January 13, 2010

2007: Adam Vinatieri Kicks Colts Past Ravens

The Indianapolis Colts were in the postseason for the fifth straight year following the 2006 season, but each prior appearance had ended in disappointment – most certainly for Head Coach Tony Dungy and star quarterback Peyton Manning – and from the team’s performance down the stretch, it didn’t seem likely that this season would be any different. To be sure, they won the AFC South with a 12-4 record, Manning led the NFL in passing overall and TD passes specifically (31) while throwing for 4397 yards, and the wide receiver tandem of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne combined for 181 catches, 2676 yards, and 21 scores. But the defense had played poorly against the run, especially in losses at Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Houston. After a 9-0 start, the team had gone 3-4 the rest of the way.

After winning a Wild Card playoff game over Kansas City, the Colts played the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on January 13, 2007 in the Divisional playoff round. There were 71,162 fans in attendance, many of them still bitter over the departure of the Colts from Baltimore following the 1983 season.

The Ravens, under Head Coach Brian Billick, had gone 13-3 to finish atop the AFC North. As usual, the superb defense, ranked first in the NFL, provided the impetus. It prominently included LB Ray Lewis, defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, FS Ed Reed, and CB Chris McAlister. The offense had improved under the leadership of veteran QB Steve McNair, who had been obtained in a trade from Tennessee and RB Jamal Lewis ran for 1132 yards. As the number two seeded team in the AFC, they were coming off of a first round bye to face the Colts.

Both defenses rose to the occasion in this contest. The Ravens went three-and-out in their first possession, and the Colts responded with a 49-yard, 11-play drive. Adam Vinatieri (pictured above), who had been signed away from New England during the offseason where he had a well-established reputation for kicking reliably in clutch situations, capped the possession with a 23-yard field goal.

It was 6-0 later in the opening quarter after the Colts recovered a fumble by TE Todd Heap (initially ruled down, but successfully challenged by Dungy) and Vinatieri kicked his second field goal, of 42 yards, four plays later.

The Ravens finally got on the board early in the second quarter with a field goal of their own, from 40 yards out by Matt Stover. Baltimore then got a break when Reed (pictured at left) intercepted a Manning pass and the offense drove to the five yard line. However, safety Antoine Bethea intercepted a third down pass by McNair at the one to end the threat. The Colts proceeded to move the ball 65 yards over 13 plays in six minutes, with Vinatieri booting his third field goal from 51 yards that hit the crossbar but bounced through successfully. Indianapolis carried the 9-3 lead into halftime.

Vinatieri added a fourth three-pointer in the third quarter. Stover kicked a 51-yarder for Baltimore early in the fourth quarter, and once again Ed Reed followed it up by intercepting Manning at the Ravens 39 yard line. However, the offense failed to capitalize, with CB Nick Harper picking off McNair at the Indianapolis 23. The Colts managed to burn considerable time off the clock (over seven minutes) in driving 47 yards on 13 plays. RB Dominic Rhodes carried the ball 11 times and the Colts converted three third downs along the way. It all ended with Vinatieri’s fifth field goal of the game, from 35 yards, that provided the final margin of 15-6.

In the defensive struggle in which neither team scored a touchdown, Indianapolis outgained the Ravens by 261 to 244 yards. Peyton Manning (pictured at right) completed just 15 of 30 passes for 170 yards with two interceptions. Dominic Rhodes (pictured at bottom) led the Colts with 56 rushing yards on 14 carries. Reggie Wayne topped the receivers with 5 catches for 51 yards.

The Ravens ran for 83 yards in total, with Jamal Lewis leading the way with 53 yards on 13 attempts. Steve McNair completed 18 of 29 passes for 173 yards and two key interceptions. WR Mark Clayton was the top receiver with 6 catches for 73 yards.

It was the second time that Adam Vinatieri kicked a record-tying five field goals in a postseason game, on his way to becoming the all-time career playoff field goal kicker in league history with 42. Said Coach Dungy afterward, “You just feel like you're going to make it every time when he goes out there. In games like this, it's necessary.”

A disappointed Brian Billick said, “This football team is as disappointed as our fans are, which is matched tenfold by the players. (The fans) were deserving of better than that, but it just wasn't going to happen and we will move forward now.”

The Colts went on to win the AFC Championship game over arch-nemesis New England and defeated the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl – vindication for Dungy, Manning, and the Colts defense. The Ravens dropped off badly, going 5-11 in 2007, Coach Billick’s final season with the team.