By Daniel Benjamin
The Baltimore Ravens eked out a 27-26 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon. With the victory, the Ravens improved to 8-6 on the season and remained a game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the race for the AFC North division title. The Steelers outscored the Cincinnati Bengals 15-0 in the second half as they earned a 24-20 come-from-behind victory.
In a game where neither team led by more than a touchdown through the first three quarters, the Ravens went up 27-17 with a little more than 11 minutes left on a 16-yard touchdown run by rookie running back Kenneth Dixon. The Eagles got within 27-20 with 2:22 remaining on Caleb Sturgis’ fourth field goal of the game.
The Ravens weren’t able to muster anything after getting the ball back, and were forced to punt the ball without being able to take much time off the clock. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, aided by a couple of defensive penalties, promptly led the Eagles on a nine-play, 59-yard drive that culminated with Wentz scampering into the end zone from four yards out. Instead of settling for overtime, Philadelphia decided to go for the win and a two-point conversion. But Ravens’ linebacker C.J. Mosley tipped Wentz’s pass at the line of scrimmage and cornerback Jerraud Powers knocked the ball away before it got to wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
The Ravens rushed for a season-high 151 yards on the ground as running back Terrance West turned in his best game of the season totaling 123 yards from scrimmage, which included 77 yards on 13 carries. He got 41 of those yards on the opening play of the second half. Dixon totaled 36 yards on nine carries and wide receiver Mike Campanaro added 39 yards on an end-around play that helped set up Justin Tucker’s first field goal.
Quarterback Joe Flacco had his worst game of the season, completing a season-low 53.3 percent of his passes (16-of-30) for 206 yards — a personal low in 2016.
Flacco also turned the ball over twice. His first turnover was a fumble, on a sack, at the Ravens’ 13 and it set up an easy second quarter touchdown for the Eagles. Flacco then made a horrible pass that was picked off in the fourth quarter which the Eagles converted into a field goal.
However, Flacco did a fantastic job in a two-minute drill at the end of the first half. He capped off an eight play, 65-yard drive with a fantastic throw to Steve Smith Sr. on a fade route down the boundary. Flacco used a pump fake to open a window and then laid a perfect ball to Smith with two defenders in the area. The veteran also did a nice job when the Eagles blitzed, completing 6-of-8 passes and averaging 16.8 yards per attempt.
The Ravens defense did an excellent job in the first half as they limited the Eagles to 96 total yards. Linebacker Zach Orr intercepted Wentz’s first pass of the game. The interception was the Ravens’ 16th of the season and it led to the team’s first touchdown of the game.
The second half was a different story, as the Eagles managed at least 41 yards of offense on all four of their drives. On their second fourth down play of the half, safety Eric Weddle snuffed out an end around by wide receiver Nelson Agholor to force a turnover on downs.
Baltimore held Wentz to a season-low in completion percentage, passing yards and yards per attempt. They did this without Jimmy Smith, their top corner. The Ravens also only permitted the Eagles to reach the end zone twice in their five red zone trips.
On the negative side, the Eagles rolled up 169 yards on the ground against the NFL’s top-ranked defense.
Mosley led the team with 13 tackles while Weddle had nine. Terrell Suggs contributed six tackles with three tackles of those being for losses.
Special Teams: B+
Tucker was great as usual. He was 2-for-2 on his field goal attempts, which included booting a 53-yarder in the rain and howling winds. Four of his six kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.
Sam Koch averaged 49.6 yards per punt and had one kick go 60 yards. Yet, he also had one touchback and the Eagles returned one punt for 22 yards.
Kick returner Chris Moore had four returns for 98 yards with a long of 34. He also fumbled a return, though it was recovered by safety Marqueston Huff.
The Ravens attempted to run the ball and they did a nice job in pass defense. The biggest mistake, which coach John Harbaugh admitted, was throwing the ball in the red zone as the Ravens were driving late in the game.
“All time worst call ever. It’s my fault. I should’ve vetoed it,” said Harbaugh after the game.
The play in question occurred with the Ravens having a first and 10 on the Eagles’ 11. Flacco threw a bad pass that was picked off by linebacker Jordan Hicks and returned 36 yards.
The Ravens have a season make-or-break game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Christmas Day. A Ravens win would give them the lead in the AFC North, while a loss will likely end any hopes of making the playoffs.