INDIANAPOLIS — The Ravens running attack was stuck in neutral.
Six days after gashing the New England Patriots for 234 yards and four touchdowns in a 33-14 rout in an AFC wild-card game, the Ravens could not find similar success in a 20-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts here at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The offense rushed for just 87 yards Saturday night. Ray Rice, who had gouged the Patriots for a playoff franchise-record 159 yards and two touchdowns, was limited to 67 yards on 13 carries. Rice, who took the first handoff for an 83-yard score in New England, gained just one yard on his first carry against the Colts.
Willis McGahee, who ran 20 times for 62 yards and a score, got just two carries for seven yards, while fullback Le'Ron McClain (four rushes for eight yards and a touchdown last Sunday) got three yards on two attempts.
"They did the same thing they did the last game," said Rice, who gained 71 yards on 20 rushes on Nov. 22 against the Colts. "It seemed like they had the same game plan. They move around. That's what their defense is based on movement."
All week, an Indianapolis defense that finished the regular season ranked 24th in the NFL against the run (a 126.5-yard average) emphasized containing the Ravens. The Colts had surrendered 100 yards to an opposing running back in four of their last five games.
"It's up to us as a defense to stop them early and not allow the big plays to happen," Indianapolis linebacker Clint Session said earlier in the week.
"Football is a game of momentum. If we can limit their running game, then it'll force them to pass and become one-dimensional. It's a cat-and-mouse game, but we have to be disciplined with our assignments. We will do lot of film study and get a good look at these guys so we know what's going on out there."
The Ravens didn't help themselves by going three-and-out on all three of their possessions in the second quarter. And once Indianapolis scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the second quarter, the Ravens were playing catch-up and were forced to pass the football in the second half. That, according to McGahee, meant fewer carries for the running backs.
"That was the case," he said. "We got down early. And that's what happened."
Despite being severely limited by a balky right ankle in practice last week, Jared Gaither started at left tackle.
Gaither, who had not practiced Wednesday, fully practiced Thursday and Friday and was listed as probable on Friday. Gaither's presence meant that rookie Michael Oher could start on the right side and Oniel Cousins could come off the bench.
Gaither did not give up a sack to Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, but he was flagged for a false start and a holding penalty on the same series in the third quarter.
"I've just got to focus better," Gaither said. "That's really all on me."
Right by him
Demetrius Williams' chance to make a significant contribution went past him before he could turn his head.
On fourth down-and-3 from Indianapolis' 45, Williams couldn't get out of his curl route fast enough to corral a pass along the right sideline from quarterback Joe Flacco.
"I didn't get my head around fast enough," said Williams, who was targeted twice and finished with one catch for 12 yards. "The ball got up on me, so I really couldn't get my other arm up. I've just got to play better."
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata got his first career sack of Peyton Manning, falling on the Colts quarterback when he slipped behind the line of scrimmage for a 9-yard loss in the third quarter. With Billy Cundiff lining up for a 25-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter, long snapper Matt Katula's snap was high. But holder Sam Koch pulled down the ball, and Cundiff converted the try with 2:57 left in the first quarter. Katula has been battling tendinitis in his right wrist and forearm for several weeks. The Ravens deactivated offensive linemen Tony Moll and David Hale, defensive backs Marcus Paschal and Keith Fitzhugh, rookie linebacker/defensive end Paul Kruger, defensive tackle Kelly Talavou and wide receiver Justin Harper. John Beck was the third (emergency) quarterback. Linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, safeties Ed Reed and Dawan Landry, quarterback Joe Flacco and right guard Marshal Yanda represented the Ravens for the pre-game coin toss. Indianapolis scratched defensive tackles Fili Moala and John Gill, offensive linemen Mike Pollak and Michael Toudouze, wide receiver Sam Giguere, rookie tight end Colin Cloherty, defensive end Ervin Baldwin and kicker Adam Vinatieri. Stover's 44-yarder was his first field goal in the postseason since kicking the game-winning 43-yarder against the Tennessee Titans in last year's AFC Divisional round. Former Colts coach Tony Dungy attended the game and was loudly applauded when a camera showed him and his family standing on the team's sideline prior to team introductions.