Who would have thunk it? The Colts won their first playoff game of 2010 by shutting down one of the best rushing attacks in the league.
With exactly ten minutes showing on the clock in the second quarter, the Baltimore Ravens probably thought they had the Indianapolis Colts right where they wanted them in a 3-3 game. They controlled the clock in the first quarter, but only ended up with three points during an eight-minute drive.
Deep down, they had to know that field goals would not cut it against the caliber of an opponent they were playing this week. After a first quarter in which both teams had two long field-goal drives, Manning completed 8 of 9 passes on his second drive of the second quarter, en route to a 10-yard touchdown pass to Austin Collie.
An interesting decision by Baltimore coach John Harbaugh to throw the ball on second and third down with less than two minutes to go in the first half turned out to be a game-changing mistake.
A 53-yard punt by Baltimore punter Sam Koch set up Manning at his own 36 yard-line with 1:26 on the clock. Helped out by a couple Baltimore penalties for pass interference and unnecessary roughness, Manning hit Reggie Wayne with three seconds left in the half, giving the Colts a commanding 17-3 lead heading into the locker room.
On the way down the field, Manning needed those two timeouts in crucial situations in which his receivers could not get out of bounds. Without those timeouts, it would have been anyone's guess as to whether they would have even ended up with a field-goal opportunity.
The way it turned out, the points would not matter in the end because of Baltimore's lack of production offensively.
On the first play of scrimmage during Wild Card Weekend, Ray Rice scampered 83 yards for an opening drive touchdown against the New England Patriots. During the Divisional Playoff against Indianapolis, the entire Baltimore Ravens rushing attack mustered up 87 yards.
Holding the potent Ravens rushing attack seemed to be a key point of the Colts defensive strategy and it worked in their favor. They forced sophomore standout Joe Flacco to beat them and he could not.
He threw two interceptions. He averaged 5.4 yards per completion. His 35 pass attempts netted the Ravens only 183 yards.
Although it may look a little closer than it actually was, the Colts only gained five more yards than the Ravens. It was a game of catch up in the second half and too many mistakes never let it happen.
Ed Reed did pick off Peyton Manning and return it 38 yards, but he also fumbled the ball right back to Dallas Clark. The Baltimore Ravens may have taken it into Indianapolis territory four times in the second half, but they all turned out the same way, with only three points still showing on the scoreboard.
Not many people thought Gary Brackett, Kelvin Hayden, and Antoine Bethea would come up big for Indianapolis. A combined 14 tackles, three deflections, and an interception later, Indianapolis fans should be proud of their defense.
They will move on to the AFC Championship at home next week against more than likely the San Diego Chargers. It will likely be a much different game against the Chargers with their diversity on offense.
If somehow the Jets pull it out on the road Sunday, I expect a very similar game as we all saw today. It has been tough for teams to win low-scoring, grind-it-out type games against Indianapolis all season because they are tougher inside than people give them credit. They can control you offensively and they can control you defensively when they need to.
This team should be 17-0 heading into the AFC Championship. They would have won their last two games had they played them out. They lost some respect for sitting back two weeks and taking a break to get healthy and stay healthy.
Peyton Manning knows what is best for Peyton Manning, and head coach, Jim Caldwell looks a lot smarter now that he has all his guns ready to fire in the last home game of the season.
Don't dismiss the Colts defense so quickly when it comes down to crunch time next week. Ask Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, how rusty were the Colts were off their "three-week bye"?