Colts, Ravens to renew rivalry Sunday
The Colts don't expect a warm welcome this weekend in Baltimore. They know the Ravens fans still have hard feelings about the Colts leaving town almost 30 years ago. Sunday's wildcard playoff game is sort of a homecoming for many in Indianapolis, including Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, and of course, the franchise itself.
Last season, Pagano was the defensive coordinator of the Ravens. He spent four seasons with the Ravens before taking the Colts job.
"It's going to be special," said Pagano. "I love all those guys. I have great relationships with so many people in that organization. They were so good to me and my family. I wouldn't be sitting where I'm at today if John Harbaugh hadn't given me the opportunity to join him when he first was hired as a head football coach there."
Last season, Jim Caldwell was the head coach of the Colts. After 10 years with the Colts, he was fired about a year ago. He joined the Ravens as quarterbacks coach this season. When the Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in December, Caldwell took over those duties.
"You know a little bit more about these guys than maybe some others," said Caldwell on facing his former team. "We had 10 great years there. It's ironic to get an opportunity to play against them. But it's going to be fun, because you've got two teams with great desire. Chuck probably feels the same way on the other side of it."
Colts rush linebacker Dwight Freeney says the Colts defense may not have much of an edge preparing for Caldwell's offense.
"He hasn't been there all year as a coordinator," said Freeney. "So you don't really know how much time or how much of Jim's offense will be there. There is probably a little bit sprinkled here and there, but most coordinators, they need a whole offseason. They need a spring to really implement what they want. But I'm sure there will be a touch of Jim in their offense."
Colts defensive starters Cory Redding and Tom Zbikowski will also be on opposite sidelines from a year ago, going back to Baltimore to face their former teammates. Redding also played for the Lions and played in Detroit earlier this season. He admits emotions will be running higher in this game with so many close connections between the Colts and Ravens.
"A little," said Redding. "I got a good taste of that when I played Detroit this year. Go back to that stadium and played against that. You have to have controlled emotions and go out there and focus on what I have to do and not get caught up with emotions of other guys that I know from that sideline for six, seven years."
The Colts left Baltimore in 1984 and moved to Indianapolis. Andrew Luck was not even born. But he knows the story of the Mayflower trucks leaving Baltimore in the middle of a wintry night.
"I don't know if I want to get too deep into what I know and bring up bad memories," said Luck with a chuckle. "I know about the Mayflower vans and all that. I guess as a football fan and having a dad who played for the Oilers when they left, you learn about those things."
Pagano spoke to the team briefly about the history between the franchises.
"They all understand what transpired," said Pagano. "Passionate, passionate fans in the NFL and they're no different than anybody else. So they understand how those people feel."
The Colts lost in Baltimore last season, but won eight in a row against the Ravens before that, including a pair of playoff games. The Colts are 9-3 all-time against the team that replaced them in Baltimore.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri provided all the Colts scoring, five field goals, in a playoff win in Baltimore six years ago.
"I remember then, just as now, they have a really good defense and we had a tough time getting it into the end zone that game," said Vinatieri. "Fortunately, we made more field goals and had more attempts than they did. It turned out pretty good that day."
Vinatieri has never missed a field goal against the Ravens, he's 10-for-10. He holds the NFL record with 187 career playoff points. Sunday marks his 25th playoff game. More than half his Colts teammates are preparing for their very first postseason appearance. That includes nine rookies, four of them offensive starters.
The Colts playoff win in Baltimore on January 13, 2007, started a playoff run that led to the Colts first Super Bowl since moving to Indianapolis. Another playoff win over the Ravens in 2010 also led to the Super Bowl.