If you had to pick the top five defensive plays in the Baltimore Ravens 16-6 Thanksgiving night win over the San Francisco 49ers, you might be challenged to narrow it down to just five. With a franchise-tying nine sacks and one interception, not to mention so many other fine efforts, the defense might have played their best since their season opening 35-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers when they had seven turnovers and their week four 34-17 beatdown of the New York Jets when they had three defensive touchdowns.
Going up against a 9-1 team, along with the first match-up of head coaching brothers, much less this game being on national TV as the first Thanksgiving game ever in Baltimore, be it the Ravens or the old Colts, made this win even more special. So let's take a look, in chronological order, at my top five defensive plays of the game:
1. With San Francisco facing a 3rd down with four yards to go for the first down on the Baltimore 22-yard line, Haloti Ngata sacked QB Alex Smith for a five yard loss, forcing the 49ers to kick a 45-yard FG. If the 49ers had converted that third down, who knows if they could have scored a TD instead, but it was a glimpse of what was going to be repeated all night long, especially on third down, where SF went 2-12 on the night.
(Click on the 'Jump' to see the other four top defensive plays of the game)
2. Late in the first half the 49ers had the ball at the Baltimore 35-yard line. Alex Smith chucked the ball deep towards the end zone but Lardarius Webb outfought WR Braylon Edwards for the pick.
3. On the 49ers opening drive of the 3rd quarter, they used up 7:30 of the clock but failed to convert a 3rd and 18 from the Ravens 35-yard line after suffering a 10-yard loss on another sack on second down. This resulted in a 52-yard David Akers FG, but once again, the Ravens kept SF out of the end zone and on their next drive, they also used up 7:30 of the game clock but scored the game's only TD on the first play of the fourth quarter.
4. Midway through the 4th quarter, SF punted from deep in their own territory to the ravens, who drove down-field for their final score, a 39-yard Billy Cundiff FG. However, it was a Terrell Suggs sack of Alex Smith on a third-and-eight at the SF 12-yard line that caused a fumble that went out of bounds at the 49ers 9-yard line.
5. The 49ers got the ball with just over three minutes left and down by ten points. After getting a first down, SF was finally faced with a fourth-and-12, and Alex Smith's pass to WR Ted Ginn was dropped, ending the chance to get any closer and all Ravens QB Joe Flacco had to do was take a knee three times to end the game.