What’s all this fuss over that newfangled “Wildcat” offense that the Dolphins had been running? Somebody certainly forgot to tell the Ravens that they were supposed to be confused when Ronnie Brown was taking direct snaps and Chad Pennington was splitting out wide. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Fish ran the Wildcat 5 times and netted only 4 yards (it sure seemed to us that they ran it more than 5 times, but whatever). Rex Ryan’s defense atoned a bit for last week’s stinker, playing very disciplined in allowing no big plays by a team that has lived by them this season, as well as producing a touchdown score of their own, their first since week 2. Terrell Suggs picked off an ill-advised pass by Pennington in the 2nd quarter and took it 44 yards to the house for the first TD of his career. That score put the Ravens up 10-3, and they never looked back.
The victory brought the Ravens back to .500 at 3-3, which would have sounded pretty good to most fans at the start of the season. It also served to get that road monkey that had started to grow a bit off the team’s back, as they had not won away from M&T Bank Stadium since winning in San Francisco last season.
Joe Flacco had arguably his best game as a pro, posting a 120 QB rating and throwing for 232 yards and 1 TD. Flacco benefited from some good runs by Ravens RBs on screen passes, but we’ll call it even since he also suffered a bit from Demetrius Williams’ and Mark Clayton’s inabilities to pull down very catchable balls downfield. Flacco missed a wide-open Todd Heap in the end zone on the opening drive of the 2nd half for what could have been his 2nd score, and threw behind Williams on a slant that could have been a big play, but overall Joe did very well, and was night-and-day from his performance in Indy.
He was certainly better than his opposite number, Chad “I’m a giant dork and point like a tool when I scramble for a 4-yard first down” Pennington. Seriously, his goofy air-stab whenever he fell past the sticks made me lose what was a decent amount of respect I had for the guy previously. Maybe Chad and Phil Rivers can get together and form a Dorky Douchey Hillbilly Quarterback Club. Although he threw for nearly 300 yards, Pennington made the aforementioned crucial mistake, the interception to Suggs he threw with Safety Jim Leonhard draped all over him, which really changed the momentum of the game.
The Ravens running game got itself untracked again, a very encouraging sign considering the replacement of the injured Marshal Yanda with the smaller, less-physical Chris Chester. Chester played well though, and although they allowed 3 sacks, the O-line as a whole was very consistent all day. Willis McGahee, as he always does in Miami, had a strong day, putting up 105 yards on 19 carries, and made up for his should-be-touchdown-turned-fumble on a 35-yard screen pass in the 3rd quarter by punching it in from 5 yards out on the very next drive. We would like to see some more breakaway speed from Willis on a play like that, but considering that he is still dealing with a knee issue that required draining during the week, we won’t be too hard on him.
Special teams, as they have been all year, were uneven, at best. Matt Stover connected on a 47-yarder, which should quiet some of this premature “Stover is done” talk. Punter Sam Koch is quickly establishing himself as one of the best in the league. Yesterday he put all 3 of his punts inside the 20, averaging 55.7 yards per kick, and had one boomer of 67 yards. With such a ….well, call it “developing”…offense as the Ravens have, a punter like Koch is a critical weapon. However, the kickoff coverage team was again shoddy, and Matt Stover had to make another tackle. It was nice to see Ray Rice run north-and-south on his returns filling in for the injured Yamon Figurs.
It was a good, solid, win for the purple-and-black. Joe Flacco got his first win as a visitor, the defense held what had been a productive offense under wraps, and a four-game losing skid was averted.
Next up, the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, and a very real possiblity of a 4-3 record.