On Thursday night, the Ravens suffered what many teams would consider a death blow to their chance to win the game. That blow occurred when Joe Flacco was knocked out of the game with a concussion as a result of a hit from Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso. Instead of folding, the Ravens’ defense stepped up to the plate and had what was arguably their most dominant performance all season.
The Dolphins offense was unable to get anything going as backup quarterback Matt Moore was making the start for quarterback Jay Cutler. With the way the defense performed on a short week against the 4-3 Dolphins, it’s fair to ask if the defense can sustain a run that carries a struggling offense to the playoffs in a muddy AFC.
While the Ravens defense is talented, we have to step back and look at the competition. As mentioned before, they played a Dolphins team that has been a circus this season. After Ryan Tannehill went down with an injury in the preseason, the team signed Jay Cutler out of retirement. They didn't play in Week 1 because of a hurricane and a few weeks ago, the former Dolphins offensive line coach recorded a video of himself snorting a white substance. The cherry on top came last week when Cutler was hurt, paving the way for Moore to start. While Moore is somewhat serviceable, on a short week, against talented defense, he performed about as well as you’d expect.
With all of this in mind, it’s important to temper expectations. After a win over the Oakland Raiders, fans were confident that the team had corrected the ship. The only problem with that logic is that the Raiders were without star quarterback Derek Carr, and the Raiders’ defense is quite frankly, not good. The same rule applies here. While winning in such fashion as the Ravens did on Thursday is fun, considering the situation it’s not indicative of how the team is going to perform.
Coming into the year fans had high expectations for the defense and what they could provide for an offense that projected to leave much to be desired. While the Ravens defense has had some dominant performances, there have been times where they've had errors in communication or awareness that have cost the team wins. The Chicago game is one that comes to mind right off the bat. While this defense has been fun to watch when they’re rolling, the issue lies with their consistency. Looking back to the 2000 Ravens squad, that defense was able to carry the offense for a whole month, not just a week here or there, but an entire month.
The AFC playoff picture is still murky halfway through the year. The only teams that look like locks to make the playoffs are Kansas City and New England. That leaves four playoff spots for teams to duke it out over. While I don't believe the Ravens defense can carry the team to a playoff berth, I certainly believe they’ll give the Ravens a chance up until the end.