By now most fans know about the dominating performance by the Baltimore Ravens in their 30-7 Wild Card playoff victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Some of the more informed fans might look at the Ravens time of possession advantage over the course of the entire game, which was 41:44 versus the Chiefs' 18:16. However, the fanatical stats-hungry fan will delve deeper into the game and the time of possession battle to see that in the fourth quarter, the Baltimore Ravens held the ball for virtually all of it except 68 seconds. Sixty-eight seconds!
The final fifteen minutes have been the Ravens "Achilles Heel" during the 2010 regular season. In all four of the Ravens losses, they held a lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and ultimately the game as well. In the team's final two games, they protected that lead, but it was only due to the great play of the defense that the team held onto the victory. Too often, the offense could not stay on the field, leading to the defense being gassed and visibly tired and frustrated to spend a majority of the time on the field.
Not Sunday.The Ravens offense held the ball for almost fourteen of the game's final fifteen minutes, including a season long 15 play, 85 yard drive that took 10:20 off the clock, culminating in a 25 yard touchdown run on fourth and one by Willis McGahee to seal the deal.
The only other times the Kansas City Chiefs touched the ball in he fourth quarter was a three-and-out just prior to the Ravens long TD drive and a mere four plays before the KC QB Matt Cassel threw his third interception of the game, after only throwing seven in the entire 2010 season.
Over the course of the game, the Ravens time of possession victory included running 78 plays from scrimmage, compared to the Chiefs 40. They outgained KC in total yardage, 390 to 161, and held them to a total of 15 net yards in the entire second half. Fifteen!
Earlier last week, I wrote a story titled, "Defense Wins Championships." While I believed and think most of you would agree that the Ravens 2010 defense couldn't hold a candle to the Super Bowl 35 winning unit of 2000-01, it certainly has improved as the season has progressed and we all know it's how you finish the season, not how you start.
If the Ravens offense can continue to move the ball, put points on the board and most importantly, keep the defense off the field, then there is no limit to how far this year's version of the Ravens can go, with the Pittsburgh Steelers next on the not-too-distant horizon.