It was rather fitting that it was Ray Lewis day at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. Lewis was inducted into the Ravens “Ring of Honor” at halftime of the Ravens game against the Houston Texans. It was also the return of safety Ed Reed back to Baltimore after his departure this past off-season. Which was also equally as fitting. It must have been something about having Ray Lewis and Ed Reed back in Baltimore in front of the Ravens faithful, because despite neither of them suiting up in uniform for the Ravens, Baltimore’s defense played like they had the 2006 version of both of those players on their way to a 30-9 victory.
For the second straight week, the Ravens defense did not yield a touchdown and the offense did just enough to win the game. While the personnel are vastly different, the last two games have looked at lot like the early 2000’s Raven teams that were just about defense and anything you got from the offense was a bonus. And while the offense certainly has more firepower, a better quarterback and a better coordinator – the running game has been awful, the wide receivers and tight ends can’t catch a cold and the offensive line couldn’t block traffic with a jack-knifed tractor-trailer. Joe Flacco is the only thing keeping the offense afloat.
Despite 2.6 yards per carry, which is 31st in the NFL, just a 60.5 completion percentage and being sacked eight times if the first three games, Flacco has managed to keep his cool and make enough plays to help his team win. And while I will certainly leave the Kyle Boller references out of this discussion, the two wins so far this year have resembled those Ravens teams that dominated on defense for a decade. Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens made a commitment to improve the defense this off-season – and forgetting the week one beating at the hands of the Broncos – the last eight quarters have been nearly flawless, holding the Browns and Texans to a total of five field goals.
Offensively, the Ravens have to get better, in particular in the run game. Head coach John Harbaugh wasn’t bashful about the run game not being effective, “Our run game is not where it needs to be. We’re gonna go to work on that,” said Harbaugh. And after five consecutive trips to the playoffs, Harbaugh knows the key to getting back there for a sixth year in a row. “Philosophically, we’re gonna stick with it. We’re gonna be able to run the ball here. It’s just part of our DNA,” Harbaugh said.
The Ravens have come out of their first three games where a lot of pundits thought they would be, with a 2-1 record. They turn their focus to the Buffalo Bills in week four. Let’s just hope the next celebration the Ravens have doesn’t include someone who goes by the name “Sweet Pea.”