January 6, 2013

Ravens advance in AFC playoffs

Anquan Boldin sets a franchise record for receiving, including the winning TD, as Baltimore beats Indianapolis 24-9.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

Anquan Boldin, left, of the Ravens celebrates his touchdown catch with quarterback Joe Flacco in Sunday's wild-card playoff game at Baltimore. The Ravens won, 24-9.

AP

BALTIMORE — Ray Lewis’ last ride now will take him to Denver.

Anquan Boldin, Joe Flacco and a staunch Baltimore defense made sure of that Sunday. Boldin set a franchise record with 145 yards receiving, including the clinching touchdown in the Ravens’ 24-9 victory over Indianapolis in an AFC wild-card game.

The win delays star linebacker Lewis’ retirement for at least another week as Baltimore (11-6) heads to Denver next Saturday.

The Broncos beat the Ravens 34-17 three weeks ago.

Lewis even lined up at fullback for the final kneel-down in his last home game of a 17-year career, then went into a short version of his trademark dance before being mobbed by teammates.

He followed with a victory lap, his right arm, covered by a brace, held high in salute to the fans.

Sunday’s victory also enhanced the Ravens’ success rate in opening playoff games. Flacco now has won at least one postseason game in all five of his pro seasons, the only quarterback to do it in the Super Bowl era.

His main target Sunday was Boldin, who had receptions of 50 and 46 yards, plus his 18-yard TD on a floater from Flacco in the corner of the end zone with 9:14 to go.

Baltimore overcame the first two lost fumbles of the season by Ray Rice, too, as John Harbaugh became the first head coach with wins in his first five playoff campaigns.

Backup halfback Bernard Pierce rescued Rice with a 43-yard burst that led to Boldin’s touchdown, and ran for 103 yards.

Flacco also connected with Dennis Pitta for a 20-yard TD and rookie Justin Tucker made a 23-yard field goal.

The loss ended the Colts’ turnaround season in which they went from 2-14 to the playoffs in coach Chuck Pagano’s first year in Indianapolis (11-6). Pagano missed 12 weeks while undergoing treatment for leukemia and returned last week.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who went 9-3 as interim coach, was absent Sunday after being hospitalized with an undisclosed illness. Quarterback coach Clyde Christensen called the plays, but Baltimore’s suddenly revitalized defense – inspired by Lewis’ pending retirement, no doubt – never let standout rookie QB Andrew Luck get comfortable.

Indy’s only points came on three field goals by Adam Vinatieri, from 47, 52 and 26 yards. Luck completed 28 of 54 passes for 288 yards. It was the most attempts by a rookie in a playoff game.

Reggie Wayne had 108 yards on eight receptions and moved into second in career playoff catches with 91 – 60 behind leader Jerry Rice. But the Colts, who moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984 – they still are despised here – became the second NFL team to improve to 11 wins following a two-win season and then lose in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Ravens also beat the 2008 Dolphins in a similar scenario.

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