The Baltimore Ravens proved they are indeed among the better teams in the NFL after four weeks of the 2011 season with a record-breaking defensive effort in their 34-17 win over the New York Jets. The different players who have contributed to their 3-1 record going into their Bye week can be arguably as long as the roster itself.
QB Joe Flacco's performance in victories in weeks one and three were worthy of the Samsung "Game Ball of the Week," as was RB Ray Rice's 100+ yard rushing performance against the Steelers. Rookie WR Torrey Smith's record-setting three TD catches in their 37-7 beatdown of the St. Louis Rams obviously deserved the honor last week.
However, when you look back at one individual performance in Sunday night's exciting game, it's actually hard to find that one player whose single effort was that much better than everyone else's. LB Jameel McClain, LB Jarret Johnson and CB Lardarius Webb all had defensive touchdowns for the Ravens but none was so much better than the other two to separate themselves.
Offensively, there was really no one other than Ray Rice who had a decent game and even that just isn't at the level worthy of such an honor. So therein lies the conundrum of the decision, or indecision as it appears. Then it becomes very clear who deserves to be honored this week. Why is it that to be considered for this award must we look within the white lines of the playing field in order to come up with that one person whose effort outshines everyone else's?
With that in mind, I have seen the light come on in my mind and with the option of looking beyond the actual playing field, the clear choice on the key element that led the Ravens to the convincing victory is none other than first yer Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano. Pagano inherited basically the very same team that last year's DC Greg Mattison had, yet other than the names on the back of the jerseys, this year's version is significantly different and improved.
Not to say that the Ravens weren't one of the better defensive units last year, but over the past decade or so, Ravens fans are more used to being the best as opposed to being one of the better units. This year, the Ravens are the best defense in the league with no one close to them in terms of disrupting offenses and creating turnovers. Pagano prepared his defense for the Jets taking a page form former DC and current New York head coach Rex Ryan's "Organized Chaos."
Jets QB Mark Sanchez had whiplash not only from absorbing a viscious beating from the Ravens, but from swiveling his head trying to figure where the pressure and the next knockdown would be coming from. By the end of the night, Sanchez and his offensive teammates couldn't wait for the game to end to take their bruised and battered bodies back to New York.
The return to the top of the league as the feared squad under Pagano reflects his own intense personality and willingness to have the confidence to allow his star players to free-lance within his complicated system. That prevents opposing QBs from coming up to the line of scrimmage and figure out what the defense is planning to do before the ball is snapped.
The results have been nothing short of spectacular and was on full display on national television for all of the teams in the NFL to see and begin to fear as they see the Ravens coming their way on the schedule Therefore, it is far from a reach to go outside the lines, think outside the box and award the Samsung 'Game Ball of the Week' to Baltimore Ravens Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano.