“We’re still 6-2. We’re still 6-2.” That’s what a restless Ravens fan base told themselves all week leading up to this home game against a battered Oakland Raiders team, trying to look past doubts about a team that had not played as well as its record.
Those doubts were put to rest, at least for a week, as the Ravens steamrolled the visiting Raiders 55-20, setting the franchise record for points in a game and running their division-leading record to 7-2.
The weather was picture perfect. Joe Flacco was back to being the type of top-flight quarterback he’s often been when playing at home. And the defense returned to being type of run-stopping bullies fans in Baltimore have grown accustomed to. What more could a Ravens fan ask for?
A skeptic will point out that the Raiders hardly showed up. They were without their biggest threat on offense, running back Darren McFadden. Their quarterback, old Ravens-nemesis Carson Palmer, did his best impression of former Raven and one-time Raider quarterback Kyle Boller on fourth downs, tripping over his own linemen and allowing snaps to fly through his hands. Right guard Mike Brisiel spent the day collecting penalty flags. And Aaron Curry had trouble hearing the whistle at the end of plays before he laid hits on downed Ravens.
Regardless, when facing an inferior opponent you take advantage and pile up the points, and that’s’ what the Ravens accomplished. They will take the feel-good win and move forward as they prepare for a tough set of games ahead, staring with Pittsburgh next week and then again two weeks later—key match-ups that will dictate the divisional winner and any number of playoff scenarios as the season wraps up.
Joe Flacco put up huge numbers that included 341 passing yards with three TDs. His lone interception came on an out pattern where Jacoby Jones didn’t do him any favors coming back for a ball that was popped up in the air on the sideline.
Joe also ran in a TD on a sneak on the goal line. Most encouraging was his recognition of blitzes, standing tall in the pocket and finding one-on-one coverage when the safeties came at him. He connected on multiple passes between the hashes in these situations, passes that were not in his repertoire for his first three years in the league. He consistently put nice touch on deep balls and ran a nice two-minute drill at the end of the first half to counter an Oakland touchdown and keep the game out of hand.
Running Backs: C+
Lost in the big win will be the fact that Ray Rice only got 13 rushes and 18 touches while averaging less than three yards per carry. There seemed to be some confusion between Rice and fullback Vonta Leach and the interior line as Rice chose running lanes. He did a nice job with blitz pick-ups to allow Flacco to step into throws.
Bernard Pierce got a number of carries and played well, showing good balance and an ability to keep plays alive as he bounced off tackles. Anthony Allen got a late chance and, as he did in the preseason, showed poor hands, dropping a well-set-up screen pass.
Wide Receivers: A-
Anquan Boldin faced tight, aggressive coverage and showed he was simply better than any defender Oakland threw at him, making tough catches to move the chains and bullying his way to first downs.
After missing on two earlier TD opportunities while leaping for jump balls in the end zone, Torrey Smith got behind the defense for 47-yard touchdown reception, and then showed good concentration splitting the defense on a slant caught just over the goal line for his second TD.
Tandon Doss saw some late action, dropping a difficult bubble screen but making a tremendous leap to snag a hard-thrown ball out of the air for a first down. Jacoby Jones was also able to get past the Raiders secondary for a 47-yard reception of his own. He also showed some toughness, taking a hit to the ribs by Tyvon Branch but coming back in to pile up the statistics.
Tight Ends: A
After being missing from the game plan for a number of weeks, Ed Dickson came back as a big contributor this week with two catches for 59 yards. His speed was too much for linebacker Philip Wheeler, as he had a nice fingertip catch between hashes to set up the team’s first touchdown. He set up Flacco’s sneak for another touchdown after pinballing his way through the Raiders secondary over the middle.
Dennis Pitta made a number of sure catches over the middle. He had a team-leading five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. He bounced back quickly after getting rocked on a catch over the middle that drew a personal foul call.
Michael Oher came to play and showed it on the first play as he continued to block after the whistle. He was solid at left tackle, protecting Flacco all day. Bryant McKinnie saw late, mop-up duty in his place. There were some communication issues at the second level in sorting out blocks, and it stymied the running game early. Kelechi Osemele also played well aside for a holding call that pushed the Ravens back to their own endzone.
