All we heard all week was how the Miami Dolphins were the stingiest team regarding not turning the ball over in the NFL. Not just this year, but any year. Well, Ed Reed and the Ravens defense had a little something to say about that, as the Ravens won their first playoff game since an eerily similar 20-3 win in Miami in 2001.
In the match-up of strengths, the Ravens forced 5 turnovers, nearly 40% of the total amount the Dolphins had in all 16 regular season games (13). Chad Pennington, rattled by Rex Ryan’s blitz, threw up ducks, forgetting that throwing is illegal when #20 in purple is on the field, and ended up with FOUR interceptions in 60 minutes of football, after throwing just 7 in his previous 960 minutes.
Leading the INT-fest was Fast Eddie Reed, who had two picks for the 3rd consecutive game, and the 5th time in his past 7 contests. The first of the two in Miami was a thing of beauty, as Reed did his best Willie Mays impression to haul in the pass downfield, then turned into the scoring machine that he is, cruising 64 yards with a convoy of blockers into the end zone for his 4th touchdown of 2008. On the play, Haloti Ngata absolutely destroyed Miami WR Ted Ginn, for whom the pass was originally intended, as he tried to chase down Reed. Ngata could be seen flexing over the roadkill that had become of Ginn as Reed hopped to paydirt.
Reed’s second pick, while not as exciting, was every bit as timely and important, as Miami was driving with eyes on closing the Baltimore lead to 10 going into the final period. Reed covered 30 or so yards of field in the blink of an eye, reading Pennington like a book and stepping in front of Patrick Cobbs to put an end to that nonsense.
What more is there to say about Ed Reed? In the span of about 4 months, he has gone from “will he ever play again?” to having arguably his best season and forcing his name into any future conversations regarding the best safeties to ever play the game. If this man does not win his 2nd DPOY award this year, they should just stop giving the award. (Edit: James Harrison won it. What a bunch of BS. “AP” stands for “A$$ Pounders.”)
Since there isn’t enough space on the Web to give Ed the amount of praise he deserves, we’ll move on.
What was slightly unsettling, for much of the game yesterday, was how the offense was unable to capitalize on all those early Miami turnovers. They were moving the ball well on their first drive until Le’Run McClain fumbled (as I’ve worried about here lately), and did well to answer Miami’s ensuing FG drive with an 11-play 3-pointer of their own, but sputtered for long periods. They went 3-and-out after Jim Leonhard’s 2nd quarter INT set them up at the Dolphins’ 45, did the same when Fabian Washington picked off Pennington’s first pass of the 2nd half and returned it to the Miami 39, and did it AGAIN after Reed’s 2nd pick. To their credit, they were able to turn Patrick Cobbs’ fumble into 6 with a “Pain Train” McClain 8-yard run, but let’s remember that they only had 19 yards to cover to accomplish that.
Joe Flacco was slingin the ball early, and made some very impressive throws. He stepped up nicely to avoid the rush on a 3rd-and-10 to hit Derrick Mason for 11, and his 40 yard frozen rope to Mason on the sideline at the end of the first half was a throw that not many QBs can make. However, he did miss (barely) on a couple deep balls; throws he had been hitting perfectly for the last several games, but we’ll cut Joe some slack since he did become the first rookie QB to ever win a road playoff game. Kudos, Mr. Flacco.
And let’s not forget Willis McGahee, reduced to a role-player, who broke 2 tackles on his way to a 48-yard gain that, for all intents and purposes, sealed the game.
Rex Ryan’s defense was dominant, as usual, sacking Pennington 3 times to go along with those 5 turnovers, and holding Miami to just 52 yards rushing. They scared the Dolphins out of anything resembling that “Wild Cat” crap, stuffing it cold the first few times the fish tried it (hey, Tuna…your Wild Cat smells a lot like fish…or is that…?) Possibly the most clutch play they (those not named “Reed,” that is) turned in came when about 4 Ravens burst through the same gap in the 4th quarter, causing Pennington and Ginn to botch the snap for a 19-yard loss, during a time when the Fish were still hell-bent on trying to make things interesting. If Ray Lewis gets to Pennington an instant later, Ginn had a TON of room and blockers in front of him.
The Ravens look ready to go into Tennessee and pound Kerry Collins, Chris “stupid fast” Johnson, and Lendale “stupid fat” White into the same kind of submission.
Cam Cameron’s offense, though, needs to tighten up a bit before next Saturday. The Titans’ D is a whole different animal than the one they saw, and struggled a bit against, yesterday. Some people have been complaining about Cameron’s play-calling in the 4th quarter yesterday, when the Ravens twice threw deep when leading 20-9 at the start of the 4th quarter. I have a sneaking suspicion that these are the same people who whined for all those years about Brian Billick being “too conservative.” The Ravens got the looks they liked from the Miami D (no safety deep) and decided to go for the knockout punch. B’More Birds’ Nest would like to take this time to officially endorse this tactic. This is the new Ravens, folks. Our QB is Joe Flacco – not Kyle Boller, Anthony Wright, Jeff Blake, or the corpse of Steve McNair. Do you think Peyton Manning’s Colts come out and run up the gut 3 times in that situation? How about Tom Brady’s Patriots? Just a little more air under either of those tosses, and these same people would be screaming for joy as Mark Clayton streaked to the end zone. I know, I know – we’re fans, we complain. But, come on – you can’t have it both ways. Keep puttin’ it up there Joe.
The Ravens broke their playoff drought in a familar way, against a familiar foe. Up next, another familiar foe, in a familiar round, in a familiar stadium: The Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round, at
Adelphia Coliseum LP field.
Deja vu, anyone?