Playing against what could have been the final game for Ravens LB Ray Lewis, the Baltimore defense was just too much for rookie QB Andrew Luck and the Colts.
The Colts D also didn’t play well, as they gave up way too many yards to QB Joe Flacco and WR Anquan Boldin in a 24-9 loss that ends a magical season.
Chuck Pagano’s emotional return to Baltimore also ended with a thud.
After improving from 2-14 to 11-5 with No. 1 overall draft pick Luck running their high-octane offense, the Colts couldn’t even score a touchdown against the Ravens, who will advance to the conference semifinals against Denver next weekend.
Luck was 28 for 54 for 288 yards and an interception, but was often under pressure and forced to scramble by a Ravens defense energized by the return of Lewis from a torn triceps.
Lewis, who announced earlier this week he would retire after Baltimore’s playoff run, was playing the final home game of his 17-year career.
Luck completed 13 of 23 passes for 143 yards in the first half, and a 15-play drive in the third quarter stalled at the Baltimore 8-yard line, with Vinatieri kicking his third field goal.
Vinatieri pushed a 40-yard field-goal attempt wide right early in the fourth quarter. He was previously 10 of 11 between 40 and 49 yards this season.
Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin set a franchise record with 145 yards receiving, including the clinching touchdown, setting up the showdown with the Broncos. Denver beat Baltimore 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.
Sunday’s victory also enhanced the Ravens’ success rate in opening playoff games. Flacco 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.