Even the Punter Gets some Sugar - Rob Carr
Ravens had scored nearly fifty -fifty!- points with over twenty minutes left in the game. Ravens end the easiest stretch of their season with a laugher over the hapless Raiders.
Where to begin- in a good way... Ravens just seemed to able to score at will today. Not one, but two TD's via special teams; Rice had a rushing TD, Flacco had a rushing TD and three passing TD's. Except for a few lapses, given the circumstances (tough to maintain focus when you are up by 24 early in the third), the defense did a nice job today.
This list could go on and on. Let's start with the defense. Two games in a row Pees has sat up in the box vice down on the sideline and it appears to be having a positive effect. Pass rush seemed to be a little more urgent than usual as the Ravens were able to sack Palmer three times and pressure him a few other times. And of course all the batted and tipped balls. Playing much smarter and more effective/efficient defense.
Kruger. Officially two sacks and a tipped pass-interception. But he seemed to be playing smarter as in not getting lost in the wash and getting into the correct position more times than not.
Upshaw. Best game by far of this young rookie's career.
Pollard. He singlehandedly shut the Raiders down the first half.
Flacco. 64% completion for 340 yards, three passing TD's, a 116 rating plus an additional rushing touchdown -those are Rodgers-Brees numbers. He forced a couple of balls into some tight spaces which were tipped and one was actually picked. But even at the time, I was like, "big deal". It just didn't feel like a soul-sucking pick like past ones have.
Pitta. Very nice game even with almost being be-headed. He can catch anything. He could catch Nate Silver with an abacus.
Torrey. He only catches touchdowns. Only 116 more until he catches Cris Carter. He has matched his touchdown output from last season and has seven games left. At his current pace his numbers could be for this season: 55, 974 and 12. And that is without an elite QB throwing to him-!
Dickson. Where ya been? Nice coming out party game. Both his catches I thought he was going to drop, but to his credit he held on.
Pass Blocking. No sacks given up and Joe had time. Yeah he got whacked a few times and got pressured a few others, but much better over previous weeks. Run blocking sucked rocks, though.
Jacoby. Best game as a Raven. Seemed like he was everywhere and involved in everything.
The Penalties. Or lack thereof. Maybe it was because it was the Raiders and therefore the refs automatically call everything against Oakland out of habit, or whatever. But whatever Harbs said to the boys in the "Come to Jesus Meeting", it worked this past week.
Special Teams. Wow. Double Wow. Doublemint twins wow. Musket Arm comes through -they can start chiseling his bust now... Coverage on returns was great. Jacoby's return touchdown, not only was he not touched, his lead blocker wasn't even touched. How is that possible? As you are reading this, the Raiders kickoff coverage team is still wandering around M&T Bank Stadium. And of course Tucker was money on all his kicks- field goals, kickoffs. At this juncture, hard to decide which offseason acquisition has been more impactful -Jacoby or Young Tuck.
The Bad and The Ugly
When you put up 55 on an opponent and win going away, anything here would be tacky nit-picking; no bad or ugly. But I will say this. Cam called a good game today -he catches criticism; he should get props when he deserves them. My only issue were two play calls (and that is pretty good: 2 out of 60 plays). The first was the end-around to Jacoby the play after Jacoby catches a long pass. Why call upon your gassed receiver? Makes no sense. Run the end around to Torrey in that situation. And in the second quarter, it is second and four. Incomplete pass. Give the ball to Rice as he has a good chance of converting and even if he gets stopped a yard or so short, it sets up a short third down which is nearly impossible to defend in the NFL. We ended up converting third down on a completion to Dickson. But still. Have Rice, use Rice, win game. Not a complicated process.
But I am really nit-picking. Great game all the way around- players, coaches, even Rise and Conquer, Baltimore's two live African Raven mascots had great games. Not to go too much down the conspiracy path, but Rise and Conquer were both born in Alabama. Ozzie Newsome played for Bear Bryant, is a huge fan of 'bama... Coincidence...?
7 - 2. We picked up two straight wins in the gentlest part of the schedule heading into the hardest part of the schedule before the Ravens hit the three-quarter pole for the season. We have some momentum and I am sure there is a palpable positive vibe around the organization. All things considered, about as good as it can get. And it better be good. Pittsburgh is playing noticeably better now, especially over the past three weeks and the Ravens will need to bring their A game if they want to have a shot at knocking off the Steelers.
Honestly, and I realize this is setting the bar pretty low, but I would be happy hitting the three-quarter pole at 8 - 4, tied for first place in the division, etc. Anything better than that would be incredible. Like Cathy Lee Crosby "That's Incredible!" incredible. Playing Pittsburgh two out of three weeks sandwiching a West Coast trip is just insane. Iron sharpens iron, or whatever cliché you pick, so these next three games will be the true measure of the Ravens season and as a team.