Ravens Rise Up and Top the Saints to Keep it Tight in the AFC North

Just when it looked as if the Ravens were getting comfortable being an almost Elite team, Sunday’s victory over the defending champions should provide a big lift heading into an all but assured third consecutive post-season trip.

This was by far the most complete game the Ravens have played this season – all three phases – all four quarters. I must give kudos to the coaching staff as well. Cameron’s offensive plan exploited a somewhat suspect Saints run defense and Greg Mattison blitzed with regularity.

With two games to play the Ravens have set themselves up nicely for the playoffs, plus with a Pittsburgh loss today the division is still up for grabs.

What about the Ravens game plan today and can we expect to see more of the rushing attack for the rest of the season?

The Ravens returned to a run-first mentality and made sure that their best offensive player got plenty of touches. (31 rushes for 153 yds TD – 5 catches for 80 TD) This took the pressure off Joe Flacco and allowed the Baltimore offense to work in more manageable third down situations. Flacco was efficient tossing two TDs for a 112.9 rating and most importantly zero turnovers. The end result was Baltimore scoring 30 points against a top ten defense.

One of the points that our staff has been lamenting for weeks has been about the Ravens  lack of an offensive identity. For the past two seasons Cam Cameron has wanted to build an offense  centered on the Quarterback and it’s produced mixed results. While the idea may seem smart by league standards – let’s face it it is a Quarterback’s league , you must always maximize the talent you have on your roster.

While Cam has tried to integrate the new weapons the Ravens acquired on offense and help Joe Flacco continue forward in his progress he may have forgotten his biggest asset in his playbook – Ray Rice. Not only has Rice’s stats suffered this season but he rarely has gotten the amount of touches that a player of his caliber demands.

The jury is still out on how good Joe Flacco will be as an NFL quarterback and I don’t think he’s reached his ceiling yet- at all. We won’t really know until he has the same freedoms as the Brees, Roethlisbergers, and even Ryans of the NFL. Until Cameron is willing to provide that freedom we will never know and until that time comes Baltimore should be a balanced team that uses it’s runners – all three of them.

Last week John Harbaugh all but said that he would have liked to have seen a run on 3rd and 2 against Houston to pick up a crucial third down. Perhaps the Head Coach stepped up this week and exerted some more influence on the offensive game plan.

It’s always about results and of course Wins and Losses. For the Ravens to go away from a successful formula with an offense that has struggled over some stretches would make little sense at all.

What led to the Offensive Line putting together it’s most physical game of the season?

Run-First.

Ask an Offensive lineman which he would rather do – Pass protect in a crouch or Drive forward and attack defenders? I have a feeling that the line was grinning at the game plan this week. It’s one of the only times this year that I’ve seen them be very aggressive and get after the defense.

The unit still had some issues with False starts but I’d excuse that out of a willingness to get put a hat on someone. Let’s hope they keep the momentum going.

Is Dannell Ellerbee finally out of the coach’s doghouse?

Ever since John Harbaugh went wild on Ellerbee for his taunting antics during the Pre-season he’s never been able to find the field or the active roster for that matter.

Ellerbee came on strong last season though when Training camp began the coach only said that the Ellerbee would compete just like Jameel McClain and Tavares Gooden for the job. Most close to the team cited attitude problems from Ellerbee as the reason for his benching. Here’s hoping that he has that straightened out because he played like a man possessed today with 7 tackles and 1 sack. He provided a tough presence and was around the ball a lot today.

My opinion hasn’t changed about him. He’s the long term solution to replacing Bart Scott.

Who was the Offensive Player of the Game?

Do I have to type his name? Ed Dickson showed why the Ravens drafted him today. He has good hands and is a big target that could be more of a Marques Colston-like receiver. Willis McGahee was strong in relief as well.

Who was the Defensive player of the Game?

Ellerbee’s performance was strong but the secondary was also solid and notched several hits on the Saints receivers. They seemed to cringe before a few passes came their way. Jarret Johnson played in his 111th consecutive career game tying a Peter Boulware’s club record. Double JJ has been coming on as of late – I’ll admit I forgot that he was slow out of the gate due to shoulder surgery. He’s a tough ball player. Sam Koch should go to the Pro Bowl.


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One Response to “Ravens Rise Up and Top the Saints to Keep it Tight in the AFC North”

  1. Chris_Miller says:

    Matt,
    I think the Ravens drew a line in the sand yesterday. Some were questioning Baltimore’s killer instinct, and ability to close out games when it mattered.
    You are absolutely correct regarding the run-first mentality and suspect run defense of the Saints. Flacco only had 20 twenty pass attempts, and the two of them converted for TDs. Of course that’s possible when you run the ball 39 times and average 5.3 yards per carry. The Ravens also picked up 8 of their 17 first downs via the run. Can you say power football? Great stuff!
    The AFC North is very interesting right now!