Top-seeded Colts advance to AFC Championship, 20-3 (11:11)
INDIANAPOLIS _ Evidently, the rest seemed to do the Colts good..
That seemed to be a lingering concern for the Colts especially when first-year coach Jim Caldwell opted to rest his starters for the playoffs, a controversial decision that forfeited a chance at a perfect season when Indianapolis suffered back-to-back losses to the Jets and Bills in the last two weeks of the regular season. But those setbacks were of little consequence to the Colts since they had already done enough after their 14-0 start to clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed and a first-round bye.
Last night, Caldwell’s end-of-season gambit seemed to pay a handsome dividend in the form of a 20-3 AFC Divisional Playoff victory over the Ravens before a Lucas Oil Stadium crowd of 67,535. The top-seeded Colts, who went one-and-done in five of their last eight playoff apperances this decade, rode the passing of Peyton Manning into the AFC Championship game, where they will host the winner of today’s Jets-Chargers matchup in San Diego.
Manning, who was recently voted the league’s Most Valuable Player, completed 30 of 44 passes for 246 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both of which came in the final two minutes of the first half, enabling the Colts to break a 3-3 tie and control a 17-3 lead at intermission.
Things not going well for Ravens (10:20)
INDIANAPOLIS — After punting and turning it over on downs on their first two possessions of the second half, the Ravens seemed to get a bit of life when Ed Reed intercepted a Peyton Manning pass intended for Pierre Garcon and returned it 38 yards.
But even that positive play turned into a negative for the Ravens when Garcon came streaking from behind and punched the ball out of Reed’s grasp. Dallas Clark recovered for the Colts at their own 28, robbing the Ravens of a huge play.
On the fifth play of the Colts’ ensuing series, Reed picked off a Manning pass intended for Clark and returned it 59 yards to the Colts’ 5. But that play, too, was nullified, this time by a pass interference call against Corey Ivy.
It was an absolute killer. Two great plays by Reed. Nothing gained by the Ravens.
That’s why he’s Peyton Manning, Part 2 (9:39)
INDIANAPOLIS — After directing a monster 14-play, 75-yard drive to break a 3-3 with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Austin Collie, Manning came back after the Colts’ defense forced a three-and-out and led an 8-play, 64-yard march in 1:23 that culminated with his second TD pass of the night, a 3-yard quick strike to Reggie Wayne that enabled Indianapolis to take a 17-3 lead with three seconds remaining before halftime.
Manning, who completed 21 of 29 passes for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half, benefitted from a 13-yard pass interference call against Domonique Foxworth, who shut down Randy Moss last week but struggled to contain Wayne, and a head-hunting shot by Ray Lewis on Collie.
Officials penalized Lewis for illegal helmet-to-helmet contact when he was caught launching himself at Collie in the Ravens’ end zone. The penalty moved the ball half the distance to the goal line at the Ravens 7, where it took Manning three plays to find Wayne with a 3-yard TD that made it 17-3.
That’s why he’s Peyton Manning (9:20)
INDIANAPOLIS — Showing why he was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player — for the fourth time in his career — Peyton Manning directed a textbook 14-play, 75-yard drive, which he completed with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Austin Collie, giving the Colts a 10-3 lead over the Ravens.
Manning completed 8 of 9 passes for 72 yards and converted six first downs on the drive, rallying the Colts from a 1st-and-15 from the Ravens 46.
The lone setback of that drive came when Joseph Addai left the game with a right shoulder injury after being stopped for no gain by Ray Lewis on a first-and-10 rushing attempt from the Ravens 31. Addai was listed as probable.
Ravens tie the game, 3-3 (8:40)
INDIANAPOLIS — Not to be outdone by his Colts counterpart, Matt Stover, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff, who converted five of six attempts in a 17-15 loss to the Colts Nov. 22, tied the game when he converted a 25-yard field goal with 2:57 left in the first quarter.
Holder Sam Koch fielded a high delivery from long snapper Matt Katula, but got it down in time for Cundiff to make the tying field goal, capping a 15-play, 87-yard drive that consummed 7 minutes 47 seconds.
Colts take early 3-0 lead (8:25)
INDIANAPOLIS — Welcome to Lucas Oil Stadium, where the top-seeded Colts, feeling a sense of urgency to avoid going one-and-done for the sixth time in nine playoff appearance since 2000, took a 3-0 lead over the Ravens in tonight’s AFC Divisional Playoff.
Matt Stover, the former Ravens kicker who was signed as a free agent Oct. 14 when Adam Vinatieri underweight right arthroscopic surgery, gave the Colts a 3-0 lead when he converted a 44-yard field goal, capping a 10-play, 54-yard drive on Indianapolis’s initial possession of the game.