Colts topple Ravens, 20-3
• Photo gallery: AFC Divisional Round - Colts vs. Ravens
By BARRY WILNER
INDIANAPOLIS — Peyton Manning beat the Ravens and buried a myth.
Say goodbye to the bye-week blues.
In his first game since winning an unprecedented fourth NFL MVP award, Manning threw for two touchdowns last night in the Indianapolis Colts' 20-3 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. The decisive win came after a playoff bye, something that had been a plague, not a respite, for Manning and his teammates.
"I don't think it matters if you've had a bye or you're playing home or away," Manning said when asked about Indy's previous 0-3 record after sitting out the wild-card round. "This myth that you can't win after a bye week, I haven't believed in it."
The Colts (15-2) will host the AFC championship next Sunday against San Diego or the New York Jets.
"Whoever it is, we know it's going to be a challenge and we have to step it up another notch," coach Jim Caldwell said.
Manning and the other Colts starters got lots of rest when the rookie coach sat them for long portions of the final two regular-season games, both losses after they had opened 14-0. Then they had the bye, a reward for owning the league's best record.
But previously a curse for the Colts.
"There's no question how the guys used the off week," Manning said. "We kind of called it preparation week."
Not quite from the outset. When the Ravens (10-8), who routed New England in the wild-card round, marched 87 yards for an early field goal, the All-Pro quarterback's sour face told it all.
By halftime, the scoreboard told it all: Indianapolis 17, Baltimore 3.
It didn't get any tighter, even though Ed Reed got his fourth career interception of Manning in the third quarter. Reed was stripped of the ball by a sprinting Pierre Garcon, the intended receiver, at the end of a 38-yard return. Indianapolis' Dallas Clark recovered, and Reed was robbed of another pick five plays later because of a pass interference call on Corey Ivy.
The Ravens' vaunted defense was self-destructing, and Manning gave it another push toward the offseason with a 14-play drive to Matt Stover's 33-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Directing a patient offense, Manning finished 30 of 44 for 246 yards.
Manning led the Colts on an 8-minute, 75-yard scoring drive, converting a fourth-and-4 pass to Joseph Addai along the way. His pinpoint throw to Austin Collie in the left corner of the end zone made it 10-3 with 2 minutes left in the first half.
After Baltimore's three-and-out, Manning needed just 1:23 to make it 17-3. The drive was aided by Ray Lewis' personal foul on a helmet-to-helmet hit against Collie in the end zone, and Wayne then leaned in with a 3-yard pass with 3 seconds remaining in the half.