RAVENS OFFENSE UNVEILS NEW ANIMAL
The Ravens offense was more effective than many experts expected against the vaunted New York Jets defense (312 net yards, just above their season average of 308.5), and one factor was the use of backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor at quarterback in a sort of “Wildcat” look.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley notes that despite average final statistics for Tyrod Taylor, (7 yards on 4 carries, and one incompletion passing) the Wildcat was very effective early on. The final numbers were weighed down from Taylor’s final two carries going for significant losses when the Jets had begun to key in on the formation more.
Coach John Harbaugh talked about getting Taylor into the game, and called him a “special athlete.” Harbaugh also was sure to make it clear that Taylor is a quarterback, despite his impressive skill set.
“He’s a special athlete. He happens to play quarterback. He’s a quarterback- I want to emphasize that. But he’s also got other skills that he can help us with.”
Flacco on the other hand, was a little less than excited about his temporary position as a wide receiver. When asked about lining up as a receiver, Flacco said, “I don’t want to be lining up at Z and X. I want to line up behind center.”
Regardless, it was nice to see some creativity in a normally vanilla offense, and it kept the Jets on their toes.
JACOBY JONES GETS REDEMPTION ON ED REED
Heading into the final minutes of the third quarter on Sunday, Jets free safety Ed Reed had to be feeling good about how he was playing against his former team. He had made a critical (and completely legal) hit with two minutes left in the first quarter on receiver Jacoby Jones in the end zone to force the Ravens to settle for a field goal.
Unfortunately for Reed, when Flacco fired a deep pass to Jones late in the third quarter, he was unable to get to the ball, and was then outrun to the end zone by Jones in what was essentially a knockout blow to the Jets. It was the type of pass that Reed probably intercepted two or three years ago. At the very least, the old Ed would have been able to tackle Jones short of the end zone.
Ravens writer John Eisenberg notes that when the Ravens were opting not to resign their core players, (like Reed) and cutting many of their high-priced veterans in the off-season, they chose not to touch Jones, hoping that he could continue to provide the spark he gave the tem last year. Jones was injured in the season opener, but finally showed how important he can be to the struggling offense.
On Sunday, Jones made the decision look brilliant. Unfortunately for Reed, who still has not been part of a team during a win this season, he made the decision not to pay him look smart as well.
LEWIS V FLACCO
For half of a decade in Baltimore, Ray Lewis was one of Joe Flacco’s most loyal supporters, always expressing complete confidence in his quarterback. He even famously “handed him the reigns” to lead the team back in the postseason last year during the improbable playoff run that led to Flacco winning Super Bowl MVP.
After the Super Bowl last year Lewis retired into the sunset, and took on a job as an analyst for ESPN. In the limited time Lewis has been there, he has attacked the Ravens twice, first questioning their leadership earlier this year after they lost key veterans in free agency, and now criticizing Flacco.
Before the Ravens beat the Jets on Sunday, Lewis said “They [the Ravens] gave him $100 million – they want to make Joe Flacco a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. He’s not that type of guy. He’s a system type of guy that you have to have the balance…then Joe Flacco excels.”
Flacco may not have “lived up to” his $120.6 million dollar contract this season, throwing for 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, but the Ravens never expected Flacco to suddenly become one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Flacco has never been a stats guy, but instead a guy who wins and is always in the playoffs.
Flacco went on to beat the Jets 19-3, and put the Ravens into a 6-way tie for the AFC’s final wild-card. If he can lead them to the playoffs again this season, the griping about his salary should taper off significantly.
RAVENS GETTING HEALTHY FOR PLAYOFF PUSH
The exciting news in Baltimore last week was that tight end Dennis Pitta was returning to practice and hoped to be on the field in the next few weeks. After the Ravens beat the Jets 19-3 on Sunday, the team appears to be getting healthy down the stretch overall.
After missing last week’s game, Haloti Ngata returned and did not suffer any setbacks (fortunately he was needed on just 26 snaps), and stopping Chris Ivory of the Jets for no gain on a third-and short. His presence was huge for the Ravens.
Chris Canty left the game during a defensive series after being in obvious pain, and went to the locker room briefly before returning to action. His injury was not discussed however, as Canty explained, “We don’t talk about injuries here; the only thing that’s important is I went back in the game. I felt fine.”
The Ravens know well after last season when they got Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis back late in the season from injuries, the healthiest teams do the most damage in the postseason. If Pitta, Ngata, and Canty can stay healthy, the Ravens have a real shot to capture the sixth seed in the AFC.