BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 24: Dennis Pitta #88 of the Baltimore Ravens catches a touchdown pass in front of Donte Whitner #31 of the San Francisco 49ers as the Ravens Torrey Smith #82 celebrates during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on November 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
In the Baltimore Ravens 16-6 Thanksgiving night victory over the an Francisco 49ers, the key part of the game that gave the Ravens the lead that they would not surrender was their 16-play seven and a half minute, 76-yard drive in the third quarter that culminated with a Joe Flacco to Dennis Pitta eight-yard TD pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. A time-consuming, clutch executing team effort that mixed in the run and pass that moved the ball downfield breaking the game open while breaking the hearts of the 49ers defense.
Along the way, the Ravens proved to not only San Francisco, the rest of the NFL, their fans but most importantly themselves, that they could play a complete game and dismantle another quality opponent, as they are now 5-0 against teams with winning records in the 2011 season. While they are having problems on the road against the lesser teams, they have proved all season long that they can play with and beat the best the league puts up against them on their schedule.
Take a look at the details of what is easily the most impressive drive of the Ravens season thus far:
The 16-play drive included four rushes and twelve passes. Three of the runs came from Ray Rice and the other by Ricky Williams, although none went for longer than Williams' five yards. The twelve passes went to seven different receivers and only TE Dennis Pitta caught more than one and his second catch was the most important, an eight-yard TD reception to end the drive. It was the first career TD catch for the second year tight end out of BYU, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
Flacco was eight for twelve throwing the ball on the drive, but five of those completions went for first downs and he was four for four on third downs to keep extending the drive. To look further inside the details of the incredible efficiency of the 16-plays, only three went for ten yards or more, the longest a 15-yard pass to TE Ed Dickson.
The drive used up the last 7:30 of the third quarter and continued for the Flacco-to-Pitta TD pass on the first play of the 4th quarter. It followed the 49ers 13-play, 80-yard drive that took the first half (7:30) of the third quarter, but only resulted in a 52-yard David Akers field goal that temporarily tied the game at 6-6. For the entire second half, the Ravens only had the ball for three drives, not including the three Flacco kneel-downs that ran the final seconds off the game clock.
The drive was a model of efficiency and the difference in the game. The ability to manage the down-and-distance with key plays at crucial times as evidenced by the four-for-four third down completions, prove that the Ravens can play with and beat anybody in the NFL as long as they can control the ball and not make mistakes, inopportune penalties and turnovers that can kill a drive.