The Baltimore Ravens faced the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. The 2011 Bengals are playing much better than anyone had expected. They came into this game tied for second with the Ravens at 6–3. Marvin Lewis, coach of the Bengals seems to always be able to effectively attack the offense of the Ravens and come out with a win whether it be playing at home or away. The last six times these teams faced each other only once did the Bengals come away with a loss. After the performance the Ravens gave in Seattle last week a loss at home against a division foe could be disastrous.
This time the offense was able to establish a solid balanced attack. Ray Rice ran for over 100 yards on 20 carries. Joe Flacco accumulated 270 passing yards and threw two touchdowns and one interception. He also fumbled once for a loss of 7 yards. He threw a very nice 50-yard pass to Troy Smith.
Smith has a tendency to drop balls that are right within his grasp. I know he’s just a rookie so I’m sure he’ll eventually figure it out. Joe also seems to overthrow him a little too often. I probably should not complain too much or too loudly. The idea of being able to talk about a receiver who can run away from almost any defender he has faced thus far this season and also catch the ball is a truly amazing concept that Ravens fans used to just imagine one day…. That day has now become a typical game day occurrence.
The offensive line seemed to be quite effective at opening up holes for Ray Rice. They also gave Joe time to survey the field, plant his feet and let it ride. As often as has been stated it’s still worth repeating again. When Joe is given time to plan his feet and find a receiver he can be a nightmare for any secondary.
Now that the offense appears to have found its balance once again, at least for the moment, the way the defense has performed in the last two games gives one reason for concern. In the game last week against the Seattle Seahawks the defense gave up 109 yards rushing to Marshawn Lynch. Cincinnati’s rookie quarterback Andy Dalton put up 373 yards on the Ravens secondary even though he was picked off three times, had it not been for those three interceptions the Ravens could have easily lost this game.
Sunday’s game was a prime example of what can happen when there is a lack of any sustainable pass rush. What has become an above average to very good secondary so far this season can be very easily exposed leading to more opportunities for a big play. The defense was not able to sustain a significant pass rush until late in the fourth quarter.
Except for playing the Pittsburgh Steelers, on a short week the Ravens will face their biggest challenge of the entire season. The San Francisco 49ers come to town on Thanksgiving Day with the second-best record in football at 9–1. This game has been nicknamed the Harbaugh Bowl for obvious reasons. A win on Thanksgiving Day could be what the Ravens need to get their focus back.
Either way at least one Harbaugh will not be having a festive Thanksgiving.