The Baltimore Ravens defeated the New York Jets, 24-23, when the Jets were unable to convert what would have been the game winning two point conversion at the end of the game. While the score was close at final whistle, the Ravens jumped out to 14-0 and 21-7 leads in the first half. Both Ray Lewis and Ed Reed left early in the first half, when the Ravens scored on the Jets first pass attempt which was intercepted by DT Haloti Ngata and returned 25 yards for the score. Baltimore could have easily scored again the same way when Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez hit Ray Lewis in the stomach for what would have been a 50 yard TD return on the next series, but Ray could not hold onto it after reading Sanchez' eyes and running to the spot.
Later in the first quarter, the Ravens scored again for a 14-0 lead after a long pass to Derrick Mason set up a three yard run by Ray Rice off of a great fake by Joe Flacco. Flacco only finished 8-18 for 120 yards, but had two nice longer throws, 43 yards to Derrick Mason and 22 to Kelley Washington. The team was much more balanced between rushing and passing attempts this week, with the team running the ball 25 times and throwing it 27 times. Last game against he Redskins, the Ravens threw it 54 times while only running it 25 times.
The Jets' Sanchez looked totally confused the first few series as he made it a requirement to try to keep his eyes on both Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, leaving the rest of the defense to rush, harrass and frustrate him into ineffectiveness. He did, however, throw his first NFL TD pass with five minutes left in the second quarter and both Reed and Lewis on the sidelines, watching.
Ravens standouts for the game included reserve linebacker Jameel McClain, who led the team with ten tackles plus an interception return for a TD in the second quarter, covering 16 yards. Second year linebacker, Tavares Gooden, who started alongside Ray, had a solid game with five tackles and a sack and rookie LB Paul Kruger had five tackles starting in place of the still-injured Terrell Suggs.
Mostly because of the Ravens disruptive pass rush, the starting secondary looked solid in the first half, but the reserves did not fare as well. Both Frank Walker and Evan Olglesby were picked on repeatedly by the Jets reserve quarterbacks, Kellen Clemens and Erik Ainge. Walker continue to grab and hold and while he might be the team's most physical corner, he needs to, as Derrick Mason yelled at him in training camp, "practice good habits, Frank!"
Flacco might have only been sacked once in his stint, but he was pressured and hit hard too many times. Rookie Michael Oher seemed to do his job great, but the left side of the offensive line looked like it was collapsing or getting overstacked by the Jets' pass rush way too often. Troy Smith, who looked great in the first exhibition game, looked abysmal last night other than the 51 yard bomb he completed to WR Justin Harper and should have had two interceptions. The first was overturned by a defensive penalty but he came right back and threw another three plays later.
The placekicker competition continues to lean towards second year pro Steven Hauschka over the rookie Graham Gano, as Hauschka hit his only field goal attempt of the game while Gano missed his attempt and second of the pre-season.
All in all, it was a win, although certainly not the dominating victory that they had against Washington. At the same time, Jets' Head Coach Rex Ryan could have easily gone for the game tying extra point and sent the game into an unnecessary overtime. Instead, he went for the win against his former team which resulted in the incompletion and the victory for the Ravens.
The Baltimore Ravens next travel to Carolina to play the Panthers in their third pre-season game Saturday evening.
NOTE: In my haste to get to the stadium, I neglected to post an "Open Thread" on the game and plan to do so for the remainder of the pre-season as well as the entire regular (and hopefully post-) season.