I’m sure many of you out there are, like me, Maryland Terrapin fans. And watching this game, I’ll bet many of you also, like me, felt like you were watching Labor Day’s Maryland-Navy game all over again, only this time from the Navy fan’s point of view. They weren’t quite the goalline possessions that the Midshipmen kept coming away empty from, but the Ravens did have the ball inside the Red Zone twice in the games first 25 minutes (once on a 17-play, 9-minute drive) only to turn the ball over and come away empty handed on both chances.
I’ll also say this – I think we Ravens fans may have cashed in every last “the refs hate us” chip that we had left. The Jets were penalized 10 times for 100 yards in the FIRST HALF alone. The Ravens had four 3rd-down attempts turned into first downs via New York penalties, including a 3rd-and-28, and the pass interference in the end zone that set them up at the 1 for their only touchdown of the night – a touchdown that would not have happened had a field goal attempt earlier on the same drive not been nullified by, you guessed it – a penalty.
As a matter of fact…watching the Jets, with their defense committing a stupid penalty for seemingly every big play they make, and their offense that nobody in the stadium has any confidence in to go 40 or so yards to set up a potential game winning field goal…you begin to wonder if it was Rex Ryan or Brian Billick coaching those Ravens teams of the last decade.
John Harbaugh’s team – the “new” Ravens – were penalized just 5 times for 38 yards in the game, compared to 14-125 for Rex’s “old” Ravens. Several times the New York crowd was pining for pass interference flags on Ravens’ cornerbacks, but none would come, as Chris Carr and Fabian Washington were playing with what Harbaugh likes to call “perfect technique.”
The Jet penalties served to effectively offset all the mistakes the Ravens’ offense was making in giving the ball away. It’s a bit eerie when, after a season of hearing your offense hyped up as potentially one of the league’s best, your quarterback’s very first dropback on the very first offensive snap of the season results in a sack-fumble-turnover. Flacco held the ball way too long on that play, and paid the price. On his interception, the MNF crew seemed to think it was as much Anquan Boldin’s fault as Flacco’s – the ball was seemingly intended for Todd Heap, but Antonio Cromartie – who was covering Boldin on the play – came off his man to make the pick. Still, it was an ugly floater of a pass that had me nervous as soon as it left his hand. As for the Ravens’ THIRD turnover of the first half, Willis McGahee, who looked terrible all night save for his crucial touchdown burst, just played right into the Jets’ hands, allowing himself to be held up by tacklers while more flew in to try to knock the ball loose.
It was those turnovers – along with the Jets eating the Ravens’ lunches on special teams – that kept Gang Green in the ball game. The “lopsidedness” of this one, which I referenced in the blog title, is on full display if you look at some of the numbers:
First Downs: BAL – 20 NYJ – 6
Third down conversions: BAL – 11/19 57% NYJ – 1/11 9%
Passing Yards: BAL – 233 NYJ – 60
Time of Possession: BAL – 38:32 NYJ – 21:28
Complete dominance by the Ravens, yet a single point separated the two teams after 60 minutes. As my dad put it, it felt like we were playing the damn Steelers. The only difference – and its a big one – Mark Sanchez is no Ben Roethlisberger (although he and his teammates seem to be working from Ben’s playbook lately).
Sanchez had no ability to drive down the field for a game-winning score. He was horrific all night, throwing check-down after check-down, and at one point sliding like a wuss just shy of what would have been a Red Zone first down when he saw #52 flying at him. The Ravens’ much-maligned secondary was never even tested by the second-year quarterback. Mark Sanchez did NOTHING the entire game, save for confirm every suspicion I have about him being nothing but Matt Leinart version 1.2.
It was ugly – excruciatingly so at times – but all that really matters is that the Ravens walked out of the New Meadowlands with a 1-0 record.
Now, Rex and the Jets: SHUT THE F*$K UP!!!