Ravens hand Colts another victory

Tight end Dallas Clark makes a one-handed grab for a three-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Peyton Manning on the Colts' first possession of the game.
Tight end Dallas Clark makes a one-handed grab for a three-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Peyton Manning on the Colts' first possession of the game. (Richard A. Lipski/washington Post)
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By Mark Maske
Monday, November 23, 2009

BALTIMORE -- This time, the Indianapolis Colts didn't need the opposing coach to fail on a fourth-down gamble destined to be remembered and debated for quite a while.

They did, however, need their defense to provide a goal line stand and a clutch interception late to overcome a sloppy offensive performance. That's exactly what the Colts got here Sunday as they remained unbeaten with a 17-15 triumph over the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

"It's really not on anybody's mind, at least not on my mind," quarterback Peyton Manning said after the Colts improved to 10-0, marking their eighth straight season with at least 10 victories. "We're relieved we got this win. . . . We scored touchdowns. They scored field goals. That was kind of the difference."

The Colts extended their regular season winning steak to 19 games, but it wasn't easy. They weren't crisp on offense in their first game since their comeback triumph at home over the New England Patriots a week earlier, a game that will be remembered for the late fourth-and-two try by Patriots Coach Bill Belichick that didn't work.

This time around, Manning passed for 299 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw a pair of interceptions and the Colts had a third turnover on a fumble lost by tight end Tom Santi at the Ravens 1-yard line.

No matter. The Indianapolis defense limited the Ravens (5-5) to five field goals by their new kicker, Billy Cundiff. The Ravens had to settle for Cundiff's fifth field goal of the day after getting a first down at the Colts 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter. And with just less than three minutes to play, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw an interception to Colts linebacker Gary Brackett on a third-down play from the Indianapolis 14. The Colts faked a blitz and Brackett dropped into coverage in front of tailback Ray Rice.

"We saw that play a little earlier in the game," Brackett said. "It was something you put in the back of your mind that they might come back to. . . . It doesn't matter how they look. A win is a win. They're hard to come by."

In between the goal line stand and Brackett's interception, the Colts got the winning points on a 25-yard field goal by kicker Matt Stover with just more than seven minutes remaining. It was a homecoming to savor for Stover, the veteran who was not re-signed by the Ravens in the offseason.

"I am emotionally exhausted," Stover said. "I'm toast. I may not show it, but I'm toast. That was hard."

The Ravens were left frustrated by their squandered opportunities. Cundiff matched Stover's team record for field goals in a game but had a sixth attempt that he missed from 30 yards. Mostly, though, the Ravens were dismayed about the goal line sequence.

"We were right there, three times on the 1-yard line," said tailback Willis McGahee, who carried the ball on the Ravens' second- and third-down plays. "You've got to find a way to get in there."

The Colts didn't certainly seem to be in letdown mode when they went 87 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game. Tight end Dallas Clark made a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone for a three-yard touchdown.

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