Eisenberg: Ravens Can Beat Anyone With Their Best Shot


There are some things from Sunday night's game that the Ravens would like to change. But not many.

With all due respect to those pointing out where improvements are possible, when you dismantle the Steelers and win by 12 points in Pittsburgh, you have, by definition, thrown your best shot.

Yes, that's what we saw: The Ravens' best shot. It included a shutdown defense, a dominating offense and an all-world kicker, and though it also had a few warts, it was competitive with anything you'll find in the NFL in 2018. I'm talking top echelon.

Sure, some other teams also have plenty going for them. The undefeated Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs have outstanding offenses. The Jacksonville Jaguars are for real on defense. The New England Patriots are starting their annual rebound from a surprisingly slow start, and you know how that ends.

But few teams are exhibiting as much balance as the Ravens.

Offensively, they're ranked No. 5 in points, No. 8 in passing yards and No. 10 in total yards (all per-game averages). Defensively, they're No. 2 in yards allowed and still haven't given up a second-half touchdown.

They also just came up huge on the road, usually a telling mark of excellence for them. You can look it up: When the Ravens are good, they're good on the road. It's been a few years, but Sunday night's win felt like a throwback in that sense.

Honestly, when they win so definitively in Pittsburgh, the whole season starts to feel like a throwback, which, believe me, is a very good thing.

But the season is still young, just 25 percent completed, and now it's time for the next step in their progression: Seeing if they can consistently replicate that "best shot" performance.

Make it the norm.

It's easier said than done in a league so topsy-turvy. Plenty of teams put on big shows on Sunday and fall flat the next. The "FitzMagic" Buccaneers were darlings after two weeks but looked like toast Sunday as the Chicago Bears pummeled them.

Consistency, in the end, is what separates contenders from pretenders.

No one should expect the Ravens to show up every week with shoulders as broad as they displayed in Pittsburgh. The NFL is wildly unpredictable and insanely competitive. Sometimes the team on the other side of the ball has the good karma going.

But I know the Ravens themselves expect their Pittsburgh performance to become the norm. They have depth and playmakers, and their head coach and veteran leadership have been through the football wars and understand that a level-head approach is required. It's a framework that, indeed, suggests big things are possible.

But to get where they want to go, they have no choice but to consistently bring their "A" game, fire that best shot. Their tough schedule demands it.

Look what lies ahead. The Ravens' next game is Sunday in Cleveland against a much-improved Browns squad quarterbacked by the top pick in the 2018 draft. The week after that, they're on the road again against a Tennessee team that just beat the defending Super Bowl champions.

When the Ravens finally return to M&T Bank Stadium on Oct. 21, they'll play a future Hall of Fame quarterback, Drew Brees, and a New Orleans Saints team many believe could reach the Super Bowl.

The Ravens will also face quality quarterbacks such as Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, David Carr, Pat Mahomes and Philip Rivers later in the season and also see Andy Dalton and Ben Roethlisberger again.

Not many easy touches in that lineup.

But as challenging as it all sounds, the Ravens will have nothing to fear if they perform as well as they did in Pittsburgh. That level can play with anyone and win.

To date, the Ravens have contested eight halves of football and only one was a clunker. Their first-half lapse in Cincinnati cost them dearly.

Other than that half, though, the Ravens have consistently performed at a winning level, a high level. If that trend persists, I can safely predict the last months of 2018 will be a happy time for football fans in Baltimore.

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