INDIANAPOLIS — Baltimore’s visit to Lucas Oil Stadium was supposed to be what you might call a Batman game.
Boom! Pow! Zap! The Ravens’ running game was going to put a hurt on the Indianapolis Colts’ Joker-like run defense.
It was a Batman game all right … the Ravens got clocked.
Boom! There’s Eric Foster and Freddy Keiaho stuffing Ravens running back Willis McGahee for no gain on Baltimore’s third run of the game.
Pow! There’s Raheem Brock dropping Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on Baltimore’s second drive. The Colts would sack Flacco three more times.
Zap! First-half interceptions by Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea put doubt in the head of rookie Flacco, who never got the Ravens’ passing game off the ground until garbage time. His quarterback rating was 57. The Colts’ defense didn’t embody the Joker so much as Mr. Freeze … have I lost the under-35 set yet? Baltimore’s offense never thawed, the Colts’ offense was hot and the Colts enjoyed an easy 31-3 victory, their first at their new home.
When the defense has been as scrutinized as the Colts’ has been, it was a gratifying day at the office.
“This was what Colts football is all about. Going from the first to the final whistle. We’re just happy we could get it going,” said Colts defensive end Robert Mathis, who had his second career three-sack game. “We get tired of hearing about what we’re not doing and wanted to show what we can do.”
The statistics (the Colts had a 334-260 advantage in total yards) aren’t testament enough to how dominant the Colts were, other than the final score that is. Better to look at the first quarter. Baltimore had no first downs and 29 total yards. And the Ravens could muster only 8 yards on the ground. It’s not as if the Colts held the ball for the entire quarter, either, the Ravens had four full possessions and part of another in the opening 15 minutes.
“The start gave us confidence. People harp on our size a whole lot. For us, it’s just a matter of playing football and being fundamentally sound,” Mathis said.
The Colts were good in all phases defensively. The Colts got the best kind of chicken-and-egg scenario: Did the good coverage help the pass rush or did the pass rush force Flacco into quick decisions? It had a lot to do with both.
But Colts coach Tony Dungy was satisfied with the most obvious defensive improvement — stuffing the run.
The Colts had given up 188.5 yards per game to its opponents to date. The Ravens rushed for just 51 yards. Rookie Ray Rice averaged 3.8 yards per carry and McGahee was a total non-factor at 2.3 yards per carry for 18 overall.
“We did a good job on the running game and we got ahead, which put them in some passing situations. We knew they were going to pound the ball at us. They have three downhill runners [McGahee, Rice and Le’Ron McClain],” Dungy said. “It hasn’t been a problem with people overpowering us. We just have to know what to do, be in the right spot and tackle well. We played a little bit faster today.”
The Colts talked a lot about their defensive passion, and it was true, the Colts seemed to pursue the ball much better, and as Dungy eluded, must faster.
Passion is good. Communication is better. Brock said the Colts talked to each other and made sure they were maintaining their gaps. It made a world of difference.
“We had a problem with our communication early in the year. It was a fundamental thing we had to work on,” Brock said. “It’s communication and tackling. We missed a lot of tackles the first couple of games. It’s everything together.”
While the Colts’ defensive renaissance was encouraging, one game does not an improvement make. Road trips to Green Bay and Tennessee are next for the Colts.
“We were sound today and it showed. We just want to be more consistent and do it every week,” Brock said.
Same bat time, same bat channel for the defense? Tune in next week.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at 1-800-783-8742 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
INDIANAPOLIS — Baltimore’s visit to Lucas Oil Stadium was supposed to be what you might call a Batman game.
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