INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis made a tactical choice to imitate Baltimore on Sunday.
Andrew Luck played keep away. The Colts’ running backs overpowered defenders. And when defensive stops were needed, Indy came up with the biggest plays of all.
Luck threw one touchdown pass, ran for another Sunday and masterfully milked the clock late before Indy’s suddenly stout defense snuffed out the Ravens’ final chance with a daring deflection to preserve a 20-13 victory.
“I’m pretty sure he (Chuck Pagano) is trying to instill the same traits in us with being a physical team,” cornerback Vontae Davis said of Indy’s coach, who spent four seasons on the Ravens’ staff. “It was a physical game.”
No, it wasn’t pretty.
Luck threw two interceptions, had one touchdown called back because of a rare penalty on Reggie Wayne and couldn’t convert on fourth-and-1 on the Colts’ opening possession. He still finished 32 of 49 with 312 yards and the TD, and his nimble 13-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter wound up providing the decisive points.
Indy also lost two fumbles and two of those four turnovers — Luck’s third-quarter interception at the Baltimore 18 and Ahmad Bradshaw’s fumble at the Ravens 10 with 1:49 left — made the finish infinitely more difficult. It wasn’t over until cornerback Greg Toler’s diving deflection prevented Torrey Smith, who had gotten behind him on fourth-and-3 with 32 seconds left.
Indianapolis (3-2) has won three straight and now owns a share of the AFC South lead thanks to Houston’s overtime loss to Dallas.
“They (Baltimore) do such a great job of standing strong in the red zone and not giving up touchdowns,” Luck said. “We knew that coming in. We talked about if we weren’t getting (scores) early, stick with it. Don’t get frustrated.”
The Colts patience paid off with Luck’s 6-yard TD pass to Dwayne Allen with 10:33 left in the third quarter, and then with Luck’s TD run with 8:56 left in the game that made it 20-6.
But it was a strange game.
Both teams missed scoring chances in the first half when they couldn’t convert on fourth down. Both coaches, Pagano and John Harbaugh, lost first-half challenges as they attempted to get spots overturned. The teams combined for seven turnovers, and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked a season-high four times — one more than his combined total in the first four weeks this season.
Even Lucas Oil Stadium’s retractable roof was closed at halftime because of the threat of rain, the first time that’s happened during a regular-season game since the stadium opened in 2008.
The biggest surprise might have been Indy’s surging defense, which allowed a season-low 13 points, limited Baltimore (3-2) to just 1 of 11 third-down conversions and helped produce a 17 1/2-minute disparity in time of possession.
Flacco finished 22 of 38 for 235 yards and no touchdowns, and his top two receivers — Steve Smith and Torrey Smith — combined to make eight catches for 72 yards. Baltimore’s only touchdown came on Justin Forsett’s 11-yard TD run with 7:16 to go.
The predictable result: Baltimore’s three-game winning streak ended as it dropped to 0-5 all-time in Indianapolis.
“They came after us a pretty good amount. When they do that, when they come after us, it’s tough to throw the ball, and we weren’t quite able to make those plays,” Flacco said. “We needed to hurt them a little bit more. We needed to take advantage of that.”
In the first half, it was all defense — and all field goals.
Steve Smith’s fumble on the Ravens’ first offensive play led to Adam Vinatieri’s 38-yard field goal.
Vinatieri made it 6-0 late in the second quarter after one defensive penalty gave the Colts’ a second chance to score a touchdown, and an offensive penalty later wiped out a touchdown pass.
Baltimore finally got on the scoreboard with Justin Tucker’s 52-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, cutting the deficit to 6-3.
But in the second half, the Colts applied even more pressure with Luck and the ground game taking charge on offense and the defense holding fast, a strategy Baltimore prefers.
“(Against Baltimore) you expect things not to go as expected. What you do expect is a tough, gritty, down-to-the-wire (game),” Luck said. “We survived our mistakes, in a sense. We made our plays enough to get a win.”
NOTES: Recently reinstated Colts linebacker Robert Mathis watched the game from the sideline. … Reggie Wayne caught seven passes for 77 yards and passed Cris Carter for No. 8 on the NFL’s career list in yards receiving. Wayne now has 13,950 yards. … Ravens left guard Kelechi Osemele left briefly in the third quarter with a sprained right knee, but did return.
Online: AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP–NFL
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)