It was almost as if the Ravens, in the spirit of the Christmas season, were checking off their list: establish running game –check; step up the defense –check; create some turnovers –check; do some damage with the passing game –check; DIVISIONAL ROAD WIN –BIG CHECK-!
O-line: created some nice holes for Rice & Co. to run through, still improving pass protection. Flacco: made good on a nice escape from a would-be sack when the defender had Joe’s left hand, also completed some passes when on the run. But again Joe, the line of scrimmage marker is there on the sidelines for a reason- it means when you are being chased out of bounds, chuck the ball past it to save a few yards; really for you, all you need to do is flick your wrist and the ball will go fifteen yards… –this is simple stuff, but two weeks in a row –c’mon Joe. LeRon McClain had a nice game. Good to see Housh a little more involved. Defense was outstanding –created some nice turnovers; saw JJ make some plays that I have not seen before this season –maybe he has been battling an injury from the early part of the season that we did not know about as he seems to be coming on as of late. Good pass coverage. Wow, Wilson had his best game as a Raven yet. It seems that whatever kinks Matison was trying to work out a few weeks ago, he has figured it out. Yes, would like to see a little more pressure on the QB, but who wouldn’t? And Ed Reed. The guy is simply the best. I have now gotten to the point where if the ball has any sort of arch on it, I half expect Reed to come up with almost as much as the intended receiver. Was glad to see him tackled from behind on his first pick so he had no chance to lateral. Special credit to the Special Teams: Cribbs got a few yards, but they contained him and he didn’t kill us.
Also, Cam gets props –two weeks in a row. Nice mix of pass and run, while still establishing the run; pulled some nice tricks out of the bag, even if they didn’t work, they can be fixed and at least it serves notice to future opposing defensive coordinators. Holy Middle of the Field, Batman! Even saw more than one slant- to Boldin, to Mason, to Housh and one to Rice. Well, to be fair, I think the one to Rice was technically a square in, but close enough.
Finally, the team closed out a win the proper way: they ran the ball and burned clock. I think the stains got the ball back with less than a minute (40 – 50 seconds?), not a full complement of timeouts (zero or one I think) and needing ten points –the way it should be.
Really, just some minor inconsistencies: a couple of missed assignments here, a few (less than before) mis-tackles and penalties. Yes, the Ravens gave a good effort and yes, it was on the road in crappy weather so I can understand if they seemed somewhat not completely focused. One other note- getting stuffed on a third and short. Was not a deep pitch so I had no problem with the play selection, just did not execute well. This seems to be a continuation of a theme for this offensive –just cannot power forward for a long yard if needed –teams seemed to be as of late stuffing us at the line of scrimmage. It just seems our O-line does not get a good push in those situations. The good news is, it seems that when we run a misdirection play in those situations, that works.
Heap’s injury. He has missed, what three games now not including getting knocked out the P-burgh game early? Hamstrings can usually take 6 – 8 weeks to heal, maybe five if it is not as serious. If we are lucky maybe he is back in time for the playoffs otherwise he misses the wildcard round and comes back for the divisional round. Not good.
Now, we are on the precipice. We just need to not look past/get distracted and take care of the Bengals. Honestly, my priorities are a win and no injuries, and it least look decent. No need to set the world on fire (Sorry Ed!), just past the sniff test and act like we belong, which we do. Will be a serious Browns fan on Sunday. Heck, I might even wear my "Baltimore Browns" sweatshirt that someone gave me right after the announcement, but before the name change in '95... If I can find it...