Backed up at their own 1, the Colts went 65 yards on 13 plays, a drive that ate up six minutes. The reward was Adam Vinatieri's 51-yard field goal, which hit softly off the crossbar and ricocheted over to extend the lead to 9-3.

The Ravens never got any closer the rest of the game.

"Obviously, it was very disappointing at that point in the game to not come away with the touchdown and change the temperament of the game," Billick said.

The Ravens, who haven't won a playoff game since January 2002, seemed to revert back to that old identity of ragged offense and fearsome defense.

Proving why they were the NFL's top-ranked defense, the Ravens only allowed Indianapolis in the red zone twice and forced it to settle for five field goals.

"You couldn't tell me coming in here we would hold the Colts to no touchdowns and lose," said linebacker , a pending free agent who could have played his final game with the Ravens. "I would take that any day."

With pressure up front and ball-hawking defenders in the back, the Ravens harried Manning, who was 15-for-30 for 170 yards (39.6 quarterback rating).

"We knew what they were going to do when they were going to do it for the most part," said Reed, who picked off Manning twice.

The Ravens now have to carry the pain of this game for the next eight months before the start of next season.

With four starters expected to be free agents (Thomas, running back Jamal Lewis, offensive tackle Tony Pashos and fullback Ovie Mughelli), this team should remain mostly intact and use this experience to make another run at the Super Bowl.

"This is a bitter taste," McNair said. "We've got to live [with] this the whole offseason. I think we're going to be even more hungry. We had a good run for the first year I was here. And we're looking for better things."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com