Hollywood Couldn’t Write This Script
In what could be argued as being the most pulsating, heart-stopping game in M&T Bank Stadium history, the Baltimore Ravens snatched victory – by the smallest of margins and by the merest of inches of a goal post upright – from the jaws of defeat as they finally bested their long-time regular season nemesis, the New England Patriots.
At first I wasn’t sure the game would even be competitive. When word broke late Sunday morning that Torrey Smith had lost his brother the night before, and that his participation in the night game was in doubt, my first thought after some silent prayers for Torrey and his family, was that the Ravens would never win the Patriots game without Smith.
As it turns out, that’s probably correct. There’s no way the Ravens win without Torrey.
Then when the Patriots went up by 13 at the end of the 1st quarter, with Tom Brady moving the Patriots at will and Joe Flacco going 3 and out on successive possessions along with one interception, and not moving anything, another thought went through my mind – ROUT!
But Joe Flacco eventually got his groove on…
Torrey Smith gave an inspirational performance in the face of personal tragedy, and an overmatched defense made crucial stops when they had to. You have to add the continuing saga of retched officiating, the loudest Manure Chant in the history of the NFL, and an appearance by the streaking Baltimore Batman as part of the unbelievable landscape this game evolved into.
It was a character win accented by the emotion of the moment. And I don’t think this will be the last time we’ll see the Patriots this year.
Some Quick Hits:
By His Bootstraps: It should be evident to all that Joe Flacco can now put this team on his back and carry it when he has to. He outplayed and outgunned Tom Brady by putting up some pretty Brady-esque numbers. Is he elite? Who knows? Who cares? He wins.
Revenge did not Carry the Day: All the pregame talk about this Patriots/Ravens matchup being a revenge game is hogwash, unless you’re a member of the Baltimore Sun’s sports staff. The players and most of the fans had already put the January game in the rear view mirror. It was all about who was going to be 2-1 or 1-2.
But Emotion Sure Helped: Who cannot feel for Ravens wideout Torrey Smith? Torrey comes from an extremely close family and the loss of his brother had to be devastating. His presence and play served as an inspiration to the entire team.
The Ravens Offensive Line is Exceeding Expectations: The Ravens are on to something with the play of Ramon Harewood and Kelechi Osemele. They kept Vince Wilfork and company off Joe Flacco and helped Ray Rice gain 100+ rushing yards, and the line is considerably younger (big plus). The only downside is that they are paying over $4 million to two veterans who are now riding the bench.
You Can Officially Start Worrying About the Defense: The defense is giving up yards in gobs (400+ yards per game) and the Pretty Boy had his way with the Ravens D most of the night. There’s no pass rush unless it’s manufactured by and augmented with blitzes, and that merely exposes the weaker parts of our defense to a gunslinger like Brady. Such as…..
Lost in Space: Cary Williams arguably had his worst game as a Raven. It became obvious early on that the Patriots were targeting him and he quickly became Tom Brady’s personal dartboard. I know it was Brady, and I know it was Ravens’ resident pest Wes Welker, but, Cary, do ya think you might turn around once in a while and see where the ball is?
Missing in Action: I think I saw Ray Lewis make one solo tackle all night. For the first time in a long time, he was a total non-factor in the game.
A Slap on the Wrist: At this writing, no penalty has been levied against Bill Belichick for grabbing an official’s arm as he ran off the field after Justin Tucker’s game winning field goal. If it was a player, a suspension would surely follow. Given the Patriots’ influence in the NFL offices, I’m betting all he’ll get is a fine.
Short Week: The NFL did the Ravens no favors this week with a quick 93-hour turnaround for the next game. Thursday night games are bad enough, but did they have to schedule the Ravens on a Thursday after playing the last game on the previous Sunday?
As luck would have it, the Ravens are scheduled to play the latest reincarnation (and they seem to be never ending) of the team that calls the Factory of Sadness its home. The Ravens are early 12-point favorites, but after Sunday night’s emotional high, I’m expecting a bit of a letdown.
Ravens to win, Browns to keep it close.
Ravens 20 Browns 9
Note: All stats courtesy of NFL.com and the Baltimoresun.com. Videos courtesy of Deadspin.com