The Ravens’ 19-3 win over the New York Jets marked a welcome return to Baltimore for a critical three-game stretch, but more importantly showed the emergence of a defense that had been maligned this year for not finishing games.
Sunday, finally, the defense never let up, and played a complete game, something they had not done in `second-half of game against Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Chicago last week, amongst others.
The numbers Sunday did not lie, and they were not good for Gang Green: two interceptions of Geno Smith, three sacks, the Jets went only 1-12 on third-downs.
The three points Baltimore gave up were the fewest points the team had allowed in a game since 2009.
“What can you say about our defense? It was a dominant performance,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
Granted this was against a turnover-machine quarterback in Smith who is still finding his way in the league, but this was the type of game that the Ravens had been craving all season long, but were unable to deliver.
In the Packers contest, the defense played well for the first half then took the second half off, and couldn’t get a single key stop or bat-down when the team needed to get Green Bay’s offense off the field when it mattered.
Against Pittsburgh in the two teams’ first meeting, at Heinz Field, Baltimore’s “D” also couldn’t get the Steelers off the field when it mattered, and the Steelers ran the clock out on them in a loss. In the Bears game, one bad second half series that resulted in a touchdown, and a pitiful overtime performance nearly overshadowed an otherwise strong showing.
Sunday, the team seemed to have a mean attitude that was reminiscent of the 2000 Ravens (of which WR Brandon Stokely amazingly was a member). That defense, as Stokely can attest, pushed other teams around and had a chip on their shoulders that no matter what the offense did, the D would win the game.
This defense constantly pressured Smith, and even when they didn’t get to him, Smith’s passes were often off the mark, or were dropped or tipped away by Baltimore’s DBs.
On one exemplary series in the fourth quarter, linebacker Daryl Smith broke up two Geno Smith passes in a row, and both in impressive fashion.
Cornerback Corey Graham picked off both passes in his best performance of the season, as a nice follow-up to safety James Ihedigbo’s two picks of Bengals QB Andy Dalton in Baltimore’s previous home game.
The re-emergence of the defense could be very important if they can keep this up. Of course Smith is not in the same galaxy as a passing superstar such as Lions QB Matthew Stafford, New England’s Tom Brady, or next week’s opposing quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers. Yet, it is still a very good sign.
Offensively, the Ravens were once again like an engine chugging along but not getting a lot of traction. One positive was that Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell worked Tyrod Taylor into a number of Wildcat-like sets to get him involved in the offense.
Harbaugh also seemed to have thought differently in some of his coaching decisions. When he had a fourth-and-two deep in New York territory in the first half, he thought about but did not go for it, instead kicking a field goal and taking points.
With just 37 seconds left in the first half, Harbaugh (who ended up gifting the Packers three points through a turnover and quick field goal in that game) chose to kneel it out and go into the half with a small lead. Good decision.
The win was important for the 6th (Wild Card) seed race as well with the Dolphins, as expected, losing to the Panthers in a close game and the Browns losing to the Steelers.
The end of the day somehow put Tennessee into the 6th Seed if the season ended on Sunday with the Steelers right behind them and the Ravens behind them.
However, a win by the Ravens on Thanksgiving makes them the 6th Seed front-runner regardless of what any other team might do.
That’s a nice turkey to look forward to on Thursday.
The Ravens are hoping they can have theirs with cranberry and stuffing.
The D might just make that possible.