Friday, March 7, 2014
By BARRY WILNER The Associated Press
BALTIMORE - The Baltimore Ravens wanted one long final ride for Ray Lewis.
Baltimore wide receiver Anquan Boldin (81) hauls in a touchdown pass against Indianapolis cornerback Darius Butler (20) in the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ 24-9 wild-card win. Boldin set a team record with 145 yards receiving.
Photos by The Associated Press
Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) is a hit by Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50). Rice had 70 yards on 15 carries and a 47-yard reception.
NFL PLAYOFFS – ROUND 2
AFC: Baltimore at Denver, 4:30 p.m. (CBS)
NFC: Green Bay at San Francisco, 8 p.m. (FOX)
NFC: Seattle at Atlanta, 1 p.m. (FOX)
AFC: Houston at NEW ENGLAND, 4:30 p.m. (CBS)
They also wanted Denver. They got it.
Having disposed of Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, they now face a far more imposing challenge -- Peyton Manning and the streaking Broncos.
Anquan Boldin set a franchise record with 145 yards receiving, including the clinching touchdown in the Ravens' 24-9 victory Sunday over the Colts in an AFC wild-card game. The win delays star linebacker Lewis' retirement for at least another week as Baltimore (11-6) heads to top-seeded Denver (13-3) next Saturday. The Broncos beat the Ravens 34-17 three weeks ago.
"I wanted Denver," Boldin said, "because they beat us.
"We'll make it different."
And he wanted the Broncos because it prolongs the Ravens' pursuit of their first NFL title since the 2000 season, when Lewis won the first of two Defensive Player of the Year awards.
"I came to Baltimore to win a championship," Boldin added. "We all did."
Lewis, who led the Ravens with 13 tackles Sunday, would like nothing more than to avenge past results against Manning, who was 2-0 in the postseason against Baltimore while with the Colts.
"It's on to the next one," the 17-year veteran said. "We saw them earlier in the year and now we get them back again, but with all of our guns back."
The loss ended the Colts' turnaround season in which they went from 2-14 to the playoffs in Coach Chuck Pagano's first year in Indianapolis (11-6). Pagano missed 12 weeks while undergoing treatment for leukemia and returned last week.
He was upbeat following the defeat to the team he served as an assistant coach for four years.
"The foundation is set, and we said we were going to build one on rock and not on sand," Pagano said. "You weather storms like this and you learn from times like this."
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who went 9-3 as interim coach, was absent Sunday after being hospitalized with an undisclosed illness. Pagano said Arians "is fine" and would stay overnight for observation before rejoining the Colts on Monday.
Quarterback coach Clyde Christensen called the plays, but Baltimore's suddenly revitalized defense -- inspired by Lewis' pending retirement, no doubt -- never let standout rookie QB Luck get comfortable.
"It's great making the playoffs, but you can't make mistakes and expect to beat a playoff team like we did," said Luck, who was sacked three times -- twice by Paul Kruger. "We'll have to look back at those and hopefully fix them."
Sunday's victory enhanced the Ravens' success rate in opening playoff games. Flacco now has won at least one postseason game in all five of his pro seasons, the only quarterback to do it in the Super Bowl era.
His main target Sunday was Boldin, who had receptions of 50 and 46 yards, plus his 18-yard TD on a floater from Flacco in the corner of the end zone with 9:14 to go.
"I told (Flacco) before the game I was going to get 200 yards," Boldin said with a chuckle.
"It's huge for us. It's huge for this city, they've supported us this entire year and they expect a lot from us. In return, we want to give it to them."
Baltimore overcame the first two lost fumbles of the season by Ray Rice, too. Backup Bernard Pierce rescued Rice with a 43-yard burst that led to Boldin's touchdown, and ran for 103 yards.
Flacco also connected with Dennis Pitta for a 20-yard TD and rookie Justin Tucker made a 23-yard field goal.
Indy's only points came on three field goals by Adam Vinatieri, from 47, 52 and 26 yards. Luck completed 28 of 54 passes for 288 yards, and Reggie Wayne had 108 yards on eight receptions, moving into second in career playoff catches with 91 -- 60 behind leader Jerry Rice.
Both teams were sloppy early on, with Rice losing a fumble, Lewis dropping a potential interception, and Luck being stripped of the ball on a sack.
But Rice atoned with a 47-yard gain on a screen pass, leading to Vonta Leach's 2-yard touchdown.
That Pro Bowl backfield was bolstered by the kick returns of another Pro Bowl player, Jacoby Jones. He gained 60 yards on kickoff runbacks and 57 on punt returns.
Vinatieri, familiar with big kicks in the playoffs after winning two Super Bowls for New England with field goals, made a 47-yarder in the second quarter, a 52-yarder as the first half expired, and a 26-yarder near the end of the third period. But he also missed a 40-yarder wide right, his first miss against Baltimore after 18 successes.
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Baltimore’s Ray Lewis does his signature dance in the final moments of the Ravens’ playoff win over the Colts. Lewis will retire after the season.
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Dennis Pitta, left, celebrates with Torrey Smith after catching a touchdown pass that helped Baltimore earn a 24-9 victory over the Colts.