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Friday, January 15, 2010
Final Word: Ravens at Colts

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Three nuggets of knowledge about Saturday's playoff game between the Baltimore Ravens (10-7) and Indianapolis Colts (14-2):

Pierre Garcon
If the Ravens clamp down on the Colts' primary receivers, Pierre Garcon will need to step up.
1. Can the kids catch it? The Ravens did excellent work on Dallas Clark (one catch for a three-yard TD) and Reggie Wayne (seven for 89 yards) in the regular-season matchup. I expect they will take the same approach many of the Colts’ opponents have -- sell out to slow Clark and Wayne and make Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie be the passing-game targets. Garcon and Collie performed very well this year for Peyton Manning. But the Ravens will look to heighten the pressure on them and hope they crack a bit in their first playoff appearances.

2. Fresh rushers: Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are as fresh as possible for a Jan. 15 game. If the Colts are able to get ahead and then rush Joe Flacco, they could rough him up. Much is made of small speed rushers against imposing tackles. Left tackle Jared Gaither is in his third season and dealing with an ankle injury. Right tackle Michael Oher is a rookie. The Colts' quick and crafty duo has to be expecting to play well. Indy didn't have a sack in the first matchup. And while Freeney and Mathis didn't even have a tackle between them according to game statisticians, they were influential in the outcome.

3. Efficiency: The Colts' run game doesn’t need to put up huge yards, but efficiency is key. In the regular season 17-15 win in Indianapolis, the Colts won because they were efficient with third-down offense (56 percent), third-down defense (38 percent), red zone defense (Baltimore was 0-for-4) and inside the Ravens’ 10-yard line (2-for-3 in goal-to-go situations). Timely clutch plays are the Colts' MO in a lot of ways, and if they continue to get them, they likely move on to host the AFC Championship Game.