The Baltimore Ravens v. the team formerly known as the Baltimore Colts. Just the mention of the game in years past was enough to raise the collective blood pressure of Baltimore area fans. Mix in the Colts 8 game winning streak against the Ravens and you might expect a pretty tense atmosphere at M&T Bank Stadium.
Not yesterday, not the entire week leading into the game. No one was worried and with good reason.
The 2011 Colts stink!
It is mind boggling how much a difference one player makes to a franchise but let’s be honest here, the Colts are a team in decline even with Peyton Manning behind center.
This game wasn’t as close as the score and the Ravens for most of the second half were in cruise control. It seemed a bit like the varsity taking it easy on the JV team.
THE GOOD: Ray Rice was elusive and decisive. He showed great vision on his 6 yard TD scamper in the second quarter and he was patient and explosive when needed when executing screen passes and while positioning himself for Flacco checkdowns…Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith continue their purposeful downfield blocking…Except for a couple of breakdowns during which he predetermined where he was going with the ball despite coverage (see: the interception by Joe Legefed and the dropped potential pick 6 by Antoine Bethea) Joe Flacco had a solid day that could have been even better if not for some effective (albeit illegal) arm barring on Torrey Smith. Flacco used cadence to his advantage. Let’s hope that is a sign of things to come. Flacco was also effective extending plays and ad libbing…Lee Evans sideline grab was a thing of beauty.
Cory Redding is playing near Pro Bowl level. Let’s not forget that Redding was once the Lions’ franchise player. He has been miscast for years and is now finding his place with the Ravens. His day included 3 tackles for a loss, a sack and a QB hurry…Jameel McClain had arguably his best overall game as a Raven leading the team with 8 tackles, 1 for a loss and he was much better when dropping into coverage…Bernard Pollard had his first interception as a Raven but perhaps even more impressive than snaring a Dan Orlovsky overthrow was his coverage throughout the game. Granted Orlovsky won’t be confused with Philip Rivers but Pollard’s 3 passes defended cannot be overlooked…Terrence Cody was stout at the point of attack…Sam Koch tilted the field in the Ravens favor averaging a net of 45.7 yards on his 3 punts…The Ravens were on pace to set a franchise record for fewest yards allowed with 91 surrendered with 2:18 remaining until the Colts’ final drive of 76 yards…Lardarius Webb and the punt return team seem to be developing a little rhythm now. That couldn’t come at a better time.
THE BAD: The coach’s decision to keep Ray Rice in the game at the end only to be pounded into the line and burn clock against a soon-to-be 0-13 team made no sense. Ricky Williams should have been the workhorse there and Anthony Allen should have been active for the very same reason…Flacco and Cam Cameron need to do some clean up in short yardage situations. The Ravens didn’t have a checkout answer when a fourth and 1 play at the Colts 42 with 9:58 left in the game was doomed from the start. The Colts had 11 attacking the LOS and Ray Rice yet Flacco still went with the play.
THE UGLY: The Ravens entered the game yielding 31 yards on average on kick returns. The Colts entered the contest averaging just 17.9 yards per return. Against Jerry Rosburg’s kick coverage unit the Colts averaged 30 yards per return. That’s just unacceptable. Playoff games are often determined by turnovers and big plays in the return game. It’s time Rosburg cleans this up and gets the right personnel on the field.
THE MEGAN FOX AWARD: Despite being hog-tied, handcuffed and the recipient of more hugs than Boo-Boo the Bear, Terrell Suggs managed to get 3 sacks and force 3 fumbles (all recovered by the Colts). He very easily could have had 5 if the man hugs weren’t so plentiful. Suggs also added a QB hurry and 2 other tackles for a loss. No other premier pass rusher holds down the edge on running plays the way Sizzle does. He should get serious consideration for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
MEGA(N)BYTES: By the time the Ravens tee off against the Chargers on Sunday Night Football in America, the Chargers could be eliminated from playoff contention. Their best hope for a post season appearance is if they can win the AFC West but if the Broncos beat the Patriots in Denver (New England is favored by 6) on Sunday afternoon and the Jets can go into Philly and take care of the Eagles (The Toe Monster is a 3 point dog), Rivers & Company’s fate may be sealed…Terrell Suggs now has 13 sacks on the season and that represents a career best. The Ravens all-time record is 15 thanks to Peter Boulware’s terrific 2001 season…Second round pick Torrey Smith caught his 6th TD of the season against the Colts and that marked Joe Flacco’s first career TD pass against Indy. On the season Smith has 37 catches for 693 yards, averaging 18.7 yards per catch. Smith is well on his way to the most productive rookie season in team history. Comparatively speaking the numbers from first round picks Travis Taylor (28 catches, 276 yards, 9.9 avg, 3 TD’s) and Mark Clayton (44 catches, 471 yards, 10.7 avg, 2 TD’s) pale in comparison.