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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Colts punch ticket to AFC championship game

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Well I guess I was wrong again.

They survived the mandated layoff and got the job done, and in the process set the stage for yet another high stakes game at Lucas Oil Stadium this Sunday.

While their running game is still non-existent and their secondary remains vulnerable, the Indianapolis Colts are on the verge of their second Super Bowl appearance after turning back Baltimore 20-3 and advancing to the Conference Title Game against the surprising New York Jets.

The Colts opened up the game with a mix of short passes and some misdirection running plays. After a 10 play drive, led 3-0 on a Matt Stover field goal. The Ravens looked to have something going on their first possession by employing a no huddle offense that threw the Colts off balance. Baltimore held the ball for nearly eight minutes and tied the score when Bill Cundiff connected on a 25 yard field goal.

Peyton Manning and company would pay dirt twice more in the first half with touchdown passes to both Austin Collie and Reggie Wayne, and took a 17-3 lead to the locker room at the half.

The second half would be about defense for both clubs as the Colts “bend but don’t break approach” held Baltimore in check for the duration of the game. The Ravens were equally stingy as they forced the Colts to settle for just a single field goal and totally stopped any Indianapolis effort to run the football.

Antoine Bethea appeared to place the final nail in the coffin for the Ravens when he intercepted Joe Flacco’s pass at the Indianapolis two yard line and for all practical purposes the party seemed to be over for Baltimore. The Colts, though, could not manage a first down and were forced to punt the ball back to the Ravens who were looking for miracles at this point. Jerraud Powers would finally seal the deal when he picked off another errant Flacco pass. The Colts were able to allow Manning to kneel on the ball and allow the clock to expire, setting up a rematch with the New York Jets for all the AFC marbles.

Notes: The Colts could only manage 42 yards in 25 rushing attempts. That will not get you a Super Bowl title sports fans.

The Colts offensive line which had been stellar all season, allowed two sacks of Peyton Manning.

Baltimore’s Ed Reed intercepted Manning twice and the Ravens’ physical style of play clearly impacted Manning all day.

Look for the Jets to employ the same approach and then some.

Austin Collie told me after the game that he had never been on the receiving end of a hit as vicious as the one Ravens star Ray Lewis put on him in the end zone. I was amazed at the fact that Collie was able to walk off the field on his own. There can never be doubt regarding his toughness.

The AFC Championship game will be played against the aforementioned New York Jets Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium at 3 p.m. before a sellout crowd. It will be televised locally on WISH-TV and the radio broadcast can be heard on WFNI 1070 AM.

Danny Bridges, who think the Colts will stifle Jets QB Mark Sanchez and win, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or [email protected].

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