Ravens give a little ‘Hard Knocks’ to the Jets in 10-9 win

The Baltimore Ravens overcame several turnovers and capitalized on fourteen New York penalties to out-slug the Jets 10-9 on the opening night at New Meadowlands Stadium.

The buildup to this game had all the feel of a heavyweight fight with plenty of trash talk and bluster from both sides. So there was little surprise that both defenses came heavy and it was the Jets delivering the first blow.

On the Ravens first play from scrimmage Joe Flacco was sandwiched by Shaun Ellis and Bryan Thomas causing Flacco to fumble on his own 11-yd line and give the ball back to New York.

But the Ravens defense showed why it was one of the best in the league last season as they forced the Jets to settle for a Nick Folk 23-yd Field Goal.

The Baltimore offense then put together a solid nine minute drive as they converted three straight third down conversions. But they couldn’t step up at crucial times. Todd Heap dropped a sure touchdown as he snuck behind Kyle Wilson and Willis McGahee coughed the ball up at the Jets 22-yd line giving Baltimore their second turnover in as many possessions.

The Jets then got a big play from former Raven Jim Leonhard as he scooted 32 yards on a punt return that was saved by a great tackle from the punter Sam Koch. Still the Ravens defense held firm and the Jets could only muster another Folk Field Goal to go ahead 6-0.

When the Ravens got the ball back they were once again on the move hitting a few shots downfield but this time it was Flacco making a poor read and Antonio Cromartie picked it off and raced 66 yards until he was chased out of bounds by the man who threw the ball.

That’s three turnovers in four possessions for the 2010 season. Not the offensive juggernaught fans were expecting.

However the Jet offense stalled and Shonn Greene fumbled the ball right back to Baltimore. The Ravens then used a long pass to latest acquisition T.J. Houshmandzadeh and then two more costly penalties (a roughing the kicker on 4th down and a pass interference) to put the Ravens on the Jet goal line.

On third and short, Willis McGahee wiggled in way past the swarming Jets to give the Ravens the lead for good at 7-6 to close the half.

Joe Flacco hooked up with Anquan Boldin on several long pass plays to set up Billy Cundiff’s short field goal of 25 yards to give the Ravens a 10-6 lead in the third quarter.

The Jets were only able to answer with Nick Folk’s third Field Goal of the game early in the Fourth Quarter and could never threaten after that.

In a battle of defenses it was the Ravens who really sparkled on the stat sheet. They held the Jets to a franchise low five First Downs and only 176 Total Yards of Offense. Quarterback Mark Sanchez hardly seemed involved in the proceedings as he was 10 for 21 throwing for 74 yards and handed the ball off most of the evening.

Overall it was an ugly, sloppy game but the Ravens will surely take the first win of the season over the boastful Ryan and his Jets any way they can get it.

POINTS TO PONDER

How big was tonight’s win against the brash Jets?

Much bigger than I would have originally thought. Tonight’s game had a playoff atmosphere to it and any time you win on the road it’s a plus. This past week fans heard all the predictions from everyone from Mark Sanchez to the Meadowlands groundskeeper about what a special team the Jets were and after Ray Lewis finally responded this past Thursday there should have been no doubt that this would be a street fight. The pre-game jawing was especially entertaining as 5?9? Ray Rice wagged his finger at Shaun Ellis while Bart Scott continued his tradition of throwing things as he chucked the football Rice’s way as he jogged off the field.

One knock on the Ravens from last season was that they didn’t beat the playoff teams and a road win against a team that made it to the AFC Title game a year ago is a pretty good way to start the season. I’ll take it.

Does anyone still want Rex Ryan as the Ravens Head Coach?

I will stand firm on my earlier comments. Ryan is a very good Defensive Coach  but the Ravens made the right move in choosing John Harbaugh over him. In a game charged with emotion it was clear that the Ravens cooler heads prevailed.

Baltimore committed 5 penalties to the Jets 14.

Often the New York penalties were critical. (Kyle Wilson’s hold on 3rd and 28 comes to mind as well as Braylon Edwards running into the kicker) The Jets undisciplined attitude cost them the game tonight and say what you will but that reflects upon the coach.

What about the performance of the Ravens new-look offense?

It was fairly uneven but it got the job done. Ray Rice had little room to operate as the line simply couldn’t get much push. The Unbalanced Line was a total washout as well. It’s a predictable set that has worked well in the past but couldn’t get on track tonight. I really must compliment Joe Flacco’s tenacity and resilience. He took a wicked shot to start the game and honestly I think it took everyone’s breath away. He made some questionable decisions (Overthrowing McClain – Really?) and was very inconsistent early but he hung tough and finished with 248 yards passing. He connected well with Anquan Boldin (7 rec – 110 yds) and Todd Heap (6 rec – 72) and his ability to throw the deep ball helped move the ball forcing Jet penalties.

Another good sign is emerging fantasy star Rice was stymied but the Ravens had other options to carry the load. Imagine T.J. Houshmandzadeh after he settles in with the rest of the offense. In time I think the offense will be very potent. They were a few plays away from going up 14 points.

Who was the Offensive Player of the Game?

Anquan Boldin. We’ve heard talk about him coming here for almost two seasons and let me say that he was worth the wait. He fits in perfectly with the Ravens mindset. He is tough after the catch and has excellent hands. I look forward to a full year with his services. Todd Heap was playing like it was 2005 tonight. He had some great grabs even though he dropped a sure TD that hit his hands.


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