The Ravens just beat one of their toughest tests of the year in the Falcons. It wasn't even close. Like really not close. It is finally time to start respecting this team while it gets hot heading towards the playoffs.
The Ravens offense was able to strike hard both in the run game and in the pass game while the defense made Matt Ryan their cushion all day and halted one of the better offenses in the league. Call the Falcons a bad team all you want, but they still have the ability to put points on the board at any given time with a combination of a renewed rushing attack and Matt Ryan and his receivers. That simply doesn't happen to sub-par teams, which a lot of the analysts were quick to label Baltimore heading into the 2014 season. It is something we've seen from this Ravens team in the past; losing games that they shouldn't just because they overlook their current opponent. Back to back weeks of those types of games and the team responding like they have should quell that fear from happening this season.
The one thing that many were concerned about going into this season was the defense's ability to get pressure and for the secondary to play up to par with cornerback Lardarius Webb injured and a lack of depth adding to the issues. Yet on Sunday, the Ravens lost the turnover battle by a wide margin and were able to hold the Falcons to seven points in 'garbage time'. They even turned the table on allowing yards in bunches but keeping teams out of the endzone by holding Matt Ryan under 300 yards and the entire team well under 100 yards rushing. Keep in mind that the Falcons have the seventh ranked offense in the league by yards and you have a good idea of exactly how impressive that feat is.
Yet, as the Ravens enter the middle point of their season next week, things are looking even brighter. The coaches are starting to learn the best placement for everyone as defined by their weaknesses and strengths. Defensive rotation has been on point with the Ravens utilizing six of their safeties on Sunday. Lardarius Webb is seeing more playing time and as he does, should be able to knock off the rust of missing several games. Even more impressive is that the Ravens pushed safety Will Hill into the lineup almost immediately after activating him. He is a player with a pedigree that will immediately help the Ravens' secondary and yet, he will still get better as he sees more snaps and gets used to the defensive scheme as a new player. Jimmy Smith is playing like a shutdown corner so far into the season and is seriously under-recognized by the media for his play. Just looking at the stats show that this Ravens defense is the cream of the crop, finishing first in points allowed and points per game. The difference between their average points scored and average points allowed is nearly two touchdowns!
The Ravens go into next week at 5-2 and are finished with the hardest stretch of their schedule in 2014. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for the Ravens to easily win out over the next nine weeks to finish with a 14-2 record and possible first place in the AFC while amassing an amazingly low amount of points scored and a franchise record points scored. The Ravens are currently on track for putting up roughly 442 points on the year while allowing only 238. To put that in perspective, the 2012 Baltimore Ravens could only muster 398 points while giving up 344 on the season. The best defense in the history of football, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens only allowed 165 points and with a softer schedule coming over the next nine weeks, the Ravens will sure try and test that record.
With the Bengals doing their best impression of Jamarcus Russel and just giving up, the door is wide open for the Ravens going forward and they seem to know it. The 2014 season is looking to be a great one for the Ravens and their fans.