ReFo: Colts @ Ravens, AFC Wild Card
With their leader back on the field, the Baltimore Ravens bullied and then bulldozed an overmatched Indianapolis Colts. It wasn’t flawless by any stretch, but they won the battles up front which gave them a lead they were never going to relinquish less they face the wrath of Ray Lewis for an eternity and beyond.
For the Colts, they can take heart in just making the playoffs. Ultimately, this is a team that overachieved and has insufficient talent to seriously challenge the better teams in the league on a consistent basis. Until they do, however, this team will be the Andrew Luck show and in the years ahead that may be enough for them. Right now he’s still a rookie with all the potential he looks set to deliver on.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most noteworthy performances from the game.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
Give Him Some Help
Maybe this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but I left this game feeling sorry for Andrew Luck (-1.2). At this stage of his career it’s fair to say too much is being asked out of him, and for all the potential he shows he’s put in positions that highlight he’s not the finished article quite yet.
That said there was a lot to like about this performance. Despite facing pressure on 34.3% of drop-backs (just think what it would have been without so many screen passes) he didn’t rattle and kept on making strong, franchise-quarterback type throws throughout. He wasn’t helped by some really poor drops in this game, with five overall. Luck also didn’t help himself by essentially throwing the game-clinching interception on a horribly forced pass. Still, if the Colts can get some more talent around him, especially on the offensive line, the sky really does appear to be the limit with this guy.
Freeney Held in Check
With the Ravens turning to Mount McKinnie at left tackle you might have thought that Dwight Freeney would be in store for a big game.
Instead, he turned his 23 pass rushes into just the one pressure, beating McKinnie on a wicked inside spin move before forcing Joe Flacco out of the pocket with 8:33 to go in the third quarter. It’s very possible this is the last time we’ll see Freeney on the field in a Colts uniform, and if so it’s a shame that it ended with such a disappointing performance.
Proving his Worth
When the Dolphins washed their hands of Vontae Davis (+2.3) it was hard to predict what type of player the Colts were getting. The tremendously talented player with the ability to lockdown receivers, or the underachiever who gave up yards to everyone?
Well, so far the signs are good and it continued in this game. Davis was thrown at six times, allowed no receptions, and walked away with a pass deflection. Still, he’ll be going home thinking about how the game would have turned out if he’d secured Joe Flacco’s horrible throw with 3:05 to go in the opening quarter. On such moments games change instantly.
Baltimore – Three Performances of Note
Worth the Praise
It’s been an interesting year for Paul Kruger (+7.1). At times he’s looked overmatched as an every-down player and could be better suited a situational role. Then there have been games, more than a few actually, like this one where he looks the kind of disruptive force that has you loathe to take him off the field.
He worked over Winston Justice, his replacement Bradley Sowell, and left tackle Anthony Castonzo, all of whom were devoid of answers to the questions he posed. When it was all said and done he had three sacks, three more quarterback hits and five more hurries (and a batted pass) on 41 pass rushing snaps.
A Dominant Day Up Front
It’s rare that your running backs average 6.2 yards per carry without some pretty good run blocking. This was not one of those occasions.
From the onset the Ravens set about dominating at the line of scrimmage, executing in sync with the retooling getting the right guys in the right place. At center, Matt Birk (+3.4) had absolutely no problems with Antonio Johnson, able to edge the Colts nose tackle to wherever he wanted him to go. He started, but Bryant McKinnie (+3.3) also repaid the faith in him (or showed his coach what he was missing) with a strong effort.
With little pressure given up between them (six combined) this bodes well — though with Von Miller to come there’s a much sterner test ahead.
Ray Lewis and his Return
It’s impossible to quantify the impact Ray Lewis’ return had as a motivational tool for his teammates. It’s a little bit easier to break down his play.
In short, it wasn’t pretty. He earned every bit of his -4.4 grade with some poor work in the run game and in coverage as well. The tackle count may indicate a big game, but the reality is a number of those tackles came unblocked, with really his only truly impressive play being how he made a mockery of Mario Harvey’s attempted block to pick up a tackle for a loss with 10:20 to go in the first.
Instead, there were more plays like the one with 8:35 to go in the same quarter where Dwayne Allen put him on his backside. Lewis also gave up four first downs in coverage and was saved from another by a dropped pass.
He’s done a lot for the Ravens’ organization and it can’t be easy for him coming back from an injury that should have ended his season. But please, let’s not kid ourselves in believing that he played well.
– Joe Flacco went deep on seven occasions, completing five of them for 157 yards and a touchdown.
– Bernard Pierce walked away with an Elusive Rating of 145.0 and with the fumbles of Ray Rice it will be interesting to see how many carries he gets against the Broncos. Rice had a score of 30.8 by comparison.
– You think Corey Graham has proven he can play cornerback in this league? He gave up catches on just six of the 13 balls into his coverage for 71 yards and logged two pass deflections (one of which turned into an interception).
PFF Game Ball
Performance over sentiment at Pro Football Focus. Nobody played better than Paul Kruger.
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