Tribune Star Correspondent
If there was ever a perfect wild-card playoff matchup for the Indianapolis Colts, it was the Baltimore Ravens. Fifth-place seed Indianapolis (11-5) and fourth-placed seed Baltimore (10-6) will face off at M&T Bank Stadium at 1 p.m. Sunday (CBS Sports).
Yes, the Ravens have been one of the better teams in the AFC over the last few seasons. But Baltimore has struggled some over the last month of the regular-season, losing four of their last five games. Indianapolis, meanwhile, has posted victories in five of their last six..
What's also working in the Colts' favor is that first-year head coach Chuck Pagano knows the Ravens very well. Pagano was Baltimore's defensive coordinator last season and was a member of the Ravens' defensive coaching staff from 2008-11.
"Going back to Baltimore, obviously there’s some familiarity there. We had four great years there as a family. Top-notch organization, really good football club. It’ll be a great challenge. They’ve got a great team and they’ve got great players all over the place," Pagano acknowledged Sunday after the Colts' 28-16 win over Houston. "It’ll be a great test for us obviously."
One thing is certain. He knows the Ravens' personnel very well. Especially on defense. Pagano also knows Baltimore's offensive players from having to face them every day in practice. When asked Monday during his weekly day-after press conference if he planned to spend more time in meetings with the Colts' offense this week, the Indianapolis flashed a wry smile.
"There's a good chance that may happen," Pagano laughed. "There's going to be some things. I will be able to sit down and watch some tape with anybody on the offensive side of the ball, with the coaches.
"And if there is some questions that need to be answered based on coverages and fronts and techniques and personnel and things like that, then obviously having spent the last four years there I'd be crazy not to spend some time with them."
Another positive for the Colts is that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians knows Baltimore's defense very well too. Arians was Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator for the last five years and faced the Ravens twice a year in AFC North games.
"We've got an advantage as far as [knowing Baltimore] because of Bruce's familiarity," Pagano admitted. "When he pops on the tape, even though it's a new [defensive] coordinator, that system's been in place on defense there for a long, long time going back to 2000. There's some new faces, obviously, but the system itself has pretty much stayed in place.
"The new [defensive] coordinator, Dean Pees, had spent a number of years as the coordinator in New England and has been there for the last couple of years. He's probably added a few things as far as things he did [with the Patriots]. He brought some of that with him when we were together when I was there. Bruce knows that defense. He knows that scheme. He knows the personnel, other than the new guys that are there. I think going into this ball game it will really help us getting started and be able put together a plan that will give us a chance to win that football game."
Helping the defense with the Ravens' offense -- Being on Baltimore's defensive coaching staff since 2008, Pagano has seen a lot of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice.
It's safe to say that he knows them inside and out. So as much as Pagano will be assisting Indianapolis' offensive coaches, he'll also be sitting in on the Colts' defensive meetings as well.
“Absolutely, I think on both sides of the ball and on special teams. My doc said, ‘be prudent’[in working] if you remember. But I may not be prudent this week in spending a lot of time in a lot of different areas in trying to get as much information out as I possibly can and help where I can," he said.
"Again, these guys [the Colts defensive coaches], they’ve got the tape and they will be able to study it from a scheme standpoint what we need to do to go win a football game.”
Texans game recap -- Here some post-game notes from the Colts' win over Houston:
*QB Andrew Luck completed 14-of-28 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s victory over the Texans. With his first two completions in the first quarter, Luck set a new franchise record for completions by a rookie quarterback (327), topping Peyton Manning’s old mark of 326 in 1998. With 14 completions today, he finished the regular season with 339.
*Luck finished the regular season with 23 touchdown passes and surpassed Charlie Conerly (22) for the third-most touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.
*Luck’s 11 victories give him the most by a quarterback drafted No. 1 overall in his rookie season in NFL history. Sam Bradford held the previous record of seven wins in his rookie season with the St. Louis Rams in 2010.
*Luck’s 70-yard touchdown pass to WR T.Y. Hilton was a career-long. It was also Hilton’s longest career reception.
*Hilton finished the game with four catches for 111 yards and one touchdown. He topped the 100-yard receiving plateau for the fifth time this season, improving his current franchise rookie record for the most 100-yard games in a rookie season. With the touchdown, Hilton tied John Mackey and Austin Collie (seven) for the third-most by a rookie in Colts history. Bill Brooks and Marvin Harrison are tied for the team record with eight.
*Hilton led the NFL this season with five touchdown catches on throws that were more than 20 yards downfield.
*WR Reggie Wayne finished the year leading the team in receiving yards (1,355) and surpassed Marvin Harrison for the most consecutive seasons leading the team with six. Wayne also led the team in receptions (106) this season and tied Harrison (six) for the most consecutive seasons leading the team in catches.
*Wayne totaled four receptions against Houston and continued his NFL record of 64 straight games with three-or-more catches.
*RB Vick Ballard finished the game with 27 carries for 78 yards and tallied a one-yard touchdown.
*OLB Dwight Freeney recorded his first sack of the game in the third quarter when he dropped Matt Schaub for a six-yard loss. The sack gives him 17.5 for his career against Houston, the most against any opponent in his career. The sack also gives him 5.5 against Schaub, the third most against any quarterback in his career (7.0 – Steve McNair and David Carr).
*ILB Jamaal Westerman added the team’s third sack of the game and his first this season when he dropped Matt Schaub in the third quarter. He now has 5.5 sacks for his career.
*CB Vontae Davis tallied two interceptions against the Texans and has recorded three in his last two games. His first interception led to a Colts touchdown and his second allowed the Colts to run the clock out for the victory. Davis’ two interceptions marked the second time this season a Colts defender picked off two-or-more passes (Darius Butler, 2 at Jacksonville).
*RB Deji Karim returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to give the Colts a 21-16 lead. The return is tied for the fourth-longest in franchise history, the longest in Indianapolis Colts history (1984 to present) and the longest since Cotton Speyrer’s 101-yard return in 1973. The kickoff return for a touchdown is the team’s first dating back to December 19, 2010 (Tyjuan Hagler vs. Jacksonville).
*With 10 tackles, ILB Jerrell Freeman topped 200 for the season (202), became the second defender in team history to reach 200 stops in a single season and bested Jeff Herrod’s record of 200 tackles in 1994.
*PK Adam Vinatieri tallied four points after touchdown against Houston and passed Dean Biasucci (255) for third in Colts history in career PATs.
*P Pat McAfee concluded the 2012 season with a team record 48.4 punting average. The record topped his previous team record of 46.6 set in 2011.