The Indianapolis Colts know they could be winless if not for some quick work by Peyton Manning. The Baltimore Ravens might be undefeated if not for a few frustrating penalties.
In a matchup of teams struggling to find consistency, Indianapolis tries to avoid an 0-3 start at home for the first time in 11 years when it meets Baltimore Sunday.
Indianapolis (2-2) is looking for its first win at the new Lucas Oil Stadium after losses there to Chicago and Jacksonville. The Colts, who were 28-4 at the RCA Dome over the previous four seasons, haven't lost three consecutive home games since dropping four in a row in 2001, and haven't lost their first three home games since 1997 en route to a 3-13 finish.
Indianapolis is also looking for its first decisive win of the season. The 2006 Super Bowl champs are coming off a 31-27 victory at Houston last Sunday, rallying from 17 points down with just over four minutes remaining. Manning led two of the scoring drives, including connecting with Reggie Wayne for the decisive score with 1:54 remaining after Gary Brackett recovered Sage Rosenfels' fumble and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown with 3:36 to go.
Indianapolis also had to rally in its previous win, coming back from a 15-0 deficit in the third quarter to beat Minnesota 18-15 on Sept. 14. Manning threw a 32-yard TD pass to Wayne with 5:54 left and the Colts converted a 2-point try to tie that contest.
"You just don't have that many 15 or 17-point comebacks in the NFL, and we've had two in three weeks," coach Tony Dungy said. "Then, we have another game where we score to take the lead and don't hold it. It's been a roller coaster, but it probably just tells us that we aren't playing consistent enough."
Inconsistency has also plagued the Ravens (2-2), who won their first two games then dropped their next two by three points a piece, including 13-10 last Sunday to Tennessee.
Joe Flacco was 18-of-27 for 153 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns, while Le'Ron McClain rushed for 51 yards and a touchdown. Most damaging, besides the ineptness of the offense, was that the Ravens were hit with 11 penalties for 91 yards.
One of those - a blow to Titans quarterback Kerry Collins' helmet by Terrell Suggs - extended an 11-play scoring drive by Tennessee that set up the go-ahead score.
"We are the bad boys of football. They are always going to look at us like that," Suggs said. "From the way the game was going, I think the referee just probably wanted to feel important."
In the last two weeks, the Ravens have been penalized 19 times for 163 yards, but first-year coach John Harbaugh has no interest in changing the reputation of the team, which had been in place long before he came.
"I'm encouraged in the sense we have a tough, hard-nosed, clean, disciplined football team," he said. "Guys that play football the right way - the Raven Way. We're building on that."
Despite a .500 record, the Ravens have one of the NFL's best defenses. They're holding opponents to a league-low 207.3 yards per game and are third in points allowed (14.0), but that hasn't always been enough to make up for the offensive struggles of the team.
Baltimore is 27th in the league with 18.8 points per game, but could have an easier time scoring against Indianapolis' woeful defense.
Although the Colts were able to capitalize on the Texans' miscues - three fumbles and an interception - last weekend, the defense struggled again, giving up 391 yards. Indianapolis is allowing 361.8 yards per game - ninth-most in the NFL - including a league-leading 188.5 rushing. The Colts had one of the NFL's best defenses last season, allowing 289.8 yards per game.
Dungy said he hopes to see more of the defensive effort the Colts showed late last week.
"I thought we had that passion at the end. But it was missing during the middle of the game and we've got to get that back somewhere," he said.
The Colts have won six of the eight all-time meetings against the Ravens, including the last five. They've won all thee games played in Indianapolis, although those came by an average of 5.7 points.