Ravens Defeat Colts 24-10, Continue Path Towards First-Round Bye

James Reagan@@James__ReaganCorrespondent IIDecember 11, 2011

BALTIMORE - DECEMBER 11:  Joe Lefeged #35 of the Indianapolis Colts intercepts a pass in the end zone intended for Anquan Boldin #81 of the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Colts 24-10. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

There have been few teams that have consistently harassed the Baltimore Ravens but without a doubt the Indianapolis Colts have been one. Since 2001, the Colts had pulled off eight consecutive wins against the Ravens. All eight of those games were greatly impacted by the presence of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning who has clearly had the Ravens number.

But today, there was no Manning and for all intents and purposes, no Colts team at M&T Bank Stadium. The Colts continue to look like a shell of a NFL team that will do down in history as an embarrassment to pro sports. Although the Ravens only won 24-10, in reality the game wasn't really as close. 

Even with the absence of Ray Lewis, the defense continues to look dominant. The Ravens can thank Terrell Suggs for that, as he got three sacks and three forced fumbles. The Ravens were so dominant that before the Colts garbage time touchdown in the fourth quarter, it looked possible that they were going to set a record for fewest yards allowed in a game.

Offensively the Ravens had their way with the Colts early, building up a comfortable lead. Ray Rice added a touchdown run that gives him 12 on the season and puts him in striking distance of the Ravens season record of 14. Joe Flacco also threw two touchdowns, an eight-yard pass to Torrey Smith and a seven-yard pass to Dennis Pitta. 

This win now gives the Ravens a 7-0 record at home, making it a very good possibility that they will finish with a perfect home record. The win also keeps them atop the AFC North, although the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers have the same record. The Ravens have the season-sweep so they have the edge for now but they must continue to play hard to keep the lead over Pittsburgh as well as a chance at a first-round bye.

Here's a more in-depth look at what I liked and dislike from the win over the Colts. 

BALTIMORE - DECEMBER 11:  Cory Redding #93 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates a play against the Indianapolis Colts at M&T Bank Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens lead the Colts 17-3 at the half. (Photo by Larry French/Getty I
Larry French/Getty Images

What I Liked 

I don't think I can overstate how impressed I am with the Ravens defense. Popular consent is that when Lewis finally retires, the Ravens will suffer a bit on defense and I have to agree with that. But it really speaks to the Ravens depth that they can continue to go out there and wreck opposing offenses. 

Suggs was obviously the defensive MVP here as he was constantly getting after Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky. His 13 sacks are a career high and another reason why he absolutely should make the Pro Bowl this year. He also had three forced fumbles, although none of them were recovered by the Ravens defense. 

Some attention should be brought to the Ravens other linebackers as well. Jameel McClain led the Ravens in tackles with eight and now has the team's second-most tackles on the season with 39. Brendon Ayanbadejo continues to be solid in relief of Lewis with three tackles today.

On the other side of the ball, Torrey Smith added another touchdown this week. It was his sixth receiving touchdown which is the most for any Raven this season and ties the team record for touchdowns by a rookie. Although he has struggled with consistency, he has mostly been as good as he was advertised during the 2011 NFL Draft.

It's clear now that Smith is the future of the Ravens passing offense. His development over the rest of the regular season and the playoffs could be key for the Ravens Super Bowl hopes. Regardless, his speed and deep-play capability has his pro football career looking very bright.

What I Didn't Like

Any critic of the Ravens will say that you can't take away much from this game. They are partially correct about that, with the way their playing the Colts would be hard-pressed to beat a Division II college football team. Most teams have had their best game of the season against the Colts this season.

One thing that I did not like about this game was the Ravens offensive struggles in the second half. I understand that they had built up a lead that allowed some error, but still, they could and probably should have done better. In the second half, they only managed one touchdown and had two drives end in punts while three drives ended in turnovers.

Flacco had an interception while Rice had the team's sole fumble. It's a rare thing for Rice to fumble, but he's got to tighten up on ball security so the Ravens don't have a repeat of the crippling one against the Steelers in last year's divisional playoffs. Flacco, meanwhile, has struggled against the Colts for whatever reason tossing at least one interception against them and not scoring any touchdowns in his previous three games against them.

Third-down efficiency was also concerning as the Ravens finished 7-13. Fifty percent on third down many times will not get it done against a better team. The failed fourth-down play and Flacco's red-zone turnover are also sloppy plays that need to be fixed before the playoffs. 

What's Next

At 10-3 the Ravens are tied for the best record in the AFC with the Steelers, Houston Texans and New England Patriots. If the season ended today, they would win the AFC North and have the second overall seed in the conference. However, in the event that all these teams win out, the Ravens would have the first overall seed in the AFC, thanks to their superior conference record. 

Obviously, this makes all three of their games very important. Next week, the Ravens get their final prime-time game of the year with a match in San Diego. The Chargers seem to be getting ready for a late-season surge with two lopsided wins in the past two weeks. 

With the playoffs coming up, next week would be a great time for the Ravens to assert their dominance and show the nation they are the team to beat in the AFC. Still they can't overlook the Chargers who are a dangerous team even with the down season they have been having. At 6-7 they are fighting for their playoff lives, and the Ravens should be prepared to get the best effort possible from this desperate team.