."
Cameron deferred judgment about what went wrong until he looks at the game tape. But this much was clear: Ravens receivers rarely got separation against the Colts' cornerbacks. And the Colts were able to contain Ray Rice and the Ravens running game.
Rice rushed for 67 yards and caught nine passes for 60 yards, but had a costly fumble early in the fourth quarter when he was running free at the Colts' 28. A crushing hit by Raheem Brock knocked the ball loose, and the Ravens had squandered another chance.
"I had the ball high and didn't see [Brock] coming." Rice said.
The Ravens seemed out of sync at times. Having pushed to the Colts' 45 in the third quarter, they eschewed a punt in favor of an attempt to get a score. But wide receiver Demetrius Williams seemed surprised by Flacco's fourth-down pass and made a half-hearted, one-hand stab.
The Ravens' season of inconsistency ended on a predictably inconsistent note.
"We had a tough year," Flacco said. "We fought through it. We just weren't good enough today. We didn't make plays the way we needed to."