Sure, the defense was once again suffocating, but what are you really going to remember most when looking back on this game down the road? That’s right, the incredible performance by one Mark Clayton, who built on last week’s strong game, in which he caught a 53-yard touchdown pass, coming through this week with the best game of his 4 year career:
5 receptions, 164 yards, 1 TD
1/1 passing, 32 yards, 1 TD
Which play was more impressive? His 32 yard strike to a wide open Derrick Mason that pushed the score to 20-3? Or the play he made just 2 minutes later, when he pulled in a 70-yard bomb from Joe Flacco with one hand before walking into the end zone to make the score 27-3? Strong cases can be made for either play, but the end result was a huge coming-out party for a player about whom the dreaded “bust” word has been whispered during his tenure in B’More.
Flacco was again very impressive, having himself a late Thanksgiving feast on a banged up Bengals’ defense. Joe Cool set a personal record for passing yards with 280, going 19/29 with 2 more touchdowns, and did not turn the ball over for the second straight week. Flacco now has 14 total TDs in 2008 (12 passing, 2 rushing), and 10 turnovers (9 interceptions, 1 lost fumble), a very respectable touchdown-to-turnover ratio of nearly 1.5:1. His ability to make plays with his legs kept the chains moving early in the game.
The Ravens running game was just about at their season average, pounding the Bungles for 147 yards. That number was achieved by 5 different ball carriers, although not one of them was named Willis McGahee. McGahee never saw the field on Sunday, although he was listed as active. The cameras caught Willis several times on the sideline just hanging out, or “chillin’,” if you will. Perhaps a good nickname for him until he sees some more action should be “Chillis.” Seriously though, its a pretty odd situation, and we are just hoping that Willis is OK with his new role and won’t become some sort of malcontent in a locker room that seems to be the healthiest we have seen from the Ravens in quite some time.
Defensively, it was another stifling effort from the Ravens. Cincy never really had a chance, not with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center and Cedric Benson as their featured runner. While they only forced one turnover (a late interception returned for a touchdown by Jim Leonhard from the arm of Jordan Plamer, who had replaced Fitzpatrick in junk time), they forced 11 Bengals’ punts, which tied a Cincy franchise record. They also had about 6 or 7 near-turnovers, as they were batting Fitzpatrick’s passes around like volleyballs all afternoon. If not for a hiccup in the waning moments of the first half, when the Bengals were able to put together their only drive of the day, the Ravens D would have pitched their first shutout of 2008.
The Ravens have now outscored their opponents 70-10 over the past 2 games, and 214-103 over the duration of their current 6-1 streak. Without doing all the research (cuz, hey, there’s still football on), we’d guess that has to be the best such stretch in team history. If you want to look it up, please, by all means, but that’s our story and we’re sticking to it-until somebody tells us otherwise.
The Steelers put a beating on Matt Cassel and the Pats in Foxboro this afternoon, and while it doesn’t bode well for our division championship aspirations, they may have actually done us a favor. New England, who was nipping at our heels for the final Wild Card spot, is now 7-5, with all 5 losses coming in conference (an important stat in tie-breaker scenarios).
At 8-4 with 3 home games still to play, the playoff talk is no longer premature. We’ll now be watching all the tie-breaker situations with great interest here in B’More.
Who saw that coming?