The Ravens promised that things would be different, that the Indianapolis Colts' suddenly stout run defense would revert to its sieve-like form of the regular season.
It didn't happen. For the second straight week, Tony Dungy's team rose up and stopped the run, a transformation that has Indianapolis one win away from its first Super Bowl since moving to that town and the Ravens lamenting a game plan gone awry.
The Colts were last against the run among the NFL's 32 teams, and 21st in overall defense, but after stuffing the Chiefs and slowing the Ravens, they've allowed nine points and no touchdowns in two playoff games.
"It's frustrating, when you can't get the running game cranked up and take advantage of their weakness," running back Jamal Lewis said. "We just didn't get it going."
The Ravens did in the first half, when Lewis rushed nine times for 42 yards, but in the second, he carried just four times, for 11 yards.
Brian Billick said "you've got to be balanced against a Tony Dungy-coached defense," but after the Colts took a 12-3 lead into the final 25 minutes, he called just six rushing plays the rest of the way.
Steve McNair attempted 29 passes and the Ravens ran it only 20, as they were unable to exploit the Colts' supposed weakness. Having led the NFL in time of possession in the regular season, the Ravens lost that phase for the first time in eight games.
"I thought we ran the ball well, but we got down and had to throw," center Mike Flynn said. "I definitely think we had enough time left to run, especially considering the field position we had. I think we could have kept running the ball."
Lewis had runs of 9 and 18 yards on the Ravens' only drive into the red zone, then had a 4-yarder that gave them a second-and-goal from the Colts' 3. He lost a yard on the next down, and McNair followed with his first interception.
"We had some success with it, but we were inconsistent," Flynn said of the running game. "That's kind of how we were all year. I always thought we were going to kind of get it going, but we never took that next step. This is the playoffs, one drive can win it."
That was the situation the Ravens faced with 12 minutes left. Down 12-6, they started on their own 39. Lewis got the ball once in a six-play drive, which came to an abrupt end on McNair's second interception.
That failure was part of the Ravens going 2-for-11 on third down.
Lewis, who said that "playing a team like the Colts, you want to keep moving those chains, so you can keep Peyton [Manning] off the field," was fairly magnanimous about his lack of action, but fullback Ovie Mughelli felt that the Ravens abandoned the run game too soon.
"When we got down, we became more pass-oriented, and that took us away from one of our strengths," Mughelli said.
Lewis is on a one-year contract.
"I love the Ravens, I don't know anything else," he said. "Whether I'm here or not, the Ravens will be all right, but I love this team and I wouldn't mind being back here."
Jamal Lewis' 13 carries yesterday were his lowest since Brian Billick took over the play-calling Oct. 29 against the New Orleans Saints. His 53 yards against the Colts were his second-lowest total since then:
Date Opponent Att. Yards
10-29 @N.O. 31 109
11-5 Cin. 24 72
11-12 @Ten. 16 45
11-19 Atl. 22 91
11-26 Pit. 17 66
11-30 @Cin. 17 61
12-10 @K.C. 24 81
12-17 Cle. 22 109
12-24 @Pit. 24 77
12-31 Buf. 20 69