Sure, it could have also been known as the “Merciless Beating of the Browns” game, or the “What better way to warm up for the Patriots?” game, but really, Derrick Mason becoming the 23rd NFL player to rack up 800 receptions was probably the most significant part of yesterday’s win. Not that the win isn’t important – Mason himself said that the best part of the day was “that we got the win,” – it’s just that, years from now, looking back, it seems more likely that we’ll remember the significance of #85’s day moreso than the overarching smack-down handed to a hapless Cleveland squad that is probably the worst in the league at the moment.
And what a beating it was.
B’More outgained the Brown Stains 479-186.
Passing yards: 337-115
Rushing yards: 142-71
It was the thorough, relaxing victory that Ravens fans expected, but didn’t receive, in Week 1 against Kansas City. The game was never in doubt, as the Ravens scored the game’s first 27 points, and, were it not for a 29-yard Cleveland FG (a decision that should have Eric Mangini looking for a new job this morning) on the first play of the 4th quarter, the Ravens would have picked up their first shutout since Week 12 of 2006 (Ravens 27 Steelers 0). The purple defense had something to prove on this day, and they did not disappoint, forcing 4 turnovers (1 interception each from Dawan Landry, Ed Reed, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Dominique Foxworth) and sacking Browns QBs twice. The Ravens may have ended the Brady Quinn era in Cleveland, or at least stirred up some QB controversy, as Derek Anderson replaced the ineffective Quinn after halftime. The former Raven wasn’t much (or any) better though, as 3 of the aforementioned picks came out of his hand.
For the good guys, Joe Flacco surpassed his career high mark for passing yards that he set just 2 weeks ago, throwing for 342 yards and a score despite not stepping on the field after the 8 minute mark in the final stanza. His last play was a 72-yard TD to Mason, a ball he slightly underthrew only to see D-Mase fight for the ball and make some nifty moves in scampering to the end zone.
And on a play that made everyone in B’More proud, “Mighty Mouse” Ray Rice finally scored his first NFL touchdown. Rice scored on a 9-yard scamper that was the Ravens’ 3rd score of the day in which Browns defenders seemed to have zero interest in even getting TO the ball, nevermind actually tackling anybody.
The first two of those “is there a defense on the field?” runs came from touchdown machine Willis McGahee. With his 3rd consecutive 2-score game, McGahee has 2 more scores than any other non-QB in the league. McGahee may not always line up behind Flacco on the team’s first offensive snap, but he is making a pretty strong case that he is the “real” starting RB in this offense, and is proving everyone that maintained he was the most talented member of the Ravens’ 3-headed backfield, despite his “backup” status, very, very right.
The Ravens avoided the temptation to look past Cleveland to their date in Foxboro next Sunday, and took care of business at home to push their record to 3-0. Thanks to some late heroics by Carson Palmer in Cincinnati, the Ravens now find themselves a full 2 games ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North. Strangely enough, the Bengals are 2-1, and in 2nd place, and are one fluke play away from being 3-0 in their own right. Suddenly the Cincy game at M&T Bank Stadium in 2 weeks looks all the more interesting.
Everything is roses in B’More going into Week 4. If I may though, interject with a bit of a reality check.
The combined record of the Ravens’ 3 opponents to this point: 2-7.
Combined record of the Ravens’ next 5 opponents (@ NE, vs. Cin, @ Min, vs. Den, @ Cin): 10-2.
First place, and spots at or near the top of just about every power ranking out there makes our purple hearts beat proudly. But the Ravens still have plenty to prove, and it all starts Sunday against Belicheck, Brady, and the New England Patriots.