Colts 24, Ravens 7
-- The night began with such promise for the Baltimore Ravens, with a record crowd of 70,501 crammed into M&T Bank Stadium ready to yell and scream at the Indianapolis Colts, the team that once spurned the city. The Ravens' defense -- clad in all-black uniforms -- was ready to face the Colts' offense, a matchup of two of the best units in the NFL.
But the night was nearly a complete disaster for the Ravens. Not only did they lose to Indianapolis, 24-7, but they also lost their starting quarterback, Kyle Boller. Their offense didn't score until the final seconds of the game. Their normally reliable place kicker, Matt Stover, missed three field goal attempts. Their defense, which thrives on pressuring teams into making mistakes, recorded no sacks and forced no turnovers.
"There's nothing more demoralizing than losing, and then you lose your starting quarterback," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "I think that just added to the fire, even though Anthony [Wright, Boller's backup] came in and did a good job."
Boller left the game with five minutes to go in the third quarter after being dragged down by his ankles by defensive tackle Larry Tripplett. He said his right foot got caught under the pile and his big toe was pushed back, resulting in a hyperextended toe. His toe was heavily taped and he was on crutches in the locker room after the game. Boller said he will have a better idea of how long he will be sidelined after an MRI exam on Monday.
The third-year quarterback was solid up until that point (15 for 23, 141 yards, one interception), but some fans cheered when he was helped off the field.
"I was disappointed in that," defensive end Tony Weaver said. "I love the fans of Baltimore, but that was a little bit classless, and that's not them. I know they want us to go out there and win, but Kyle is our guy. He is our quarterback and we are going to stand by him."
Wright, who had not played since he led the Ravens to the playoffs in the 2003 season, took over and completed 19 of 31 passes for 214 yards; he also committed three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble). He led the Ravens to their only score, a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Wilcox with 13 seconds left in the game that helped Baltimore avoid being shut out for the first time since the 2002 season. Wright's second interception was returned 30 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Cato June, a former Anacostia High standout.
"It's a tough situation, but that's my job," Wright said. "That's the situation I was put in. I tried my best to bring us back. I feel like I can lead the offense."
Baltimore's offense actually outgained the Colts', 401 yards to 340. Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, who set NFL records with 49 touchdowns and a 121.1 quarterback rating last season, completed 21 of 36 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns.
But the Ravens faltered whenever they crossed midfield. It didn't help that Stover, usually reliable, had a very off night. He missed only three field goals all of last season, and he hadn't missed three in a game since the first game of the 1998 season, a loss to Pittsburgh. But he misfired on attempts from 38, 47, and 45 yards. The first miss would have given the Ravens a 3-0 lead in the first quarter; the second one would have tied the score at 3 early in the second half.
"Any time you miss a field goal, I look at it as a momentum changer as well as a turnover," Stover said. "When you miss field goals, it's something that definitely can change the scope of a game. As you saw today, when you miss three, what it will do to you. It takes away momentum. I've got to take that on the chin, and I've got to come back against Tennessee," Baltimore's opponent next week.
The Colts scored two touchdowns in a four-minute span in the third quarter to break open the game. On the second one, Manning needed only four throws to move the Colts 71 yards into the end zone; the final one was a 26-yard touchdown pass to second-year tight end Ben Utecht. It was Utecht's first NFL catch, and it gave the Colts a 17-0 lead with 5 minutes 8 seconds left in the third quarter.
There were plenty of missed opportunities and mistakes by the Ravens.
Late in the second quarter, a Will Demps interception in the end zone was wiped out by an offsides call on defensive end Terrell Suggs. Cornerback Chris McAlister nearly picked off a pass intended for Marvin Harrison at the 1-yard line, and if he had, he would have had nothing but open field in front of him. (Instead, on the next play, Mike Vanderjagt converted a 20-yard field goal attempt to give the Colts a 3-0 lead.) The Ravens' defense thought they had recorded their second three-and-out of the second half when Manning's third-down pass to Edgerrin James fell incomplete. But cornerback Dale Carter was whistled for an illegal hands to the face penalty, which resulted in a five-yard pickup and an automatic first down.
That kept the drive alive, and five plays later, Manning lofted a pass to Harrison, just over the outstretched arms of cornerback McAlister for a 28-yard touchdown. Indianapolis led 10-0 with 8:43 left in the third quarter.
An 88-yard punt return by B.J. Sams was called back early in the fourth quarter because of an illegal block by Chad Williams.
"Just a lack of focus," Coach Brian Billick said of the mistakes. "We'll work at it, and the next time they won't try to do those things."
Ravens Notes: Running back Jamal Lewis (48 yards on 16 carries) fractured a finger on his left hand, but said that he will play next week. . . . Fans attending Sunday's game donated $195,000 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, an amount that was matched by the team. The Ravens have donated a total of $1,215,000 to relief efforts, including $165,000 in donations from the players.