Wow, it was a pretty good prediction until Ravens QB Joe Flacco went and ran 12 yards for the final touchdown in the Baltimore Ravens 29-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium. I had predicted a 23-10 Ravens victory in Sunday morning's post, but Flacco had to go and spoil it with a couple of minutes left in the game.
Even at 29-10, the game was not as close as the final score indicated. The Ravens dominated the game on both sides of the ball. The stats might not have shown it, but the Raiders were pushed all over the field throughout the day. Defensively, the league's #1 run defense limited the Raiders to 47 yards rushing, and the Raiders were without the serivces of #1 draft pick Darren McFadden, who was inactive due to injury. However, I'm wondering if the Raider brass knew he wouldn't be successful against this defense and why risk getting beaten up even worse like the Ravens have done to opponents all season. Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell had 228 passing yards, but it was all in the middle of the field and late in the game when they were desperate for points. Even their touchdown pass from two yards out in the third quarter looked like he never broke the plane of the goal line, even after the Ravens challenged the call. In addition, the pass rush hurried Russell all day and while they did have four sacks, three of them came late in the game. However, it's not all about sacks, it's about pressure, and JaMarcus was forced to scramble and throw on the run all afternoon. Even without Chris McAlister, who missed the game due to his recurring knee problems, the Ravens CB's held their own, save for a couple of poor coverages which to me were tough breaks and I thought that the safeties were late providing deep help on the plays.
Offensively, you have to be pleased with the gameplan of Cam Cameron and especially the introduction of the Ravens own "Wildcat" formation. The "Wildcat" was made for this team, with Troy Smith a proven passer taking the snaps. Who knew what a great receiver Joe Flacco could be? When I saw Smith loft up that pass, I said no way would Flacco run it down and hang onto the ball. He was barely open, yet Smith who had not thrown a pass all season, perfectly placed the ball where it needed to be and Flacco stretched out all of his 6'6" frame to haul it in and hang onto it. Would have been nice if he could have ran it in from there for a great TD reception. That would make him the first QB in the league this year to have a TD pass, TD run and TD reception. Woulda, coulda, shoulda!
While the rushing attack didn't overwhelm the Raiders from an individual yardage perspective, we totaled 192 yards spread among six guys, with Willis McGahee getting the bulk of the workload. Even though he only averaged 2.5 yards per carry, the group as a whole had big gains on key downs. Rookie Ray Rice redeemed himself from his prior fumbling problems with some big gains on runs (8 yards/carry) and has become Flacco's go-to guy on the screen plays (3 receptions, 37 yards). Thirteen receptions were spread around to eight guys, including Flacco's great catch from Troy Smith. Todd Heap even caught a couple, though he dropped a long ball late in the game on a ball he originally caught but dropped after a hard hit that I still believe he should have held onto.
In my breakdown of the game earlier this week, I expressed concern about Oakland's Special Teams, as they had been among the best of the league in their return game. Yesterday, the roles were reversed as both Ray Rice (kickoffs) and Jim Leonhard (punt returns) were stellar, while Oakland's returners were ineffective, and even caught a kickoff and then ran out of bounds on the two yard line for some unknown and bewildering reason.
All in all, it's a win over another pretty inferior team for the Ravens. We are now 4-3 and a win in this league is just that and I'll still take it. However, we have beaten the poor teams, all with losing records, while lost to the ones with winning records. Until we start winning the games we're supposed to lose, then we will just be among the best of the mediocre teams, which is just not good enough for me.
Now we head into Cleveland for a rematch of our 28-10 victory in Baltimore in week three. The Browns, fresh off a road victory in Jacksonville, will have revenge on their minds and will prove a huge test to our defense. They are angry that they have been brushed off as a pretender this season and would love to pay us back with a win next Sunday afternoon. The Ravens have a chance to finish their first half of their schedule with a 5-3 record if they can earn another road victory next week. However, they will have to continue their progress over these past two weeks' wins in order to defeat a tough Browns team in a very hostile environment.
For more breakdown and opinion of this game, check out the posting below for Mr. MaLoR, whose FanPost was so well written that I decided to promote it to the Front Page for better viewing.