- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: Even though they slumped in December, the Ravens and Joe Flacco are still tough to knock out early in the playoffs. With a strong game by wide receiver Anquan Boldin and a stingy defense, Baltimore won a postseason game for the fifth straight season. The Ravens also extended the career of Ray Lewis, who announced last week that he would retire at the end of the season. Baltimore won its 13th straight home game with Lewis on the field.
Big-play Boldin: When you talk about the Ravens' playmakers, it's usually Ray Rice and Torrey Smith. But the Ravens advanced on Sunday because of Boldin. He carried the offense in the second half, finishing with five catches for 145 yards, which set a Ravens single-game high in the playoffs. Before this game, Boldin had only one catch longer than 40 yards downfield in his Ravens career, including the postseason. His leaping, 18-yard touchdown catch put the Ravens up 24-9 in the fourth quarter.
Pumped-up defense: A defense inspired by Lewis gave up yards but not a lot of points. In Lewis' final home game, the Ravens held the Colts to three field goals despite Indianapolis having six drives inside the Ravens' 34-yard line. In the fourth quarter, the Colts drove to the Ravens' 18-yard line, but cornerback Cary Williams picked off a tipped Andrew Luck pass on fourth down. Lewis led the Ravens with 13 tackles in what was an ordinary performance. He nearly picked off Luck in the second quarter deep in Colts territory, but the ball bounced off his arms. Lewis finished the game reporting on offense in the final minute and did his dance at midfield as the final seconds ticked off.
Coughing it up: Rice once again had trouble holding on to the ball in the postseason. He fumbled twice Sunday, which marks the fourth straight season he has turned the ball over in the playoffs. It's a surprising stat because Rice fumbled only once in the regular season. The Colts, however, didn't convert Rice's fumbles into points. Luck fumbled after the first one, and Adam Vinatieri missed a 40-yard field goal after the second one. He ran the ball only once after that second fumble. Backup Bernard Pierce had a more productive day with 103 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Flacco rebounds: Flacco is one of the streakiest quarterbacks in the league, and he showed that Sunday. In the first half, Flacco was 5-of-12 for 108 yards. In the second half, he completed 7 of 11 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
What's next: The Ravens advance to play the top-seeded Broncos. Baltimore has lost to Peyton Manning twice in the playoffs and hasn't beaten Manning since the 2001 season.
6hEric D. Williams
4hEric D. Williams