It was Hard Knocks indeed Monday night as the Ravens punched their way to a hard-earned victory over the New York Jets. The game featured two of the top three defenses from the 2009 season and, from that standpoint, the game did not disappoint. In a contest that S.I.’s Don Banks called “the most lopsided one-point game that I could ever recall,” the Ravens shut up the trash-talking Jets, putting their Super Bowl talk on hold – for a least a week or two.
Unfortunately for the Jets, this wasn’t Reality TV on HBO, this was Ravens domination. The Purple and Black led New York in first downs (20-6), total yards (282-176), total plays (75-44), yards passing (248-74) and time of possession (38:32 to 21:28). The only stat the Jets led the Ravens in was pass interference calls and penalty yards. This is Reality TV NFL-style, Mr. Ryan, and you were outcoached and out-disciplined.
Joe Flacco, aided by a Jets’ secondary that couldn’t keep their hands off Raven receiver’s shirts all evening, spread the ball around to Anquan Boldin and Todd Heap, both of whom had stellar games. It didn’t hurt that the Jets left Revis Island on one side of the field all night. The Ravens just threw to the other side and tortured Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson.
For me, the game turned on Mark Sanchez’s ability – or inability as it turned out – to beat the Ravens through the air. Everybody knew the Ravens had a banged up secondary, with inactives, Ed Reed on the PUP, and safeties playing out of position. John Harbaugh and his staff played this perfectly by shutting down the running game and daring the Jets to win on Sanchez’s arm. Based on what I saw this preseason, it wasn’t going to happen. And it didn’t.
Be honest, on that last series, did anyone who watch the entire game really think that Sanchez was going drive the Jets down into field goal range? I didn’t. It was a tale of two quarterbacks, and we had the better.
Now on to this week’s Studs and Duds…
Joe Flacco: His passer rating for the game stinks, but he kept his legendary cool and didn’t get rattled after his opening series fumble (did he get crushed or what?) or his interception. With the aid of the Jets secondary, Joe was able to convert on 9 of 14 third down plays and was 20 for 38 for 248 yards. He’s already developed a tight working relationship with Anquan Boldin.
Anquan Boldin made 7 catches for 110 yards, the most ever by a Raven in his first game. And he’s willing to fight for every ball, something that cannot be said about past Ravens receivers.
Chris Carr, Fabian Washington, Dawan Landry, Tom Zbilkowski. Why? For their pass defense…I didn’t hear their names taken in vain the entire game.
Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata: The cream always rises to the top in big games.
Penalties: Only 5 for 38 yards and no drive killers. Harbaugh had NFL referees at training camp calling everything real close and it seems to have worked. This positive trend has to continue against teams that won’t shoot themselves in the foot like the Jets.
Missed Opportunities: There were certainly missed opportunities such as Todd Heap dropping a TD pass in the first quarter, Joe Flacco badly overthrowing McClain in end zone (even though Willis McGahee scored on the next play), and Cory Redding dropping a pick that had TD written all over it But the biggest Dud has to go to….
Tom Zbilkowski: Tom is a dual award winner this week, first a Stud and now a Dud. Tom, never, ever, field a punt inside the 10 yard line. Or take a short cut through your own end zone to run out of trouble. You’re not playing Navy at South Bend, Dude.
Around the League – a Fan’s Football Tweets
· Bottom line, Ray Lewis is the bottom line at linebacker, bottom line. Just ask him.
· So’s his kid. Check out what Ray Lewis III did.
· After Sunday night, it could be a long year for Cowboys coach Wade Phillips. Or maybe it will be a short one. Wade goes on my endangered coaches list.
· After smacking down the Jets Monday night, maybe Giants fans can finally forgive the Ravens for Super Bowl XXXV.
· Bart Scott is still throwing things. Three years ago, as a Raven, it was a penalty flag into the stands during the Patriots game that drew a game-changing penalty. Monday it was a football thrown at Ray Rice. Some things never change.
· After the Ravens loss, Rex Ryan reaffirmed that “we (the Jets) think we can still win the Super Bowl,” which is significantly different from “We will” and “We’re like the Miami Heat.” Let’s see what he says after the Patriots visit New Meadowlands this Sunday and send them to 0-2.
· I still miss Jim Leonhard.
Fran’s NFL Theatre of the Absurd
This chapter of NFL Theatre of the Absurd highlights the news that the long, flowing, ever-curly hair that tumbles out of Pittsburgh Safety Troy Polamalu’s helmet is now insured. Yes, his flowing mane has been insured for $1 million dollars by Head and Shoulders, the shampoo endorsed on radio and TV by Polamalu. The insurance was obtained through Lloyd’s of London, who did not reveal the circumstances of what must be done to Polamalu’s hair for anyone to collect on the policy. Hmmm. I have a few ideas….
More than one fan told me that the Ravens would have lost Monday night to a better quarterback. Perhaps…But I know we’ll see one on Sunday in the person of Carson Palmer. Cincinnati swept the Ravens last year as Cedric Benson ran for over 100 yards in both games and the Bengals beat the Ravens at home on a particularly galling late game drive. They have one of the best cornerback tandems in the business and have a potent attack.
On the positive side, the Bengals have augmented their resident cast of Looney Tunes with the addition of serial team poison Terrell Owens and Adam “Pacman” Jones. It’s truly a zoo down there. Last week the Bengals were smacked around by the Patriots and, like our Jets game, the score did not reflect how dominant the Pats were.
The Bengals can’t afford to fall behind 0-2 in the division. They will try to duplicate their success of last year by running first to set up the pass. The run we can handle and, with the return of Ladarius Webb, I have faith in our underrated pass defense. Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense will have a much better day simply because the Bengals’ defense is not that of the Jets, and we now have a variety of weapons. We will run when we can, and pass when we must. We’ll take care of these Paper Tigers.
Ravens 24, Bengals 20.