The game was everything everybody thought it would be. Close defensive struggle that was decided late in the game. 49ers are a very good football team, and they pushed and tested the Ravens. They have a bright future as they can pretty much own that division for the next several years. The other three teams will improve, but San Fran has such a head start on them, it will take a while for the other teams to catch up.
I have been saying that because of the Raven's inconsistent play, one really needed to take the two games together in order to evaluate the Ravens. Two games in eleven days against two very teams- quite the maelstrom. Both teams had very most excellent defenses. At first glance, the Ravens proved they could move the ball against very good defenses. The other obvious take-away is that when the Ravens put their mind to it and are on their "A" game, they are a very, very good football team and can play with/beat anybody. Bengals was an "okay" performance for a win, but the 49ers was a solid ten-point victory all the way around. They beat the Bengals and then stepped up their game for the 49ers - very impressive. In many ways last night's victory was just as impressive as the Week One victory as last night's game was about a complete team victory as there is.
Special Teams. Besides our offense converting on third down to keep Gore off the field, the other area of concern for me as Special Teams. I was afraid that Ted Ginn Jr. was going to take one to the house. While he got his, he didn't kill us on Special Teams, so hats off to them for containing him. And the penalty for blocking in the back negating Webb's excellent return? Bad call, but there were enough questionable calls on both sides that I really cannot be all that upset. Overall, considering the circumstances, very good effort by the Special teams as we absolutely positively had to have those FG's, and Cundiff delivered.
Chuck P. Wow, what a game plan! He implemented an absolutely perfect architecture for what the Ravens were going up against. Called a great game. The sad part is, we may only be able to hold onto to Chuck P. for one more additional season at the most, as he has "HC" written all over him...
The defense as a whole- the run defense did the unthinkable and stopped Gore (Ngata, Cody et al, while not flashy, did an excellent job). And the pass Rush was just insane- they more than made up for the past few weeks. Redding, wow...
Webb is our best CB right now, bar none. He is playing out of his mind right now. Maybe it really did take him a while longer to really come back from his injury. Whatever; he is just a beast right now.
Ayanbadejo and McClain did a fantastic job filling in for Ray-Ray. Big shoes to fill and they delivered. Not sure if Kruger officially had a sack last night, but he did get good pressure when he was in. Which leads me to...
McPhee. I have mentioned in the past that in order for Kruger to become an every-down type a player, I wanted to see him play against the run more. I saw McPhee last night not only get great pressure, but he set edges and did not lose contain against the run; I even saw him in coverage at times! This kid can flat-out play and I believe he could, could blow up in a very major way. I am really getting onto the McPhee train- one of the last picks of the fifth round? Are you kidding me? Frickin' Ozzie is a genius. Yes, I am gushing over this kid. How does this strike you next year: Ngata, Cody and McPhee as the D-Line with Redding/McKinney as the veteran backups/Arthur Jones as the young backup and Kruger as the pass rushing specialist? Throw in Suggs' flexibility in terms of being upright or hand in the dirt, wow...
Some folks were saying Suggs was "quiet" the past few games. Ridiculous. Suggs does everything well. If he gets sacks, like last night, just a bonus. He is reasserting himself as a legitimate DPOY candidate and couldn't have picked a better part of the season to do it as we head into December. He played like a man possessed.
Anybody else get the feeling the Ravens defense was feeling a little disrespected leading up to this game? Seems to me all the talk was San Fran's defense #1 this and #1 that, which is well deserved. But the Ravens, and I quote, "pioneered defense". One would have thought our defense was non-existent compared to the 'Niners. While maybe not #1, we are top three in most categories -not too shabby. I got the distinct impression the Ravens defense wanted to make a statement about who is still "The King".
Lee Evans. He only had one catch, but he turned a two yards short of the marker into a one yard past the first down catch and run. This was critical as this was during the Ravens TD drive. He doesn't break that tackle, we punt. The more and more he gets involved, the more unstoppable our offense becomes.
Pitta. Catches everything. He could catch the clap in a convent. Last week it was Dickson with the big game, this week it is Pitta. These two could be mainstays in the Ravens offense for the next decade.
The offensive line. Joe had plenty of time. Did the 'Niners even touch him? And while the running game was grinding, it was just enough, which leads me to...
Leach. How can you not love this guy? He just punks everything in his way- he doesn't care how big or little they are, what their reputation is -to him, just objects to be obliterated.
Cam Cameron. Designed and called a great offensive game. For the first time since week 1, I felt like Cam was in synch with the rhythm of the game. Even though it was grinding, he stuck with the running game -as he should have. If he does this the rest of way and tries not to get too cute, sky is the limit. Maybe it took ten games for Cam to finally get the right feel for this offense, let us hope the glove fits now.
Flacco. He showed last night why he should be in the conversation as one of the league's top quarterbacks. His stats were not Brady-esque or Rodgers-esque, but he did everything that was asked of him to a T. We stuck to the running game, but when asked to convert in the passing game, Joe Cool delivered. He made some of the most amazing throws I have ever seen a QB make in terms of fitting spirals into tight windows. He trusted his receivers to make a play and got them the ball when the team needed him to. He didn't have any turnovers and he didn't make any really, really bad decisions. Was he in slump? Was he having bad luck? Was he just not "on" or feeling right the last few games? Yes/no/maybe/some of the above/all of the above/who cares. He is back on track. Listen to this very carefully: Joe Cool can deliver us to the promised land -I have no doubts.
John Harbaugh. He would never admit it publicly, but we all know this one was special to him. Ya gotta feel nothing but pride for the guy. And what a classy way he has handled himself before, during and after the game. So happy he is our Head Coach.
The NFL really has extremely small margins of error. Let us say Evans doesn't exert the second effort and gets stopped short on third down. Or the ref doesn't call the chop block. Game could have been very different. Amazing that the game could have hinged on those two relatively inconsequential things. About that call. In real time as I was watching the play, I said, "Holy cow! That Raven just got chop-blocked-!" And then I nearly threw my remote through the LCD when it looked like San Fran scored a TD. Thank goodness the ref threw the flag. In real time, it looked like a real nasty chop block. However, in slow-mo replay, it didn't look all that bad. But I do not fault the ref because in real time it looked really, really bad. So I do not think anybody can really fault the ref in this case.
I feel bad for Jim. Somebody had to lose. In a game like this that has some historical significance, you hate to see bad things happen to good people. As John has proven, I believe Jim has a very bright future. Hey, happy the Ravens won, just sad to see a "Harbaugh" lose. San Fran has as good a chance as anybody in the NFC to knock Green Bay off. And Round II of the "Harbaugh Bowl", Brotha v Brotha the Second Chapter -what bigger stage could there be than Indy?
After these past two games? Where the Ravens are currently perched? Nothing ugly, nothing ugly at all. With apologies to Vera, "The ravens are so good, if you threw them up in the air they would turn into sunshine."
The Ravens have set themselves up nicely- they have a long break and then the final push towards the playoffs begins in Cleveland. If the Ravens win out, they should get the #1 seed in the AFC.
They need to get healthy and load up for this final five game sprint towards the playoffs. We have seen what the Ravens are capable of- now they need to apply it consistently. The future looks very bright indeed. I believe the Ravens can beat anybody in the AFC playoffs and have a very good shot at knocking off Green Bay.