I have to admit, I didn’t see that Ravens win in New Orleans coming. Not that I believe the Saints were some fantastic team, I just didn’t think they were bad enough to lose three straight at home after winning eleven in a row at the Superdome. Well, thank God I was wrong.
After watching 34 hours of film Sunday morning with Ron Jaworski, I figured the Ravens had to do three things to beat the Saints, run the ball, keep tons of pressure on Drew Brees and run the ball some more. And to their credit, Baltimore did both very well. The Ravens gashed the New Orleans run defense for 215 yards on the ground at around seven yards a clip. It was like the Saints defenders were allergic to Ravens running back Justin Forsett. The Ravens ran it 30 times and threw it 24. When Baltimore rushes 30 times or more they are now 7-0. If I were offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak my gameplan would be one sentence….Run the ball 30 times.
As for pressuring Brees, Baltimore dialed up the heat as the Ravens sacked Brees four times. They also hurried, hit and harassed the Saints QB countless times, especially in the second half. I think Terrell Suggs hit Bress once when he was on the sideline chugging Gatorade. And guess what happened in the second half? The Ravens secondary got a whole lot better. Funny, Brees had tough time tearing up the Ravens defensive backs in the second half because he was busy dodging linebackers Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Pass rush pressure led Brees to make a bad, late throw to Jimmy Graham that Baltimore safety Will Hill picked off and took for a touchdown. I gotta admit, Brees hit Hill in stride!
Kubiak said during the bye week he was going to help quarterback Joe Flacco. Kubiak simplified things for Flacco and just had him drop back and let it go. No complicated reads or decisions, just grip and rip. It worked too, Joe was 18-24 for 243 yards and a touchdown. It’s funny, when you just make things clear and easy for Joe, he plays better. It’s seems every offensive coordinator wants to give Flacco more responsibility and then realizes that less is more. Obviously you can win a Lombardi with Flacco, but Joe isn’t a throw it 40 times a game guy or stand around the line of scrimmage screaming “Omaha” for four quarters but if you keep the offense simple and balanced Flacco can make plays for you.
So now the Ravens are sitting at 7-4 and are currently tied with Pittsburgh and Cleveland for second in the AFC North. They are also occupying the 7th spot in the AFC Play-Off race… which stinks because only six teams get into the post-season from the AFC. What hurts Baltimore in the Wild Card chase is that their conference record is 3-4. The two teams in front of them, the Chiefs and the Chargers, are 5-3 in the conference. The good news is that the Ravens have all five of their remaining games with the AFC, so they can make up ground. And Baltimore gets to play the Chargers this Sunday at home. And of course the Ravens are in the thick of the AFC North division battle. A division is wrapped tighter than a DNA contestant on Maury Povich.
It’s going to be a fun last five weeks!
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