If that title sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same one I used for THIS game. The Ravens’ 30-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday was eerily reminiscent of the Ravens’ 27-9 win over the Miami Dolphins in the 2008 Wild Card game. As shown in the above graphic, taken from the CBS broadcast yesterday, the Dolphins were fresh off a season in which they set the modern record for fewest turnovers in a season (broken this year by New England).
Miami had turned the ball over just 13 times in 16 games.
The Ravens proceeded to take the ball from Chad Pennington and company five times.
Kansas City was just one worse than that in 2010, turning the ball over 14 times in 16 games. The Ravens went into Arrowhead and intercepted Matt Cassel three times, and recovered two more Kansas City fumbles. Only the tuck rule saved the Chiefs’ from their sixth turnover of the contest.
Although the Ravens again sputtered in the red zone (2/5), the simple fact that the defense kept giving the offense the ball time and again led to the Ravens’ second largest margin of victory of 2010. Everyone was whining a week ago about how the Ravens were the only team to limp into the postseason. Well, they shut us all up by posting the only blowout of Wild Card weekend. While the other three contests had an average margin of victory of 3.7 points, the Ravens blew the Chiefs completely out of the water, winning by 23 points, their most since winning by 24 in Carolina in Week 11.
In addition to the turnovers, the other main storyline of this game was the performance of Joe Flacco. Flacco, while compiling a 3-2 postseason record going into yesterday, had nonetheless been lackluster in the NFL’s “second season.” In his wins, he had done just enough, and in the losses, he had been awful. His 265 yards easily bested his previous high of 189 (and also set a new Ravens’ postseason record), and his two touchdown passes doubled the number he had accumulated through his first five playoff appearances.
Flacco completed 73.5% of his passes, and utilized the middle of the field more than we have ever seen from the third year signal caller. Joe basically carried the offense on his shoulders for the game’s first three quarters, during which the Ravens could find zero running room for Ray Rice or Willis McGahee. “Joe Vick” was on display at times, as Flacco scrambled around nicely and also ran 7 times for 26 yards, picking up several first downs with his feet.
Cam Cameron showed some new looks on offense – I can’t remember seeing the “trips right” formation any time in recent memory – and although I would have liked to see at least one screen pass to Ray Rice, they still did a good job of getting #27 the ball in space so he could do his thing (his thing being, of course, picking up first downs). After a few early near disasters throwing the ball to the sidelines, the Ravens changed things up and instead picked the middle of the Chiefs’ defense apart. Todd Heap did most of the damage, with 10 catches for 108 yards. It was The Stormin’ Mormon’s first 100-yard performance since 2005. Also encouraging for Ravens fans was that Anquan Boldin got involved again, catching 5 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, his most production since Week 13 against Pittsburgh.
It wasn’t a perfect performance by Joe – Flacco held onto the ball too long a couple times, as he is wont to do, and also missed seeing an open Boldin for what would have been a third-down conversion. In addition, he put the ball on the ground twice. His first fumble likely cost the Ravens a touchdown, when he mishandled Matt Birk’s snap on 1st-and-goal from the Chiefs’ 1-yard line on the game’s opening drive (the Ravens would ultimately be forced to settle for a field goal three plays later.) It looked on the replay like, had he secured the ball, Joe would have been able to fall over the goal line. Fortunately, he was at least able to recover that fumble, of which the same cannot be said of his second of the day. Joe was stripped by Tamba Hali (or “Haloti Ngata” according to Bill Cowher in the pregame show), who fell on the ball and gave the Chiefs possession. Two plays after the fumble, Jamaal Charles sprinted 41 yards for the Chiefs’ only points of the day.
Charles was very effective, with nine carries for 82 yards. For a minute, it looked like the Ravens were going to have no answer for the former track star. However, all it took was Terrence “Mount” Cody pulling a Tony Siragusa-Rich Gannon on Charles, and he was never really the same. Cody fell full-weight on the Chiefs’ runner, after knocking the ball out for the Ravens’ first of their five turnovers.
That was a key play in the game. The Ravens had just punted the ball back to Kansas City, trailing 7-3, and the Chiefs were again on the move, having driven from their own 14-yard line to the Ravens’ 48 – mostly on the legs of Charles. After that fumble though, Kansas City would never again threaten to get on the board (they had zero red zone trips on the day).
On the Chiefs’ next drive, Ed Reed (who doesn’t hit any more) provided the exclamation point.
The Ravens drove 80 yards to go up 10-7 at the half, and the game was effectively in the books.
Matt Cassel should go back to the Little League World Series. That guy was a scared turtle all afternoon. Once the Chiefs were forced to pass to try to get back in the game, they didn’t have a chance. His second interception, to Dawan Landry, came after he had spent about 15 minutes scanning the field, as the Ravens generated next to no pass rush on the play. His favorite receiver, Dwayne Bowe, was completely shut out – much credit has to go to Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, and Josh Wilson for that, but I have to think a big part of it was Cassel being intimidated by the presence of Ed Reed.
Reed was given the game ball by Derrick Mason in the post game locker room, and was extremely emotional in stating that his missing brother “would want to beat Pittsburgh.”
Beating Pittsburgh is next on the agenda for the Ravens.
For us, it means an eighth Steelers Hate Week in the last two years. Should be fun.