A wild finish to a game that saw the Ravens up by seventeen points early in the Fourth Quarter.
I’ll take it anyway. Sometimes you have to win any way that you can and today’s victory puts the Ravens back in control of their own fate once again.
Here are some thoughts about today’s big win:
- Torrey Smith. He had a huge day today (6 catches, 165 yds, 1 TD) as Flacco continued to feed him and he continued to come up big. It will be very interesting to see how Smith’s progresses throughout his career but he is developing into the deep threat the organization hoped that Lee Evans would have been. Evans was finally back on the field today but he still didn’t look quite right to me and that may be just fine. Smith looked impressive as he simply blew past his defender time after time and his sometimes suspect hands were nowhere to be seen today as he hauled in almost everything thrown his way. The value of Smith’s speed that he brings to the offense can not be underestimated. The overhead view of Anquan Boldin’s touchdown showed that Smith drew a double team deep which gave Flacco and Boldin a chance to readjust and turn a decent pickup into a score. When people talk about stretching the field that’s a textbook example right there. I also wonder if getting pulled down by your hair would make you think twice about getting your head shaved.
- This was my first close look at Andy Dalton and I think he’s quite impressive. Very cool in the pocket and in control of his offense. He shook off some early turnovers to almost pull off quite a comeback in front of a hostile crowd. He could be the reason why one day the balance of power may shift in the AFC North.
- The Ray Rice stat line looked pretty strong – 20 carries -104 yds- 2 TDs (5.2 avg) along with 5 catches for 43yds. This only adds further credence to those that squawked all last week about getting your best player involved in the offense.
- The Ravens defensive effort was uneven at best but they did dig down to get stops when they needed them. They gave up a staggering 483 Total yards of offense to Cincinnati but they did get three turnovers- all Interceptions that either prevented scores or immediately led to offensive points. Chuck Pagano returned to some of the old Blitzing ways that have been lost over the past few games and it worked fairly well until the Final Quarter. The Bengals were only 5 of 15 on Third Down. But the Double Safety Blitz call on third down left Jimmy Smith exposed for an easy touchdown and helped give Cincinnati much needed momentum. It was a gamble they could have done without. Just food for thought each time we as fans want to see continuous pressure from the defense – there is always risk involved.
- Pernell McPhee made two big plays at the end of the game. Each time the Ravens rushed three and yet he still beat his assignment and the second time recorded the sack to seal the win. Paul Kruger was also active and even though he didn’t record a sack he drew a holding penalty and probably should have been given a few more.
- In Ray Lewis’ absence Jameel McClain and Bernard Pollard led the team each with 9 tackles. It’s so hard to truly gauge the impact that Lewis has on the field. Early in the game the unit seemed confused a few times and I’m sure not having Lewis to help guide the group must have played at least a part in it. I also couldn’t help but wonder on Benson’s first touchdown if Ray Lewis would have been there would he have still gotten in. It was the first time Lewis has been injured since 2007 and it appears that he’ll probably be out again for this Thursday’s game and who knows how many more. We’ll have to see how they respond over that span without their leader.
- One point that’s been lost over these many weeks is that the Ravens simply don’t hold on to the football very well. They had three fumbles today – none were lost but fumbles are fumbles. Joe Flacco had his tenth fumble today (yes he recovered but I don’t care) and it’s one area in his game that has to get better.
- Cam Cameron returned to a balanced attack and he was rewarded with strong performances from his star (Rice), his QB (Flacco) and his deep threat (Smith). I will harp on this point once again. The Ravens are best when balanced. That’s a huge weapon at your disposal when you can run it and throw it with success. It gives you an ability to be unpredictable while still getting the ball to your best options. I was still upset with his calls late though. I loved the simplicity of a second down roll out to Rice for a First Down but then cringed as he attempted to slam the ball off Guard on Third and One. The line was stacked at that point and fake inside and pitch outside would have yielded a big gain and kept the clock running. Hindsight of course but it makes me wonder if Joe Flacco could have audibled out if he noticed something at the line. Yeah, probably not.
- The tag team of Gumbel and Dierdorf were at it again, screwing up pronunciations and in general takingthe enjoyment out of the game. I did laugh loudly about Dierdorf’s comments about Justin Bieber. He said that he couldn’t believe what it would be like to sit front row at one of his concerts. I guess he’s a fan.
- I’m not a huge fan of referee Ron Winter. He was the one a few seasons ago that didn’t allow a Raven within breathing distance of Tom Brady without a 15-yd penalty. But I give the guy credit for sticking in there today as he was trampled during a fumble recovery (see above). I’m also glad he escaped without major injury.
- (EXTRA POINT) Jarret Johnson overtook Michael McCrary and Jamie Sharper as the franchise’s all-time leader in consecutive starts with his 74th straight start Sunday. Johnson is already the Ravens’ leader in consecutive games played with 123. Double JJ is often overlooked on a team with so many stars but Ravens fans know how valuable he is.