Phil Simms has very little wisdom to bestow upon us on any given Sunday. He’s the same fountain of knowledge who once told us that a forward pass has to go…forward. Mind blowing, yes.
Early in the third quarter today following an opening half when Joe Flacco had completed just five of his 12 pass attempts, Simms encouraged the Ravens quarterback to start chucking deep after a third and long when he indeed attempted a throw which traveled a great distance. Simms’ philosophy as simple: “just heave it up there. Nothing can go wrong.”
Well, it’s been nice, guys. I’m pretty sure that what happened next indicates we’ve reached the end of our civilized existence.
Although Simms’ logic is still bat-shit crazy, through some kind of cosmic connection Flacco seemed to agree. That long heave ended with a 50-yard completion to Anquan Boldin, and it set up another lengthy catch and run — a 20 yarder to Dennis Pitta — a few plays later for a touchdown. Suddenly, Baltimore’s passing offense was uncorked, and a four-point game at halftime slowly grew to where it ended: a 15-point Ravens win over Indianapolis, with a final score of 24-9.
Oh, the running game played its role too, as expected. Specifically, this…
One play later Vonta Leach punched it in for his first career post-season touchdown. Say, Robert Mathis, that Ray Rice character is behind you. Might want to keep tabs on him. He’s fast.
That was a 47-yard catch by Rice, who finished with 117 total yards, while Bernard Pierce had 103 on the ground. Combine that with Pierce’s 43-yard run, and 90 of the 454 total yards given up by the Colts defense (they averaged 374.3 yards allowed per game during the regular season) came on two significant chunk plays from running backs.
And sure, the defense did what a vintage Ravens defense does, which is mostly hurt people, and severely disrupt the timing and rhythm of the opposing quarterback. Luck was sacked three times, a metric which doesn’t come close to measuring his lack of time or comfort in the pocket. He was, overall, efficient and impressive, and clearly a reason why the Colts remained in this game for at least three-and-a-half quarters. But there were two plays when the rookie quarterback looked like, well, a rookie quarterback. They were his first quarter sack and strip by Paul Kruger which didn’t matter on the scoreboard, and his fourth-quarter interception on an undercut route that killed any remaining faint hope for a late-game comeback. The turnovers were Luck’s 24th and 25th on the year from a quarterback who finished tied for second worst in regular-season interceptions with 18. Now, 14 of his 19 total interceptions came on the road, and an offense that finished a drive in the end zone 34 times this year (2.2 TDs per game) was held without a touchdown.
But the second-half surge in which Baltimore outscored Indianapolis 14-3 comes back to Boldin. In addition to his 50-yard reception, Boldin also had a 46 yarder, giving him 106 receiving yards in the third quarter alone after he didn’t have a reception in the first half, and he was only targeted once. Prior to today over 15 regular-season games (Boldin was among a group of Ravens who sat out a meaningless Week 17 game), he had just one +40 yard catch. Today in one quarter, he had two. Seriously.
He finished with 145 yards and a touchdown on five catches, an incredible average of 29 yards per grab. It was his second career post-season game with over 100 yards, and only one other pass catcher in Ravens history has even one such game. His yardage was also the most in one post-season half since Jerry Rice’s 157 yards in Super Bowl XXIII.
Boldin’s performance and the four total plays that went for 40 or more yards powered the Ravens’ offense and made a win possible, a rather remarkable victory considering the difference in the time of possession. The Colts ran 84 plays to the Ravens’ 55, and they failed to capitalize on multiple Baltimore mistakes, most notably Rice’s two fumbles. They were the first two lost fumbles of his season, and taking that further, prior to today he had lost only two fumbles over 590 carries dating back to the beginning of last year, including the playoffs. That’s an average of 147.5 carries for every lost fumble, yet today he had two turnovers on just 15 carries. Nuts.
Chris Collingsworth would like to remind you that shit happens…
For the Colts, a season of promise ends, but there will be many more for this young team with top draft picks from just last year who are already major offensive contributors (Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener). In Baltimore, it’s onwards to Denver for the team, and for Ray Lewis, who gets to dance and thrust and gyrate and wiggle for at least one more week.