Interior Line: B-
Bobby Williams played poorly. Desmond Bryant, in for the injured Richard Seymour, was too quick for Williams, beating him to the inside to pressure the quarterback and collect run stuffs early. Williams then sat for Jah Reid, whose play at left guard was encouraging. Reid did get flagged for hands to the face after the Ravens had grabbed some momentum on a Paul Kruger interception, but otherwise he was steady and a big improvement over Williams. His best effort was a second-level block on a draw to spring Rice’s lone TD.
Matt Birk and Marshal Yanda both struggled at times with quick first steps by Raiders defensive linemen.
Cary Williams did not get another interception this week to go with the four previous takeaways this season, but did continue to improve, taking good angles and showing good recovery speed on balls in the air. He is no longer peeking into the backfield and is instead playing with good technique. The confidence is building for Williams.
Jimmy Smith sat with a sore groin that he was unable to loosen up. Corey Graham started in his place and was strong in coverage but had trouble tackling in the open field. Chykie Brown played well on the outside.
Bernard Pollard came to play. He made a number of nice tackles coming up from his safety spot and finished with a team-leading eleven tackles. He was beaten down the sideline on the opening drive early by David Ausberry, but still had good position on a well-thrown ball. He was lucky that tight end Brandon Meyers dropped a touchdown and he was flagged for offensive pass interference on a ball that he overplayed in the end zone.
Ed Reed’s injured shoulder showed up when he tried to bring down Darius Heyward-Bey over the middle but allowed the receiver to spin and run for a 55-yard touchdown. He also was in poor position, allowing Denarius Moore to release inside of Cary Williams and catch a ball down the middle for a touchdown. Substituting for Reed, James Ihedigbo tackled well but struggled in coverage, and dropped an interception on a slant pattern in front of him.
After struggling in previous weeks, Jameel McClain played much better, finding runners in the hole, and demonstrating lateral speed on balls to the outside. He and Dannell Ellerbe still struggle with depth on their coverage drops to allow completions in the soft spots of the zone behind them. Ellerbe did show speed to get some A-gap blitz pressure to force a holding call on Mike Brisiel.
Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw played well on the outside. Kruger was more active, if not productive, as a pass rusher, and was able to tip a pass to himself for an interception. Upshaw makes small improvements each week. Terrell Suggs looked more athletic than the previous week, although not back fully to his dominant self as a pass rusher. Still, he drew double teams, which Pollard effectively used in a couple of blitz pressures.
Defensive Line: B+
Haloti Ngata was active but did not play as he nurses a sore shoulder and knee. With Pernell McPhee also sidelined, in his place DeAngelo Tyson was respectable, including a couple of batted passes. The Ravens were able to tip six of Palmers’ throws at the line of scrimmage, which was nearly as effective as pressuring the quarteerback.
Terrence Cody was solid up the middle. Third string running back and converted fullback Marcel Reece managed just 48 yards on 13 carries.
Special Teams: A
Justin Tucker nailed field goals from 48 and 34 yards. His third would-be field goal was a fake that was perfectly executed when holder Sam Koch jumped up to take the snap and weave his way behind a block from left guard Gino Gradkowski for a touchdown. There was not much other action for Koch on a day when the Ravens were scoring on nearly every possession.
That scoring included another special teams touchdown when Jacoby Jones ran back a kick 104 yards, untouched behind a big block by Vonta Leach.
Tandon Doss got an opportunity to return a punt and showed very good elusiveness on a long return that was called back on a holding call (the referee blamed #22 Jimmy Smith, but Smith did not play – the flag was likely on #32 James Ihedigbo).
The call to spread the offense in the red zone and run a draw for Rice was impressive, and drew a notable “Wow!” from coach John Harbaugh on the sidelines.
Credit the offensive staff for pulling a struggling Bobby Williams in favor of the untested Jah Reid at left guard. It eliminated negative plays and allowed the offense to get in rhythm.
The decision to run a fake punt to pile on points when the Ravens already had the lead could be termed capricious. However, the Raiders were still yapping at that point in the game, even causing Anquan Boldin to point to the scoreboard on the end-zone incompletion just prior to the fake. John Harbaugh may or may not have been making a point to Oakland, but he’s consistently showed that he will take what teams give him. And the Ravens took a lot from Oakland in this thorough drubbing.