By Jamison Hensley | email@example.com
October 13, 2008
A week after the Ravens believed a roughing-the-passer penalty cost them a game, there was no excuse given in watching Peyton Manning rough up their secondary.
The once-struggling Indianapolis Colts quarterback ripped up the once-top-ranked pass defense, throwing for three touchdowns in a 31-3 rout of the Ravens in front of an announced sellout crowd of 66,153.
After allowing wide receivers to catch two touchdown passes in the first four games, the Ravens (2-3) surrendered three to Colts receivers in the first half alone.
Like last season, the Ravens were banged up in the secondary. Unlike last season, Manning picked on Chris McAlister, beating the Ravens' best cornerback for two touchdowns.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh bristled at a series of questions focusing on McAlister, showing more fight than his secondary did for most of the game.
"It wasn't all Chris' fault," the first-year Ravens coach said. "I'm going to tell you right now, we're not about pointing the finger. If anybody thinks I'm going to stand up here and point the finger at one guy … you can pack up your tape recorders right now.
"That's not what we're about. We're a football team and we've got to get better as a football team."
The first touchdown appeared to be the result of McAlister guessing at the wrong time. The second one looked like a perfect pass by Manning. The third one came against McAlister again and compliments of some questionable coverage in the end zone.
The Ravens, who had allowed an average of 14points per game, trailed 24-0 by halftime.
"This one hurts," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "We don't take kindly to getting our ass kicked. That's what happened today."
Manning, who entered the game as the NFL's 20th-rated passer, completed 19 of 28 passes and threw for 271 yards. He finished with a season-best rating of 134.7, and the Colts improved to 3-2.
"It's unfortunate," Ryan said. "He looked a hell of a lot better this week than he had in the previous games."
Ravens safety Ed Reed didn't seem surprised that the secondary had its worst game of the season after some struggles in practice.
"It wasn't just Peyton," he said. "We had some communication breakdowns. We had some breakdowns that we knew were going to happen, so against a good quarterback like Peyton he's going to make plays."
Except for playing at a different site - brand-new Lucas Oil Stadium instead of M&T Bank - yesterday's humiliation looked like a repeat of last season.
Just 11 months ago, the Ravens faced Manning without their top two cornerbacks, McAlister and Samari Rolle. The perennial Pro Bowl quarterback threw for four touchdowns in a 44-20 rout of the Ravens.
This time, the Ravens were without two of their top three cornerbacks (Samari Rolle and Fabian Washington) and their starting strong safety ( Dawan Landry). That forced fourth-string corner Frank Walker into a starting role and No. 5 corner Corey Ivy into the nickel back spot.
Ryan said last week that he felt better about his backups this year than last, calling the depth of the secondary a strength of the team.
But it proved to be a weakness yesterday.
"It's frustrating," Ryan said. "We thought we would play a hell of a lot better than we did. You have to give them credit. Manning made the plays. It definitely was their day and not our day."
On the first touchdown, McAlister appeared to bite on a play-action fake, allowing receiver Marvin Harrison to run past him. The wide-open Harrison easily caught the 67-yard pass for the score, recording the biggest play against a Ravens defense that hadn't given up a pass of more than 49 yards this season.
"They came out and made the plays and we didn't," McAlister said. "Can't sit there and say we didn't expect it. Just didn't execute."
Was McAlister expecting someone - like Reed - to provide coverage deep behind him?
"I don't remember the coverage," Ryan said.
On the second touchdown, receiver Reggie Wayne caught an over-the-shoulder pass from Manning for a 22-yard score. Ivy had solid coverage on the play, running step for step with Wayne.
"Peyton made a great throw," Ryan said. "It's hard to defend against a perfect pass. We saw that a couple of times with Peyton."
On the third touchdown, Harrison got open on a slant route for a 5-yard score. He simply broke in front of McAlister, who reacted late on the play.
"I allowed him to get inside," McAlister said, "and he made the play."
It was a tough day for McAlister, who had a team-leading three interceptions in the first four games.
McAlister had a knee problem throughout the preseason, but no one said that limited him yesterday.
"My knee is fine," McAlister said. "It's not an issue."
The bigger issue is how the Ravens respond after losing three straight games.
In losing two games by a combined six points, the Ravens could point to a Jarret Johnson personal foul or a questionable penalty on Terrell Suggs for the defeats.
After getting routed by 28 points, it prompted more reflection.
"You come in here with high hopes and you get it handed to you," Harbaugh said. "To me, that is an opportunity to show what kind of man you are and what kind of a football team you are."
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