By Nick Shook
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The Baltimore Ravens (9-6) outlasted the feisty but overmatched Indianapolis Colts (3-12) in a 23-16 win on a rainy Saturday evening in Baltimore. Here’s what we learned:
1. The Ravens avoided disaster Saturday (a loss to this Colts team would have been embarrassing at this point in the season) and also came one step closer to completing their remarkable playoff push by winning in a tough environment. Sure, Baltimore was playing at home, but with light rain becoming steady and winds picking up in the second half, it wasn’t a walk in the park. In outlasting the Colts, the Ravens grabbed control of their destiny, needing only a win in Week 17 to clinch a postseason berth, no matter what happens elsewhere. They rode their defense for much of the season, and though the offense has picked it up recently and the defense has lost a bit with Jimmy Smith‘s injury, it was again that unit that stood firm in the final two minutes to secure the win.
“We’re rolling right now,” safety Eric Weddle told CBS’ Jamie Erdahl after the game. “It’s a great feeling to know we control our own destiny.”
2. This weather was made for Baltimore’s style of play — or its play before December arrived. Baltimore ran Alex Collins 18 times for 51 yards on a wet, sloppy field, but even with an increasingly intense rain, still opted to throw the ball 38 times. Flacco completed 29 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns, continuing his solid month of play, even in adverse conditions. The reliance on the pass almost cost Baltimore, especially on a third-and-10 when, with less than three minutes remaining and Indianapolis having exhausted all of its timeouts, the Ravens chose to pass. It ended in an incompletion intended for Mike Wallace, who was running a six-yard drag, and gave the Colts both 2:36 to work with and an extra timeout via the two-minute warning. That would have looked incredibly ugly had Indianapolis capitalized on the ensuing possession.
3. Credit the Colts — a three-win team with a coach on a white-hot seat and very little to play for — for fighting back from a multiple-score deficit to make things incredibly interesting in the final five minutes of this game. What was a mildly intriguing game (thanks in part to the weather) became a very entertaining one. At the end, though, Indianapolis’ deficiencies — shoddy pass protection, receivers not named T.Y. Hilton who struggle to get open, questionable play calling — ultimately sank the Colts, even as they threatened to tie the game in the final two minutes.
4. We don’t know how much longer Adam Vinatieri will kick, but it sure was heart-warming to see a 44-year-old future Hall of Famer drill three of five field goals and come about five feet shy of clearing the crossbar on a 60-yard attempt. The latter was a testament to Vinatieri’s lasting greatness, even if he didn’t actually make the attempt. We’ll keep an eye on his field goal percentage, though, which fell below 90 for the season after his 38-yard attempt was blocked. A 60 percent day (with the other miss being the 60-yard attempt) didn’t bring him back over 90, but if he can boost it in Week 17 (he’ll need a banner day with plenty of attempts and a perfect success rate), he’ll trigger an escalator in his contract that pays him an additional $500,000. We’re rooting for you and your bank account, Adam.