Dom Bonvissuto
Sunday January 17th, 2010

Grading out the performances from the Colts' decisive 20-3 victory over the Ravens in the AFC Divsional Playoffs ...

Quarterback: Joe Flacco's best drive was his first, when he went 4-for-4 for 55 yards. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there. He only completed one pass in the second quarter (for -1 yards) and threw two second-half interceptions, one a potential touchdown had he not underthrown it. With a bad hip, Flacco showed toughness on an early QB sneak for a first down, but overall, the Ravens need better play from their quarterback in the future. Grade: D

Running Backs: Credit Ray Rice for not giving up early, when there was absolutely no room to run on the Colts interior, and muscling out 127 total yards. Discredit Rice for too many dropped balls, including his final one which led to the final interception. Sure, the argument could be made the Ravens were asking Rice to do too much, but the second-year star has been used to it all season and didn't deliver against the Colts: Grade: C-

Receivers: Derrick Mason started strong, with three first-down receptions on the opening drive. But like the rest of the team, he faded after that. Rice caught nine balls and Todd Heap four, but neither were able to break any huge gains. Whither Mark Clayton? Grade: C-

Offensive Line: The big matchup coming in was tackle Jared Gaither on speedy Colts end Dwight Freeney. Gaither held his own, although in one telling sequence in the third quarter, Gaither committed a false start and then held Freeney, costing the Ravens 15 yards and any chance at momentum. The line as a whole, though, did a good job protecting Flacco, only allowing the one sack but failed to create any consistent room for Rice. Grade: C+

Defensive Line: Jarrett Johnson and Haloti Ngata played their butts off. Credit the D-line for the Colts paltry rushing numbers (25 carries, 42 yards), in particular Johnson and Ngata who tattooed Joseph Addai on separate plays in the first half. Both players also got to Peyton Manning, although neither got to actually hit him as the veteran QB ducked out of the way both times. This unit was definitely not the reason the Ravens lost. Grade: A-

Linebackers: This was a difficult group to judge. On one hand, the biggest hits of the game came here, as usual, with Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Dannell Ellerbe each unleashing their fury throughout the game. But it didn't seem to do any good as there seemed to be a lot of room for the Colts receivers in the middle of the field. And Lewis' costly helmet-to-helmet hit on Austin Collie was avoidable and ended up being a momentum-changer. Grade: C

Defensive Backs: Penalties and bad decisions ruined what had been a good overall effort by the Ravens secondary, which blanketed the Colts receivers all game. Domonique Foxworth bit on a Reggie Wayne out pattern, then had to hold the Indy veteran to not get beat. That penalty led to a TD. Safety Ed Reed made a great play on his interception, but it was overridden by not securing the ball on his runback. And Corey Ivy's pass-interference call negated another Reed interception that basically sealed the game. Grade: D+

Special Teams: Another place where penalties hurt the Ravens. Jalen Parmele's long first-quarter return meant nothing after Edgar Jones was flagged for a block in the back. Sam Koch did a serviceable job punting (41-yard average) and snared a high snap as the holder on Billy Cundiff's field goal. Still, with an offense as mediocre as the Ravens, a big play in the return game would have helped, but it never came. Grade: C

Coaching: On offense, the first-drive script worked, but nothing else did. Their failure to make second-half adjustments must have frustrated Ravens fans to no end. On defense, the game plan was to focus more on coverage than on pressure and it worked for the most part, but there's only so long you can keep Manning at bay. Still, at the end of the day, the Colts were simply the better team and no amount of coaching from John Harbaugh could overcome that. Grade: C

Quarterback: It was a typical Peyton Manning game. He spread the ball to all of his receivers, with four catching at least four passes. He was active at the line of scrimmage, appearing to audible out of a play before throwing his first touchdown pass to Austin Collie. He consistently fit the ball in tight spots against the Ravens press coverage. He ducked out of the way on what could have been a painful sack from Ngata. And, in an act most typical of Manning, he lobbied hard for one more play with :07 left in the second quarter; the result was a touchdown to Reggie Wayne. We'll forgive the two bad passes that Ed Reed picked off since, ultimately, neither hurt the Colts. Grade: A

Running Backs: If their only measure of performance was yards gained, they'd fail; Joseph Addai barely averaged two yards per carry. But they did excel, for the most part, in picking up Ravens blitzers. The one exception was notable, as CBS mics picked up Manning screaming, "God D----, Donald!" when Donald Brown failed to block the blitz on a sack. Grade: D+

Receivers: Best unit of the night. Pierre Garcon broke tackles and made the play of the game on forcing the Reed fumble. Dallas Clark owned the middle of the field, showing no fear even after that Ray Lewis blast in the first quarter. Austin Collie made a great catch on the first touchdown. Reggie Wayne was able to shed blanket coverage to make several plays, including the TD right before halftime. Overall, the Colts receivers weren't intimidated by the Ravens, which is worthy of high marks by itself. Grade: A+

Offensive Line: The run-blocking, as previously mentioned, was ... meh. But the Colts offense is built around the pass, and the line did a good job of protecting Manning most of the night. Most of what the Colts did involved short dropbacks and quick throws out of the shotgun, but when Manning did throw downfield, he had time. Grade: B

Defensive Line: Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis get a lot of the attention, but Raheem Brock was the star of this group tonight. He forced the fumble on Rice in the fourth quarter, hustling downfield, and disrupted Flacco's rhythm with a batted ball in the third. The Ravens' 87 rushing yards can't be solely credited to the play of the D-line, but they were a big part of it. Grade: B+

Linebackers: Gary Brackett and Clint Sessions set the tone early, sticking Rice twice for no gain and negative yardage. Hard to keep that kind of play up against the shifty Rice, but they were able to contain him. Brackett also notched the only sack of Flacco. Grade: A-

Defensive Backs: Antoine Bethea's dropped an interception on the first drive, otherwise the Colts might have accomplished the shutout. A negative? Hardly -- just reminding. Bethea did end up with a pick, a leaping job of an underthrown Flacco pass in the fourth quarter. As a unit, the Colts DBs stood their ground against the dinks and dunks of the Ravens and kept the ball in front of them. Harder than it sounds. Grade: A-

Special Teams: Kicker Matt Stover, playing against his former team, converted both field-goal opportunities. The coverage units on both kick and punt returns did a tremendous job keeping the Ravens pinned at their own end, especially in the first three quarters. Giving long fields to a below-average offense is a recipe for success. Grade: A

Coaching: The call of the game came in the second quarter, when Jim Caldwell (or was it Manning?) opted to go for it on 4th-and-4 from the Ravens' 35. The Colts converted and it led to their first touchdown. And with all the talk about whether resting at the end of the regular season would be a factor, the Colts looked ready to play from the beginning. Grade: A

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