Wow, I am here typing away on Monday morning and am still chilled to the bone after sitting outside at M&T Bank Stadium, watching my Ravens totally dominate the Washington Redskins. By dominate, I am not implying that our offense ran and passed all over them, but I'm certainly stating that in regards to our defense. As bundled and layered as I was, my bones were still aching from the bitter cold, but it dodn't look like it affected the players on the field, although perhaps it had something to do with all the fumbles.
When the Ravens jumped out to a 14 point lead in the first quarter, I turned to the others arounnd me and said, "ballgame," and I was right. There was no way that this defense was going to give up more than 14 points to the Redskins last night. I was actually surprised that they were able to even score ten points, but give the Ravens offense credit for those gifts in the fourth quarter. At the same time, I'm sure the Redskins fans think they gave us those first 14 points as a gift as well. However, the Ravens defense caused those turnovers while our offense just made poor plays when Joe Flacco threw into triple coverage and Willis McGahee just dropped the ball.
Either way, we scored more points than they did and I'll take another win, our seventh in the last eight games. I was also disapointed that our defense finally surrendered a TD for the first time since the second quarter of the Giants game, over 13 quarters of football ago. Since the Giants game, we have outscored our opponents 94-20, and in the last eight games (including the Giants loss) we've averaged just under 30 points per game, while surrendering only 14. To me, that's the makings of a playoff team!
Last night, the Ravens did it with a suffocating defensive effort, with obvious major contributions from All-World (and Redskins killer) Ed Reed. Reed has made a career of almost singlehandedly beating the Redskins by himself, be it in last night's game or the 2004 come from behind win in Washington where he had a sack, fumble recovery and TD to lead the Ravens to a 17-10 victory. Last night, he started it off early with a diving interception, then ripped the ball out of Clinton Portis' grasp and returned it for a 22 yard TD. He also ended it with his second interception of the game late in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens totally dominated the first three quarters, doing exactly what I had predicted they would in order to win the game. They took away Washington's ability to run the ball and forced QB Jason Campbell to throw the ball more often than either he or the Redskins were comfortable doing. Campbell is just not effective when called upon to carry the team on his arm. He made some poor passes but to give him some credit, he never had a lot of time to loook around as the Ravens pass rush harassed him all night long. Props must be given to the Ravens secondary, especially Fabian Washington, who blanketed Redskins wideout Santana Moss all night, breaking up more than a few deep balls. Samari Rolle has also played well since his return from injury and most Ravens fans are not missing C-Mac too much at this point (who?).
Offensively, the Ravens moved the ball at the beginning and the end of the game, but not too well in between. However, the mark of a good team is to get the job done and they did just that. The first drive after Reed's interception put us on the board and the final drive took the wind out of the Redskins' sails just when it looked like they might make a game of it. A typical ball control, clock eating drive down the field, finished off by a deceptive pass to a wide open Derrick Mason for the final nail in the coffin. Le'Ron McClain ate up chunks of yardage, wearing down the Washington defense, while the offensive line protected Flacco all night. Flacco made the mistake of throwing into coverage when he didn't need to, but other than that, he calmly found the open receivers and even made a great pass to a wide open Todd Heap on the fourth down play that extended the drive that gave us the FG that helped us on our way to victory.
Unfortunately, I thought we were going to get a big lift from the Dallas Cowboys, but they squandered a ten point fourth quarter lead and rolled over for the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday afternoon in a wild game. Perhaps they'll do the same for us in two weeks when we close out Dallas' stadium with another prime time game on Saturday evening, December 20th. However, the focus now is on the hated Pittsburgh Steelers, who come into Baltimore next Sunday afternoon for a rematch of our earlier game, won by Pittsburgh in OT, 23-20, on Monday Night Football. The Ravens have the chance to even up our records with a victory, although the Steelers hold the tie breakers for the AFC North division title. We would need to run the table and hope that the Tennessee Titans defeat the visiting Steelers when they play in two weeks in order to take the diviion lead. Otherwise, we are in fine shape for a Wild Card berth and post season football, when neither were in anyone's mind when this crazy season began in Seprember.
It sucks having to rely on other teams to help us out, but we put ourselves in this situation and should be up to the task to take care of it. It all starts next week, as our season is on the line in this upcoming game. More to follow, as this week should be a ton of fun, with all the trash talking between us and the Steelers' faithful. Keep tuned in, and join in the fun,......starting......NOW!