Lessons Learned: Lions Game Served Its Purpose

Five Lessons Learned from Sunday’s 48-3 win against the Lions.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Sunday, December 13th, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Categories: 2009 Gameday, Sarah Ellison

Lions game served its purpose.

The Ravens dictated their opponent’s every move, set franchise and personal records and had five different players scored touchdowns. Despite the flashiness, Baltimore probably didn’t turn many heads around the league (unless you’re a fantasy football player). After all, the dominating victory came against the deprived (2-11) Detroit Lions.

Fine. I get it. We can’t get ahead of ourselves.

It was an expected win, but it was also vital for the Ravens’ postseason life. Baltimore didn’t beat a team with enormous stature, but the game served its purpose; we can do what we’ve unofficially done since the schedule was announced. We can officially mark a W next to the Lions/Ravens helmets on the schedule cards in our wallets. Done and done.

Now the Ravens find themselves tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets (all 7-6) for a wild card spot. Denver lost today too, making them 8-5 and placing them within the grasp of the Ravens’ claws.

This was NOT the return of the three-headed monster.

All three backs, once collectively known as the three-headed monster, scored at least one touchdown today. In fact, running back Willis McGahee out-scored Ray Rice, two touchdowns to one. Their numbers are as follows – Rice: 166 yards rushing, 53 yards receiving, and one touchdown. McGahee: 76 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Le’Ron McClain: 32 yards rushing and one touchdown.

Don’t let these numbers be misleading. The only way the monster will officially be back will be when offensive coordinator Cam Cameron calls a steady and evenly mixed number of plays for all three backs. McGahee and McClain got their carries, their yards and their scores only because Ray Rice had done his job so well that the Ravens could afford to rest him.

So, the appropriate characterization would be to say that McGahee and McClain were excellent in finishing what Rice had started. Rice will and should still carry the brunt of the load as long as he is healthy.

Imaginary life without Derrick Mason is frightening.

It looked like receiver Derrick Mason was holding his shoulder after his 62-yard touchdown pass in which he broke two tackles. I thought Mason had reinjured the same shoulder that nagged him last season, and my heart stopped. Thankfully, the wind was just knocked out of him.

Life without Derrick Mason is no life at all. Even Beyoncé knows he’s irreplaceable. Mason may be the most taken-for-granted-player on the roster. Quietly, the veteran is on pace to hit 1,000 receiving yards for the eighth season of his career (841 yards in 2009 with three games left to play). Despite getting pounded week-after-week, Mason keeps coming back. He has played in 119 consecutive games, the second most among active receivers.

Cundiff could be good enough to be long term.

Kicker Billy Cundiff was 6-for-6 on extra points and was easily on target with two field goals from 38 and 25. At least he made it look easy with rain pouring down on a soaked field and with a slippery football.

No, today’s performance was not spectacular, but I learned that I feel comfortable when Cundiff steps out on the field. You can hear the confidence in this guy’s voice when he stands at the podium. He wants the ball. He wants it with the game on the line. Why? Because he’s got nothing to lose. Cundiff has already been where no player wants to be – floating around from team to team not knowing where he’ll end up next. He’s been there and he’s dealt with it. So, he’s got nothing to fear. And that’s why I likes Billy Cundiff.

The red zone is an unpredictable zone for the Ravens.

I hate to rain on the parade, but not everything was perfect in today’s 48-3 slaughter. When Ray Rice (who overall had a spectacular day) fumbled from inside the Lions 10 and watched it rolled out of bounds in the end zone, the turnover marked the Ravens’ sixth in the red zone this season. That’s good for the league’s worst. Three of those turnovers came in Baltimore’s last three games.

The offense scored 48 points, but they were 50 percent effective in the red zone. Typically, NFL teams don’t get as many scoring opportunities as the Ravens received today, so they must get more efficient with those chances if they are to continue winning.

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