Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ravens top Bucs

Derrick Mason hauls in a touchdown pass in the Ravens 17-10 win over the Buccaneers.

It was another one of those games that'll give critical Ravens a lot of ammo for the week.

The Ravens beat the Buccaneers, 17-10, in a game they dominated on both sides of the ball for most of the game. However, the Bucs drove the ball 77 yards over 4 minutes and 38 seconds for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to make the game look a lot closer than it really was. The Ravens lead 17-3 for almost an entire half of football.

If they had been able to stop the Bucs on that final scoring drive, they would have turned in their "statement game", in which they put the game out of reach early on. But as they have done against the Jets, Broncos, Panthers and now the Bucs, the Ravens have a way of making a game look closer than it really was.

Tampa Bay is a good young team who is going to be in the hunt in the NFC South for the next few years as their guys mature and keep learning to win. But the Ravens clearly showed that they were the better team.

The Ravens won the time of possession battle, 31:02 to 28:58. They accumulated more total yards, 349 to 263. They had more first downs, 18 to 14. And they had only 4 penalties for 30 yards to the Buccaneers 9 for 78 yards.

Joe Flacco kept his roll going, tossing for 289 yards, 2 TD's and 1 INT. He completed 71.4% of his passes. He held onto the ball too long, resulting in 4 sacks, but overall he had another fine game in what is sure to be his best season as a pro. He is on pace for 3,946 yards, 26 TD's and 12 INT's.

Derrick Mason, who'd had a spat with Flacco last week in Carolina, rebounded in a big way, catching 2 balls for 87 yards and a score. And Todd Heap, who is infamous for making tough catches while he's draped by defenders, caught a pass in stride and took it 65 yards for a TD.

On the ground, Ray Rice played the role of the closer, catching a pass for a first down and rushing for another on the game's final drive that allowed the Ravens to take a knee for the win. He had 85 yards on 20 rushes on the afternoon.

The defense turned in a solid performance against a tough QB. While they didn't record a sack, the defense flushed Bucs QB, Josh Freeman, from the pocket regularly, forcing him to make passes off balance. He completed only 46% of his passes. The Ravens D also did well against the run. They allowed 101 yards on the day, and 4.5 yards per carry, but they limited the big plays, which kept the Buccaneers in many 3rd and longs.

Would I have liked to see the Ravens be more dominant? Sure. They left at least 7 points on the field, and seemed uninterested to stop the Bucs on their final scoring drive. But for the most part, they played well, and beat the Bucs soundly in most statistical categories.

It wasn't pretty, but it was a win. And if that gets this team deep into the playoffs, I'll take it.

Moving on, the 8-3 Steelers come to Baltimore for a Sunday night matchup. The Steelers needed OT to beat the 2-9 Bills in Buffalo, and are banged up on the offensive line. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 5 times by the Bills defense and is said to be nursing a sore ankle.

The Ravens have to be licking their chops.

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