November 7, 1999. Ravens 41 Browns 9
Nearly 9 years ago to the day – the last time the Ravens scored as many points on the road as they put up yesterday in Houston.
The last time the Ravens scored as many as 134 points over any 4 game span.
Does anybody else feel like they are watching someone else’s team lately? All the sudden the Ravens have receivers running amok in the opponents secondary on a regular basis, something that NEVER happened under Brian Billick.
Yesterday’s beatdown of the Houston Texans was the Ravens’ most complete effort of the season. Except for one collective brain fart by the secondary in which they allowed Kevin Walter to catch-and-run for a 60-yard touchdown, the offense, defense, and special teams all played very, very well. The score by Walter brought the Texans within 19-13 with 18 minutes remaining in the game. From that point on (and for the 2nd consecutive week), the Ravens proceeded to dominate the game down the stretch, scoring the games final 22 points.
On defense, the Ravens were solid, and made up for their deficiencies with key big plays and turnovers. Sage Rosenfels put up big numbers on the day, passing for a career high 294 yards, but more importantly also threw a career high 4 picks. Rex Ryan’s group made a priority of shutting down Andre Johnson, which they did admirably, holding the NFL’s leading receiver to 66 yards on 7 catches. The focus on him opened things up around the field for the Texans though, as evidenced by the fact that Rosenfels connected with 9 different receivers. Fortunately, they were able to do enough up front in pressuring Sage that he couldn’t tell the difference between white and purple when scanning the field. Pro-Bowl bound Haloti Ngata set the “sage” early on, when he jumped up and tipped Rosenfels’ pass to himself, pulling in his 2nd INT of the season and denying the Texans what would have been a sure TD pass to a wide open Owen Daniels, and a chance to tie the game at 7. Two possessions later, Terrell Suggs bull rushed as the Texans were backed up on their own 3-yard line, and drew a holding penalty in the end zone resulting in a 2nd Ravens’ safety in 3 games. Ray Lewis then put together his 3rd career 2 INT game, and Samari Rolle added another for good measure once the game was already well in hand. Oh, and by the way – that’s now 29 consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher by the Ravens. Admittedly though, the defense showed some holes yesterday – ones that we’ve known have been there all along. But they also displayed their ability to come up with huge plays to turn the game in their favor. With the upcoming schedule, those big plays will likely need to continue to be on display.
The CBS announcer yesterday commented that, “Boy, these Ravens can just come at you from so many different angles,” and I nearly choked on one of Bob’s famous nachos and keeled over right there. Analysts are actually IMPRESSED with the Baltimore Ravens…on offense! Cam Cameron deserves every bit of credit people want to heap on him for getting so much out of this Ravens team. Hey…speaking of “Heap,” look who finally got involved in a game yesterday? The Stormin’ Mormon caught his first 2 touchdowns of 2008, and stepped up big when Derrick Mason was forced to the sideline with a shoulder separation. Joe Flacco completed his 4th consecutive game without turning the ball over, and was throwing beautiful DEEP BALLS all day long. You read that right…the Ravens are now consistently stretching the field, as Cameron has taken the training wheels off his young QB once and for all. Flacco’s strike to Yamon Figurs to open the scoring was a thing of beauty, but Ravens fans are so used to seeing the team take just ONE, maybe TWO shots down the field per game (you know, “because that fits the dynamic of the situation and the profile of what we are on offense”) that our eyes were bugging out of our heads as we watched Flacco continue to unleash throw after throw of 20-yards plus.
On the ground, Willis McGahee exclaimed a resounding “not so fast!” to those calling for Ray Rice to become the starting RB, racking up 112 yards and 2 scores.
As for the “Suggs Package,” Troy Smith had a 14-yard touchdown pass and 6 rushing yards. The Ravens just barely missed a big play on another trick effort, where Flacco barely underthrew Smith behind the line of scrimmage. Replays showed nothing but green and purple between Smith and paydirt.
This is now a Ravens team that can score from anywhere on the field. Fans and pundits alike have been saying for years how dangerous the Ravens could be if only they had an offense to complement that defense. Well, folks, that time may be here. The Ravens newly high octane O has been beating up on some of the less talented defensive units of the NFL over the past 4 games, but things ramp up significantly from here on out. If the offense has truly “arrived” as we can pretty much agree that it has, it will need to prove it against the tough defenses. The New York Giants await.
Special teams performed better as well. They kept the Texans return game in check, and punter Sam Koch had another good day. Mad props to Steve “Just out of diapers” Hauschka, who was brought in to kick off and stepped in to make a 54-yard field goal in the 2nd quarter. The writing may be on the wall for Matt Stover, who would later miss badly from 50 yards out. The day was not a complete loss for (the former?) Auto-Matt-ic, though, as he tied the NFL record for most consecutive PATs made, at 371.
Finally, as hard as it may have been for many in B’More to root for ANYONE in the Pittsburgh game (for the 2nd straight week, no less), we have to thank the Indianapolis Colts for taking care of the Squealers 24-20, forcing them back into a tie with the Ravens for the AFC North lead.
First place in November. The chance to prove it is no fluke, and that the Ravens are not just a smoke and mirrors show, starts next Sunday at 1:00 ET in East Rutherford, New Jersey.