If ever there was a game to represent a revolution in the Baltimore Ravens organization, yesterday’s 37-27 win over the Cleveland Browns was it.
The Ravens overcame a 14-point deficit after trailing 27-13 with 6 minutes in the 3rd quarter to score 24 unanswered points.
The Ravens of old would have switched to auto-pilot, especially on offense, where the three-and-outs would have abundant.
Down 14 points in the 3rd quarter, the Ravens offense turned it on when it mattered most. And then the defense matched the offense blow-for-blow, shutting down the Browns offense for the rest of the game.
After the Browns scored their last touchdown making the score 27-13, the Ravens drove right down the field for a Le’Ron McClain touchdown. After the Browns were forced to punt, Joe Flacco hit Derrick Mason for his second TD of the day, tying the game at the start of the 4th quarter. And after Ray Rice scampered for a 60-yard run which put the ball at the Browns three yard line, the Ravens couldn’t get in the endzone, so Matt Stover kicked the go-ahead field goal with a little over five minutes left.
That gave the Browns offense some life, but Terrell Suggs quickly snuffed it out, returning a Derek Anderson interception for a touchdown.
Game. Set. Match.
I am still in awe. Did the Ravens really score 24 unanswered points in a little over 20 minutes?
Yeah. They did.
And it couldn’t have happened without Joe Flacco. Unibrow has played 3 flawless games since his 3-INT debacle in Indianapolis, throwing 4 TD and 0 INT in that span, while rushing for a TD as well. He hit Mark Clayton (he lives!) for a 47-yard TD bomb that reminded Ravens fans that deep passes can result in something other than incompletions or interceptions. But what was really impressive about Flacco yesterday was how he performed in the clutch.
Flacco and Mason are starting to go together like Hall and Oates. Flacco hit Mason 9 times for 136 yards and a TD. Flacco was also able to work Mark Clayton back into the offense, hitting him 4 times for 87 yards and the 47 yard TD bomb.
No Willis McGahee? No problem. Rookie Ray Rice filled in admirably, rushing for 154 yards and caught 3 passes for 22 yards. Le’Ron McClain chipped in, rushing 13 times for 34 yards and a score.
Despite the 27 points allowed, the defense played well, especially in the 4th quarter when it mattered most. Even though they only sacked Derek Anderson once, they were able to disrupt his momentum, and he underthrew and overthrew several receivers. If there was one unit that underperformed, it was the Special Teams, who allowed Browns kick-returner Josh Cribbs to score a TD and give the Browns the ball deep in Ravens territory on another occasion.
All in all it was a wonderful win, and a reminder that the changeover in coaching staff personnel is starting to take hold on the Ravens sidelines.
Next week, the Ravens fly to Houston to play the Texans in a game that was originally supposed to be played week 2, but was postponed because of Hurricane Ike. The Texans have a high-flying offense, regardless of who is under center (Matt Shaub or Sage Rosenfels) and a pair of wide-receivers who are among the best in the league in Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter. The Ravens, however, should be able to stop the Texans mediocre running game and the Texans’ defense is their weakness. They rank 17th overall in yards allowed, and 27th in points allowed.
Playing the Texans should remind fans of playing the Browns, but with a better offense. If Chris McAllister is in deed out for the season, the Ravens weak secondary could be exposed by the Texans WR’s. But, if Flacco and the rest of the offense are on their game like they were yesterday against the Browns, there is no reason to think that the result can’t be similar.
And it would be nice to steal another game on the road before the Ravens travel to New York to take on the defending Super Bowl Giants in two weeks.
At 5-3, the Ravens are a half game behind the Steelers, who play the Redskins in Washington tonight.
Things are getting interesting. Especially now that the “new Ravens” have arrived.