In Ray Lewis's final home game, the Ravens fittingly put on a defensive show, limiting the Colts to three field goals in a 24-9 win. Colts K Adam Vinatieri hit three of his four attempts after the Colts failed to reach the end zone from within the red zone. In his final home game, Ray Lewis led the team with 13 tackles despite a dropped interception. Following a scoreless first quarter in which both teams missed out on scoring opportunities because of turnovers, the Ravens and Colts exchanged second quarter field goals. On the Ravens' next drive, a 47-yard gain on a screen to Ray Rice gave the Ravens the ball at the two, when Vonta Leach busted up the middle to give the team back the lead. But in the final moments of the half, the Colts moved the ball down the field to set up a 52-yard Vinatieri field goal to make the score 10-6. The Ravens then took a two-possession lead when Joe Flacco found tight end Dennis Pitta for a 20-yard score. At the end of the third quarter, another failed Colts possession resulted in another field goal, making the score 17-9 with a quarter remaining. In the first minutes of the fourth, Anquan Boldin capped off an incredible day by making a spectacular leaping grab in the end zone, giving the Ravens a two-touchdown lead. The Colts began driving down the field for what would be their final chance to get back in the game but the Ravens were able to put the seal on the game when Cary Williams intercepted a tipped Andrew Luck pass and returned it into Colts territory. On the Ravens' final kneel-down, John Harbaugh sent Ray Lewis out on the field for one last moment on the gridiron at M&T Bank Stadium. After Flacco knelt down, Ray went into his final dance in front of a screaming Ravens crowd. Before exiting the field, Ray did a victory lap to say one more thank-you to the city of Baltimore.
Players of the Game: Ravens QB Joe Flacco-12/23 for 282 yards, 2 passing TDs
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin- 5 catches, 145 receiving yards (a Ravens playoff record), 1 receiving TD
Key to the Win: The defense stood by its "bend but don't break" mentality by stopping the Colts three times in the red zone. Joe Flacco was on his game, and despite Ray Rice's two fumbles, Bernard Pierce was able to step up when needed.
On Saturday, the Ravens will travel to Mile High to face off against Peyton Manning and his 13-3 Denver Broncos. When the Broncos visited Baltimore back in Week 15, Manning gave the Ravens a 34-17 beatdown that was much worse than that score entails (see my earlier blog entitled 'Ravens Report-Week 16 2012'). The temperature Saturday in Denver is expected to be between 11-20 degrees, which could play into the Ravens' hands. In his career, Peyton Manning is 2-6 with 6 TDs and 9 INTs in games which the temperature is below freezing. Manning is also expected to be wearing a glove. But don't read into these too much. He is still Peyton Manning, so don't be surprised if these stats are just an anomaly.
The Broncos rank in the top five in three of the four major offensive categories. They are 2nd in the league with 30 points and nearly 400 yards per game. Manning threw 37 touchdowns during the regular season, and was picked off eleven times. Two of his receivers had double-digit touchdowns and 1,000 yard receiving seasons, and will be major vertical threats to the Ravens secondary. Demaryius Thomas leads the team with 94 catches while racking up ten touchdowns, while Eric Decker has 85 catches with 13 touchdowns. An injury to former Ravens RB Willis McGahee has sidelined him for the year. He is being replaced by Knowshon Moreno, who has rushed for four touchdowns in his six starts this season. In his start against the Ravens, he rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts. Plus, an improved Broncos offensive line has allowed just 21 sacks, the fewest in the AFC. In order to beat Peyton Manning, you need to mix up blitz packages and continuously get a hand in his face. Against this stout Broncos offensive line, that won't be easy. If they can get to him consistently over the course of this game, it could be a close one.
On defense, the Broncos are just as intimidating. They rank no lower than fourth in all four major defensive categories. That won't make things easy for a Joe Flacco offense that especially struggles on the road. LB Von Miller ranked third in the NFL this season with 18.5 sacks. Miller is helped by fellow pass rushers Elvis Dumervil and Derek Wolfe, who have combined for 17 sacks of their own this year. In the secondary, the Broncos are led by future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey, who had 66 tackles and two picks on the year. To keep the Broncos defense on their toes, Flacco has to maintain a fast tempo and be effective in the no huddle. A conservative offense just won't work. In defense of the Ravens dismal offensive performance against the Broncos last month, it was Jim Caldwell's first game calling plays. He is much more used to it now, so expect a smoother performance.
Prediction: No one is picking the Ravens in this game. And I mean no one. I'm not saying they're wrong. I don't think there is any question that the Broncos are a better team. But you know that they say..."any given Saturday." This team could come out and ride the momentum given to them by Ray Lewis' retirement all the way to New Orleans. Who knows? But simply, the Broncos are a better team. The Ravens will need to play a near-perfect game to win. I have the Broncos winning, 27-16.
Key Matchups for Ravens at Broncos
Ravens CB Cary Williams vs. Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas Edge: Thomas
Analysis: Thomas' speed and size could prove deadly in this matchup. Williams was burned for an Eric Decker touchdown last month, and Thomas is more talented than him.
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Broncos QB Peyton Manning Edge: Lewis
Analysis: Ray didn't play in the first game. You can bet Manning will look to go after the 37-year old but Ray isn't ready to fade into the darkness just yet.
Ravens LT Michael Oher vs. Broncos LB Von Miller Edge Miller
Analysis: This is the definition of a mismatch. Oher will need plenty of help containing Miller. If they can't, Flacco and the Ravens are in serious trouble.
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Broncos LB Wesley Woodyard Edge: Rice
Analysis: After an off-week against the Colts, Rice will look to respond by putting on a show. He could have that chance while the Broncos focus on getting to Flacco.
No player is listed as worse than probable.
CB Tracy Porter-Concussion-OUT
AFC Playoff Scenarios: With a Ravens win against the Broncos, they will face the winner of the Texans/Patriots game, which will be played Sunday at 4:30 PM on CBS.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and go Ravens!