The rivalry between the Ravens and Colts has always been real, and the one on Sunday will be no different. The story of the Colts' relocation to Indianapolis has been well documented and still remains etched in the minds of many Baltimoreans. Sunday will not only be a chance to honor Ray Lewis, but to beat a team that has served the Ravens a lot of heartaches. Including the playoffs, Indianapolis has won eight of the past nine matchups between the teams.
One of the times they met in the postseason was in 2006. The Ravens had a magical run in the regular season that year. Their 13-3 mark was the best the franchise had seen and the AFC North title they claimed was their second in team history. On offense, Baltimore was led by their offseason acquisition and veteran quarterback Steve McNair. McNair passed for over 3,000 yards in his first season in Baltimore, and provided stability to a previously inconsistent offense. Jamal Lewis added another 1,000-yard season to his career in what would be his last season in Baltimore. While the offense performed at a high level, Baltimore's 2006 season was really about defense. The unit set a franchise record with an astonishing 60 sacks. Trevor Pryce (13), Adalius Thomas (11), Bart Scott (9.5) and Terrell Suggs (9.5) nearly made the Ravens the first team in NFL history to boast four players with at least 10 sacks apiece during a season. The league's No. 1 ranked defense would be put to the test vs. Indianapolis.
The Colts, of course, were led by Peyton Manning. By 2006, Manning had established himself as one of the game's best quarterbacks, consistently putting up numbers worthy of the NFL's MVP. What Manning wasn't able to do was win big games. Indianapolis was hoping that 2006 would be different. The team had the league's No. 3 ranked offense, and playmakers all around. They had a 4,000-yard passer (Manning), 1,000-yard rusher (Joseph Addai) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison). These Colts were potent. A 12-4 record proved that.
The game was met with much hype and anticipation. This would be the first time the Colts had visited Baltimore for a postseason game. Since the Ravens had earned a bye, fans had two weeks to build up to it. Unfortunately for Baltimore, they never really generated much in the way of offense. They were stifled by the Colts. Despite limiting the Colts to five field goals, Baltimore never found an offensive rhythm, and their season ended with a home loss, 15-6, crushing the hopes of Baltimoreans.
Stat of the gameTwenty-three tackles by Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. In what is postseason high, Lewis made an impressive 23 tackles and certainly did his part to keep Peyton Manning at bay.
Player of the gameColts kicker Adam Vinatieri. Even though it was unseasonably warm, Vinatieri's five field goals were impressive. A light rain was no match for Vinatieri, who connected on kicks of 23, 42, 51, 48 and 35 yards.
Play of the gameIn what was probably the turning point of the game, the Ravens made the crucial mistake of the game. Down 6-3 in the second quarter, Baltimore was driving and had gotten down to the Indianapolis 4-yard line. Facing a third-and-4, McNair was looking for tight end Todd Heap over the middle for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown when Colts safety Antoine Bethea intercepted the pass, ending the drive. That was the Ravens' last best chance to reach the end zone on the day.
Quote of the weekBrian Billick on the feelings of the people in Baltimore about facing the Colts: "Every team carries teams that you need to beat. Here it's, 'All you've got to do is beat Pittsburgh,' unless of course it's, 'All you have to do is beat Washington.' But then there's the other guy that [says], 'All you've got to do is beat Cincinnati.' Everybody has their priorities, but there's a uniform [emotion] that the fans feel here towards that circumstance that happened. It's very, very real and it's hard for the players. I don't know if they fully appreciate it, but they can't not be aware of it and live in this city."
What it meantThe win over the Ravens sprung the Colts on their run to their first Super Bowl victory since relocating to Indianapolis. They went on to beat New England in the AFC championship game and Chicago in the Super Bowl to claim the Lombardi Trophy. For Baltimore, it was a loss that was very tough to swallow. All the hard work and great moments that they had experienced throughout the regular season did not breed postseason success. The Ravens did not reach the postseason again in the Billick era.