Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Playoff wins are so yummers!

Okay, how 'bout a little Ravens today? I was only able to watch the first and fourth quarter of the game Sunday, but really that was about twice as much time as it took to settle this thing.

About a month ago, I assessed the Ravens' chances of making the playoffs at 25% and their chance to advance at 10%, so kudos to them for coming up real big. Part of my assessment was to recommend that they run more on offense and blitz more ondefense, taking their chances with a weak and injury-addled secondary. Not that this is so original, but they seemed to take those tactics to an extreme on Sunday against the Patriots.

Now, it helps when you score 24 points to your opponent's zero in the first quarter, but even if you look at the playcalling in that period, the ground game predominated. After Ray Rice's astonishing 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, Baltimore ran six straight times before Joe Flacco threw incomplete twice. They scored on the next drive combining four rushes with two pass plays and ended the quarter with two more runs and an incomplete pass. So at the end of the first, the Ravens had rushed 13 times for 112 yards and Flacco was 1-4 for 13 yards to McGahee and had avoided a sack for a one yard rush. That 3-1 run to pass ratio had ballooned to 5-1 by the end of the game, a number I don't think I've ever seen from a team not running the triple option.

On the defensive side, the Ravens beat one of the top QBs in the league for only the second time this season. And, sure, it helped that Tom Brady was hobbling around and didn't have Wes Welker to throw to, but Baltimore's pass rush forced three turnovers in the first quarter on some very unBrady type plays: Terrell Suggs forced a fumble from the blind side on a rush we've seen Brady step up to avoid countless times; then facing a blitz from Jarret Johnson, instead of thowing the ball harmlessly to the sideline, Brady fired it over the middle right to Chris Carr; the third pick came on a nice play by Dominique Foxworth to tip the ball away from a Patriot receiver to Ed Reed. But, that's just unlucky, not unBrady, right? Umm, no. Unlucky and unBrady are actually listed as synonyms in the NFL Style Book.

So, moving ahead, how do the Ravens stack up against Indy Saturday night? Going back to their meeting earlier this season, a 17-15 Colts' win in Baltimore, the Ravens did not sack Peyton Manning but did force two interceptions, and gave up just under 300 yards passing (okay, 299, but still). Playing without Suggs, the defense certainly did its job, and I would be happy with a similar effort Saturday night. On offense, the Ravens must run the ball as well as they have been recently and get into the end zone. Any game where you attempt six field goals is going to be tough to win. Still, it's hard to see them getting stoned on three attempts from the one yard line again.

So, in summary, never count the Ravens out even when the odds seem stacked against them, win streaks don't mean anything, and Ray Rice, Ray Rice, Ray Rice.

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