The Ravens defense didn't have top defender Marlon Humphrey. Seven more defensive players missed practice during the week. Veteran leader Calais Campbell was injured on the game's first drive.
To say the Ravens defense was hampered would be an understatement.
Even with all that, Baltimore's defense kept the Ravens in the game in the first half, dropped the hammer down in the third quarter, then slammed the door shut in the fourth in a 24-10 win in Indianapolis.
"There's a lot of check marks there that deserve a lot of credit," Head Coach John Harbaugh said, listing a number of players from the secondary to the defensive front.
The Colts entered Sunday's game with the league's No. 2-ranked defense. In a game where both defenses played well, however, it was the Ravens' that made the game-changing plays.
With Humphrey sidelined, the Ravens' other All-Pro cornerback took his already elite playmaking to another level. Marcus Peters registered a pair of turnovers.
The way the Ravens offense played in the first half (55 yards), Baltimore badly needed a big play and "Juiceman" delivered. The Colts were running it at Peters, but he made them pay. Peters tore the ball away from Colts rookie running back Jonathan Taylor along the sideline.
Chuck Clark grabbed it, took off down the sideline, then hurdled flailing Colts quarterback Philip Rivers on his way to a 65-yard fumble recovery touchdown. Clark said it was all green grass and Rivers, and when he saw Rivers fall, it was just natural to jump over him.
"I think we got the team picture of the week right there. Hopefully somebody snapped that picture," Peters said. "Chuck finished it the way he's supposed to. One of his goals this week was to score. We just got in the zone. We were playing fast and physical defense out there."
If the fumble return wasn't the defensive play of the game, Peters' third quarter interception was. The Ravens offense came out of halftime hot, but running back Gus Edwards fumbled near the goal line and the Colts recovered.
On the very next play Rivers tried to go deep, but Peters was waiting. He caught the pass intended for Marcus Johnson and held onto it as he took three steps backwards. Johnson eventually pulled Peters' hand off the ball and it fell to the turf and was originally ruled incomplete.
"I went over and asked Philip Rivers if he thought it was a pick. He didn't think so," Peters said with a laugh.
Luckily for the Ravens, Head Coach John Harbaugh had the wherewithal to challenge it. As Senior Vice President of Officiating Alberto Riveron explained, Peters clearly had possession of the ball and took three steps with it before losing control. After replay, the call was overturned.
"I just felt like he had the ball for quite a while," Harbaugh said. "It was definitely a football act. There was no ball movement, no bobbling of it. By rule, it was a catch. I just congratulate the officials … I thought they made the right call by rule. We deserved that interception."
The Ravens defense forced a three-and-out on the Colts' next drive, just as Baltimore's offense got humming and chewed up the clock. Baltimore's defense allowed just one yard in the third quarter.
The Colts put together a long drive at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Ravens closed the door on fourth-and-1 when outside linebacker Matthew Judon and a ferocious blitz came at Rivers. Judon hit Rivers' arm, forcing an incompletion and turnover on downs that all but sealed the game.
Baltimore got two more stops in the fourth quarter, preserving a second-half shutout.
"I thought Don Martindale called one of his very best games," Harbaugh said. "He was kind of going at it with [Colts Head] Coach [Frank] Reich and Philip Rivers. He called a heck of a game, maybe one of his best ever."
The Colts outgained the Ravens, 339-266. They picked up one more first down. But it was Peters and the Ravens' thieving defense – once again – that made the difference. Peters now has three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in eight games this season.
This team, this defense is the best defense in the NFL at causing fumbles. They are the best," Reich said. "Then Marcus Peters, he's the best intercepter guy in the NFL, has been for years. They played to their strength and made two big plays."
The Ravens defense has dominated all season long, but with so many players out of practice this week, it was even more impressive.
Judon, who was another "high-risk close contact," had a team-high seven tackles and the big-time pressure on fourth down to force an incompletion. Rookie linebacker Malik Harrison, who was one of the Ravens who didn't practice all week until Saturday's walk-through, had six tackles as L.J. Fort (finger) sat out. Safety DeShon Elliott and rookie linebacker Patrick Queen were two more who missed practice but also stood out Sunday.
"Everybody who missed this week of practice, they took the preparation at their best and they focused on the film. So it allowed them to come out here and play fast," Peters said.
"We all took it as somebody just got to step up. We can't complain. We understand the situation that we were dealt this year. Things are going to be up and down throughout this whole year. We just have to find a way to adapt and overcome these kinds of situations."