Monday, November 24, 2008

How do you like your Eagle cooked? Well done!

The Ravens helped their playoff chances yesterday, overcoming a slow first half, eventually dominating the Eagles in route to a 36-7 drubbing of the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the first half, the Ravens and Eagles traded punts before a second-quarter Ed Reed interception gave the Ravens the ball at the Eagles 6-yard line. Two runs later, QB Joe Flacco hit TE Daniel Wilcox for his 9th TD pass of the season, putting the Ravens ahead 10-0.

On the following kickoff, the Eagles’ kick-returner Quentin Demps ran 100 yards through the Ravens kick-coverage like a hot knife through butter for the touchdown. 10-7 Ravens.

But, that was where the Philadelphia scoring ended.

In the 3rd quarter, Eagles head coach Andy Reid benched Donovan McNabb, who had thrown 3 INT in the first half, and handed the ball to Kevin Kolb. Kolb had just as much trouble moving the ball as McNabb, and a stalled drive resulted in a blocked Sav Rocca punt a safety. 12-7 Ravens.

After Kolb threw an interception to Samari Rolle, a Matt Stover field goal put the Ravens up 15-7 Ravens.

And that’s where the fun began.

After another stalled Eagles drive, Flacco hit Mark Clayton for a 53-yard touchdown, his 10th TD pass of the season. 22-7.

And get a load of this: In the last 5 games, Flacco has had 4 touchdown passes of 43 yards or more. When was the last time that happened to a Ravens QB?

Shortly after that, Ed Reed caught his second INT of the day, this one in the Ravens endzone, and returned it for an NFL record 108 yards for a TD. 29-7 Ravens.

And finally, to add insult to injury, the Ravens tacked on yet another score, this time it was Le’Ron McClain for a 1 yard TD. 36-7 Ravens. Final.

After a rocky game in New York, Joe Flacco returned to his usual cool, calm and collective self, passing for a now standard 183 yards and 2 TD’s. Despite a slow first half, and an impressive pass rush by the Eagles, Flacco never panicked. He moved around the pocket well, and threw the ball away instead of forcing passes.

It’s really nice to have a QB you don’t have to worry about.

However, the Ravens had trouble getting the running game going for the second game in a row. Willis McGahee and Ray Rice combined for 15 yards. But big Le’Ron McClain did the rushing dirty work, ripping and romping for 88 yards on 18 carries and the late TD. At one point early in the game, I think McClain rushed 6 straight times on the same play.

On the receiving front, Mark Clayton had the best day, hauling in two passes for 76 yards and the big TD. It’s nice to see someone other than Derrick Mason catching passes for once, and after a miserable 2007 season, Mark Clayton is back on the map.

So in review, the game was closer than the lopsided score might indicate, but the Ravens turned it on when it mattered most. Not only did they improve their playoff chances with a win at home, they also pretty much hammered the final nail into the Eagles coffin of a season.

And I couldn’t be happier about that.

There were a lot of Eagles fans down at M&T Bank Stadium yesterday, and despite coming off an embarrassing tie with the lowly Cincinnati Bengals, one where your star-QB had no idea that a game could end in a tie, Iggles’ fans were quite vocal in the very limited opportunities they could be vocal. And as a result, there were quite a few shoving matches up in 540.

Thankfully, the Ravens shut the Iggles’ fans up and sent them home early in the second half. Sorry Iggles fans. That Phillies World Series win will have to keep you warm during your long and cold playoff-less winter.

Back to the Ravens. At 7-4 they head to Cincinnati to take on the 1-9-1 Bengals. And while you never want to say a road game in the NFL is an easy win, if there ever was an easy road win, this is it.

With Carson Palmer still on the sideline with a shoulder injury, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick looks to be in for a long day against the Ravens defense. The Bengals will get Chad Johnson back for the game after a deactivation, but he’s been a non-entity this season without Carson Palmer, and it appears Ocho Stinko’s conspiracy theories about not being thrown to are proving true. Johnson has only caught 41 passes so far this season.

So, the Ravens have to take advantage of the struggling Bengals this week before their schedule gets difficult again, with Washington and Pittsburgh at home, and then Dallas on the road.

And with so many teams fighting for the Wild Card in the AFC, the Ravens’ easiest path to the playoffs could be by winning the AFC North. The Ravens currently trail the Steelers by 1 game, and on top of facing the Steelers once more this season, Pittsburgh has a pretty tough schedule in front of them: @ NE, DAL, @ BAL, @ TEN.

So, will the Ravens make the playoffs? Can they win the division? Stay tuned.

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