Wow, what a game in Cleveland yesterday. From leading 10-0, to trailing 27-13, to ultimately scoring the game’s final 24 points to seal up a 37-27 victory, the Ravens yesterday looked nothing like the purple and black teams we have become accustomed to seeing lately. Seriously…admit it. Once the Browns scored the touchdown to go up 27-13 with 4:57 remaining in the 3rd quarter, you gave up, right? Nobody would blame you – we know we gave up. That was the kind of game that the Ravens we are used to seeing would have lost, 30-16. But not John Harbaugh’s Ravens. And certainly not Cam Cameron and Joe Flacco’s Ravens. B’More ripped off 24 consecutive points, 17 from the offense and another 7 from the suddenly touchdown-happy Terrell Suggs, in racking up their most points in nearly 3 full years (they scored 48 on 12/19/05).
So many game balls to hand out after that one. We’ll start with the rookie RB out of Rutgers, Mr. Ray Rice. Reports before the game were that Willis McGahee was going to play, but once he didn’t come out on the first few series, then the cameras showed him on the sideline with his coat on, the sentiment of “I don’t know if Rice can handle the whole workload today,” came over us. Whoops. Full apologies are in order for Rice, and we promise never to doubt him again. Rice piled up 154 yards on 21 attempts, including a 60-yard scamper to the Cleveland 2-yard line that set up the go ahead field goal that gave the Ravens a lead they would not relinquish. Rice also caught 3 balls for another 22 yards, and he very easily could have had 2 touchdowns on the day, although he ultimately failed to reach the end zone at all.
Big ups also go to our rookie QB out of Delaware, Mr. Joe Flacco. Joe was 17/29 on the day for 248 yards and 2 touchdowns, and did not turn the ball over for the 3rd consecutive game. His 47 yard hookup with Mark Clayton for the score was a thing of beauty, but it was far from his only impressive throw on the day. Flacco was fitting the ball in tight windows all over the field, none more impressive than his 20-yard completion to Derrick Mason on 3rd-and-16 from the B’More 15 late in the 3rd-quarter that allowed the Ravens comeback to start. A 3-and-out in that situation would have meant giving the ball back to the Browns with great field position and a 14-point lead. Instead, that play paved the way for Le’Ron McClain to bring the Ravens within 7 as the 3rd quarter ticked away. Joe Flacco continues to impress, and aside for 1 or 2 throws yesterday, was pretty much perfect. He didn’t get rattled when trailing by 14 in the 2nd half, and put together a great comeback win.
And how about those Ravens wide receivers? This much maligned group busted out in a big way yesterday as Mason continued his strong season with 9 catches for 136 yards and a score, and as we mentioned earlier, there was actually a Mark Clayton sighting! Clayton had 4 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown, his first since the Christmas Eve game in Pittsburgh in 06 (we’re sure you remember that one as fondly as we do). It would still be nice to see Todd Heap do SOMETHING besides forget the snap count…but if the wideouts can actually get open like they did yesterday, his continued non-performance of 2008 will not be as much of a detriment to this team as it could have been in years past.
Next up, that Ravens defense. We certainly have the Browns’ offensive coaches inexplicable insistence on trying to run the ball for our win, but credit still needs to go to the Ravens, whose front seven allowed Jamal Lewis no room all day, holding him to 49 yards on 19 carries, with a long of 7 yards. When the other teams’ longest run of the day is 7 yards, you are putting yourself in a pretty good position to win. The B’More D was also able to force FOUR CONSECUTIVE 3-and-outs after the Ravens pulled within 7, which is amazing in its own right. Still though, a smarter coordinator (paired with a more accurate QB and some sticky-fingered receivers – thank you, Braylon Edwards) would likely have been able to seal that win for the bad guys. So while we have to thank Rob Chudzinski and Romeo Crennel, Fabian Washington and Frank Walker did a decently respectable job in holding things together on the back end.
And how can we forget T-Sizzle, who scored his 2nd career touchdown and 2nd in 3 games, on a very similar play to his last one. His screen pass interception that he returned for 42 yards put the nail into the coffin, sealing the Ravens at 5-3 at the midway point of the 2008 season – already equaling last year’s win total.
A great team effort all around yesterday led to a very memorable win, one that we will certainly be talking about and looking back on fondly for a long time here in B’More. There are some things to criticize, of course – such as the weird play-calling from the 2-yard line after Rice’s big run; and the special teams coverage – but we’ll save that for another day. It’s time to celebrate the win, and celebrate basically ending Cleveland’s season.
Now….hold your nose and cheer for those skallywag Redskins tonight Ravens fans…a Steelers loss will put us tied for 1st place after 8 games – who saw that coming?