PLEASE NOTE: The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
In the Ravens’ convincing 34-17 victory over Rex Ryan and the New York Jets, the obvious story of the game was the defense playing out of its mind.
Everything I can say about that performance was written in my Late for Work blog today. So take a read , and let’s move on to some of the other key takeaways.
After 16 years, Ray Lewis can still deliver a hit hard enough to scare the bejeezus out of opponents – just ask Dustin Keller. You can ask Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene too. It wouldn’t be surprising if any of the three Jets woke up in a cold sweat last night after re-living Lewis’ nightmare smackdowns. One of the most memorable plays of all 2010 was when Lewis decleated Keller in the season-opener, separating the tight end from a Sanchez pass. Lewis nearly had a repeat hit, but that memory of getting blasted must have flashed through Keller’s mind as he dropped the pass and ducked before Lewis could really lay into him.
Even Joe Flacco admitted “it wasn’t pretty.” Thirty-five minutes. That was the stretch of game action in which Flacco didn’t complete a pass – that includes the entire second and third quarters. He started out strong, completing eight passes for 142 yards in the first quarter. But he went cold after that, only gaining 21 more yards the rest of the game. He finished 10-of-31 for 163 yards, a fumble and a pick returned for a touchdown. His timing with Torrey Smith was off and Ed Dickson dropped a few balls. (That said, the Jets and Darelle Revis showed respect for Smith as they were concerned he’d catch a long one. Dickson said he didn’t expect Revis to play off so much to protect the deep ball.)
If the starting quarterback is ever going to go cold, it should be on a night that the defense can carry him through it. And it’s because of Baltimore’s security squad that Flacco wasn’t the worst quarterback of the night. He gladly gave that honor to Sanchez, who looked visibly rattled from the beginning thanks to Ed Reed’s sack and forced fumble returned for a touchdown. You have to give Sanchez credit, though, for getting up after every blow. He hardly stood a chance behind a banged up offensive line. Sanchez went 11-of-35 for 119 yards, two fumbles and an interception, all returned for touchdowns.
Marshal Yanda, Haloti Ngata and the Philadelphia Eagles serve as reminders of why you build from the inside out, not the outside in. Philadelphia got its “Dream Team” nickname after the acquisitions of big-name talent like cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromaritie. There were no such declarations after the Ravens re-signed some of the most important pieces on their offensive and defensive lines with Yanda and Ngata, respectively. But as NBC analyst and former Colts head coach Tony Dungy opined following the Eagles’ second-half debacle Sunday, Philadelphia (1-3) incorrectly built from the outside in. He said the Eagles can’t control the line of scrimmage, which ultimately hurts their talented skilled positions.
Contrast that to the Ravens (3-1), who can attribute much of their success to winning the battle in the trenches. As I said, Flacco was the slightly better quarterback Sunday night, and that was, in large part, because he had better protection. Then, when Baltimore’s passing game stalled, the offense pounded the ball 11 straight times behind guards Yanda and Andre Gurode, who cleared paths for running back Ray Rice and Ricky Williams. On the other side of the ball, rookie center Colin Baxter was benched to gain composure and later returned. But Baxter didn’t stand a chance against Ngata and Terrence Cody. The two beefy defensive linemen chipped away up the middle, while Terrell Suggs and Co. pounded the outside. The defensive line play helped out a banged-up secondary…
You had to walk away impressed with the shorted-handed secondary and former practice-squad cornerback Danny Gorrer. Like I said, a nasty pass rush was obviously helpful. But Cary Williams, Lardarius Webb and second-year Gorrer – who was promoted from the practice squad less than two weeks ago – exceeded fan expectations. They held Derrick Mason, Plaxico Burress and “Ravens killer” Santonio Holmes to a combined eight catches for 103 yards and no touchdowns. If we were told that would be the matchup a couple of weeks ago, most wouldn’t have predicted such a solid performance and maybe some would have even asked, “Gorrer who?”
Not only did Gorrer hold his own, but C. Williams played physical and Webb came up with a 73-yard pick-six that blew the game open. And of course, the presence of the game-changing Reed makes any secondary dangerous. With a concussion to Tom Zbikowski, the unit took another hit. The bye should be a big help in getting Zibby, Huruki Nakamura, Chris Carr and Jimmy Smith back on the field.
Quick-Hit Takeaways.LaQuan Williams only caught one pass, but it was an impressive physical one that went for 11 yards on a third-and-3. If he continues to make plays like that, he could gradually earn more playing time. … The Jets linebackers had a hard time with the Ravens’ young tight ends. Flacco clearly recognized that as he targeted Dickson a team-high 12 times (Rice was No. 2 with five targets). If it weren’t for a few dropped passes, the offense could have had a better night. …. Overshadowed by three turnovers returned for touchdowns, Paul Kruger had himself a nice little game. He recovered a Sanchez fumble that led to a Billy Cundiff field goal and disrupted a third-down pass, forcing a Jets punt. … Derrick Mason showed he can still get chippy, getting into it with Kruger and C. Williams. … Seeing Rice line up in the slot was fun and productive – his 52-yard catch-and-run was the longest play from scrimmage.