The Baltimore Ravens finally put all the pieces together in the second half on Thursday night to produce a 28-7 victory. It was the team’s first double digit wins since 2014 and produced vivid imagery reminiscent of the golden age in Ravens football.
The defense played absolutely lights out. Terrell Suggs whipped All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas off the edge repeatedly, resulting in multiple turnovers. Sizzle was in defensive player of the year form, while playing through a torn bicep. Eric Weddle looked like Ed Reed as he returned an interception out of the end zone. Laradrius Webb continues to play much better coming out of the bye week, his blitzes were quite effective. Rookie Tavon Young has been a revelation at left cornerback, he plays with swagger.
Dean Pees confused the Browns with deceptive formations, recalling memories of Rex Ryan’s organized chaos. At the end of the game, the Ravens defense had allowed less than 150 net yards and a single score, while generating three turnovers. The defense was relentless from start to finish.
Steve Smith Sr. paid tribute to Ray Lewis with his version of the squirrel dance when was introduced. Senior was pissed off for greatness in Week 10, his week to week intensity is incredible. The offense was far from perfect, the offensive line struggled to open up holes in the running game. Joe Flacco had issues with his deep ball accuracy and made a few bad decisions. But Flacco’s extended fist pump after finding Darren Waller in the end zone displayed his competitive fire.
Flacco went on to throw two more touchdowns, for a total of three, his most since last November. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg utilized crossing routes to get receivers open in the middle of the field throughout the game. The Ravens converted almost 60% of their third down attempts, a large improvement over their season long third down ratio of 34%.
Sure, the Browns are the worst team in the league, and their head coach Hue Jackson employed an unusual platoon at the quarterback position. But the Ravens beat a division foe that usually plays them close in dominate fashion. The coaches were finally able to open up the playbook with a comfortable lead. The Ravens play so many tight games that it becomes easy to forget how much of an advantage it is to play with a sizable lead.
The Ravens will remain in first place in the AFC North for at least another week. Looking ahead, they travel out of the eastern timezone for the only time this season, to face Dallas in Week 11. The Cowboys will meet the Steelers on Sunday, which should benefit the Ravens. Historically, the Ravens have fared well facing teams the week after the Steelers softened them up. While Pittsburgh does not play as physical as they used to, studying the results of a familiar Steelers gameplan against Dallas should provide a tactical edge for Baltimore’s coaches. And the Ravens top rated run defense will produce a strategic matchup advantage against the Cowboys run centric offense.
Now one game over .500 with three divisional wins and five conference wins, making the playoffs seems quite realistic. The AFC North is down this season, and the conference is general has few complete teams. If Marshal Yanda and Crockett Gillmore can get back on the field during the mini bye week, and ignite the Ravens rushing attack, the sky is the limit for this team.
On Thursday night, the Ravens gave the Baltimore fans a performance to be proud of. Now the onus is on the fans to vigorously support the team down the stretch of the 2016 season. After all of the ups and downs this season, the Ravens are now playing with a confidence that could propel them on another improbable January run.
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