This was one of the most exciting games that you will see in September. Sunday Night Football rematch of the AFC Championship Game that ended with a last second field goal to win. This was a back and forth battle that ended up going until the final drive. Exciting it was, but it wasn’t always pretty. The replacement refs again made the headlines in a penalty filled affair with several questionable calls. The last few minutes were filled with controversy, with calls going both ways. Lardarius Webb was flagged for illegal contact after a crucial interception. I could see that call going either way, honestly, but considering some of the other questionable calls, that drew some pretty harsh criticism. Right after that, Harbaugh was flagged on the sidelines after bumping the official trying to call a timeout. It looked all but over at that point, but the Ravens were able to hold strong to force a punt. They then went down field quickly with just under 2 minutes left and only one timeout. Approaching field goal range, a deep ball was thrown to Jacoby Jones around the 7 yard line where yet another flag was thrown. This was one for pass interference, which seemed pretty obvious if you ask me. Justin Tucker made it interesting after that, barely sneaking the ball through the right upright.
This one had plenty of motivation for the Ravens. They were looking to extend their NFL best home winning streak going back all the way to 2010. They also were looking to continue their dominance after a loss. John Harbaugh was celebrating a birthday. Cincy won earlier and Pittsburgh lost, so to stay tied atop the AFC North they needed the victory. They were obviously looking for revenge over New England after the devastating playoff loss last year. Most inspirational was the fact that top WR Torrey Smith’s younger brother had died not even 24 hours before the game. Smith played an exceptional game, with well over 100 yards and 2 huge scores to lead Baltimore to victory.
The offense was pretty impressive. They stayed with the Pats throughout the contest, dueling with one of the best offenses in the league. Flacco played very well, but not without mistake. On the first offensive drive for the Ravens, Joe threw an awful pass that led to an interception that was returned inside the ten yard line. He picked it up from there, throwing for nearly 400 yards and three scores. However, he did nearly throw a few more interceptions. One throw was in the defenders hands until Torrey Smith played defense and forced it out. Another was in McCourtey’s hands before losing it coming down to the ground. Joe did get lucky on a few occasions, but overall played an outstanding game.
Ray Rice also ran the ball very well. The new offense is keeping the front seven from being stacked, leaving more holes for Rice and running game. He is finding these holes with ease and exploiting them for big yards. He may not be the focal point of the offense any more, but he is playing better than ever. Torrey Smith has to be the player of the game in this one. He played with a heavy heart and probably had one of the greatest games of his young career. If he doesn’t play in this game, the Ravens very likely don’t win.
The defense struggled for much of the game. The pass rush was non existent for much of the game, despite Paul Kruger getting back in the lineup. Tom Brady had all day to throw for almost the entire game. They came up big for a few stops, but giving up 30 points is unacceptable, even if it is against the Patriots. The big reason for the scoring brigade was some spotty cornerback play. Cary Williams was exploited over and over again. By my count, Lardarius Webb had only one pass completed against him, and Jimmy Smith had a few as well. It seemed as if every other pass was going against Williams coverage. Williams doesn’t have the speed to keep up with quicker wideouts, and struggles to keep his coverage for more than a few seconds. This is extremely concerning, and I would look for Jimmy Smith to fight for a starting spot sooner than later.
Overall the performance was great. This was a huge win that ultimately could have some playoff implications at the end of the season. The Ravens will continue to have a hard schedule, so every win, especially against elite teams will be important. They now will hold the tie breaker over what most believe to be the AFC East favorites. They have a short week now to face off with the Browns in Baltimore this week.