INDIANAPOLIS — The debt is still unpaid. Baltimore will have to wait awhile longer to get its revenge on the city of Indianapolis, as its Colts defeated the Ravens, 26-21, last night before a crowd of 56,978 at the RCA Dome.
The Ravens (2-4) played perhaps their best game of the season, a gallant and gutty effort despite losing two starting defensive linemen in the first half who might be gone for the season.
But an interception returned 68 yards and a 1-yard run by Marshall Faulk around left end were the deciding touchdowns in the second half that determined the Ravens' fate against the Indianapolis Colts (5-1), the team that left Baltimore nearly 13 years ago.
"I think we became a team today," said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, twice holding back tears during his postgame news conference. "We played hard, had some guys who were injured, they were some of our good guys. This loss hurt everybody on our team, but we continued to play hard. This is what I was looking for."
The Ravens may have lost starting defensive end Rob Burnett and defensive tackle Dan Footman for the season. Footman is expected to have surgery on his fractured forearm this morning, and Burnett, one of the team's most consistent defensive players, will have a magnetic resonance imaging test on his knee today.
Footman was injured on the game's first play from scrimmage while trying to tackle Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh and Burnett was carted off with 12: 09 left in the half.
"We got some people down, but we have to find a way to regroup," said Ravens left offensive tackle Tony Jones. "This one hurts, but we have to find a way to reach the next level."
The Ravens (2-4) pulled within 26-21 with 4: 09 left in the game as quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Williams in the left corner of the end zone to complete a five-play, 56-yard drive that featured the no-huddle offense.
The Ravens had one other opportunity, taking possession at their own 20 with 2: 09 left in the game, but could manage only 19 yards on the possession.
Maybe the Ravens were destined to lose. On first-and-10 at their own 39, running back Earnest Byner dropped a short pass over the middle. On the next play, Michael Jackson's 9-yard catch along the left sideline was nullified because he stepped out of bounds before the reception. Then Ravens wide receiver Derrick Alexander dropped a pass that hit off his hands and shoulder pads. It would have given the Ravens possession near the Colts' 20.
"I kind of misjudged it a little," said Alexander. "I felt the defensive back on my back so instead of going up and getting it, I waited for it to come to me."
Jackson said of his dropped pass: "I have to go outside the guy and he kept widening me. He may have pushed me outside, I don't know. The official didn't drop his hat until the ball started coming in my direction."
The Ravens scored on their first possession of the third quarter, going 67 yards on 11 plays as Testaverde threw a 5-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone to Alexander with 8: 15 left to give the Ravens a 14-13 lead.
There were two big plays in the drive, first the Colts going offside on fourth-and-inches at the Ravens' 43, then Testaverde escaping the grasp of Richard Dent and throwing a 23-yard pass to Jackson down to the Indianapolis 7.
But like so many times this season, the Ravens allowed a touchdown on the ensuing drive. The Colts went 67 yards in 13 plays, and Faulk finished it with a 1-yard run around left end after two brilliant plays on the goal line by the Ravens.
There was a questionable call during the drive. Harbaugh was scrambling to his right on a third-and-seven play at the Ravens' 31, and as he was about to step out of bounds at the 29, linebacker Craig Powell knocked him out and was given a 15-yard penalty for a late hit.
"I was definitely surprised by the flag," said Powell. "I was trying to make a play. I didn't think he was out of bounds and I just tried to hit him before he got the first down."
"I felt Jim was inbounds, that he wasn't going to make it to the stick," said Marchibroda.
The Ravens went from their own 20 to the Indianapolis 43 on the next possession, but on first down, Testaverde was hit by right end Tony Bennett and his pass was way short over the middle to receiver Floyd Turner. Linebacker Jeff Herrod intercepted it and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown down the right sideline, giving the Colts a 26-14 lead with 14: 07 left in the game.
"Floyd ran a great route and I got hit right before I released it," said Testaverde, who was superb, completing 17 of 30 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. "It's a play I wish I had back, but one I also wished I could have completed because he was wide-open."
The Ravens suffered a severe blow on the first play from scrimmage. Harbaugh started rolling to his right, and Footman fractured his forearm while trying to make the tackle along the right sideline.
But the Colts went on to score as Cary Blanchard kicked a 27-yard field goal to finish the 12-play, 68-yard opening drive.
The big play in the possession was a 40-yard catch by Aaron Bailey that gave the Colts possession at the Ravens' 38 on a third-and-10 play.
But the Ravens set a tone in the series, constantly harassing Harbaugh out of the pocket. The Ravens had two sacks in the first quarter, and four overall. But they couldn't get any help from their offense, which failed to get a first down on its first two possessions.
"We respond when we have to. We have to learn to respond before we have to," said Jackson.
Indianapolis went ahead 10-0 with 13: 44 left in the half on a four-play drive that ended with Harbaugh throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brian Stablein in the right corner of the end zone.
It was a poor play by the Ravens, as cornerback Issac Booth took the coverage in the short outside zone, but either he or cornerback Antonio Langham missed the coverage in the deep zone, leaving Stablein without a Raven within 10 yards of him.
The Ravens got more bad news almost 90 seconds later when Burnett, who had been dominating in the half and had been the Ravens' most consistent defensive player throughout the year, had to leave with a sprained ankle with 12: 09 left in the second quarter.
But the Ravens kept slugging away, this time the offense doing the damage with a nine-play, 76-yard drive that ended with Testaverde throwing a 23-yard touchdown pass to Alexander over the middle with 8: 02 left in the half.
Alexander made a great stutter-step move on cornerback Eugene Daniel, then beat him to the inside. Testaverde also made a great decision on the play by stepping up in the pocket to avoid the rush.
The Colts answered with a 30-yard field goal on their next possession to take a 13-7 lead with 3: 21 left in the half. The Ravens drove from their own 27 to the Colts' 34 on their next possession, but defensive end Richard Dent beat tight end Brian Kinchen for a sack of Testaverde on third-and-seven to take the Ravens out of field-goal range with 19 seconds left.
It was the second sack given up by Kinchen in the half.