PLEASE NOTE:The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
Ravens vs. Jets Highlights
Right Click for Full Screen Option
And they needed each one, as the Jets netted two returns for touchdowns of their own while Flacco completed only 10 of 31 passes for 163 yards.
In Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh's eyes, the defense outperformed their Week 1 showing against the Pittsburgh Steelers, when the unit snagged seven turnovers.
"It was an unbelievable game," Harbaugh said. "It was the best defensive performance I thought I'd ever seen, and the most amazing defensive performance I thought I'd seen was the Pittsburgh game.
"It was a team victory, but our defense carried us."
Jets running back Joe McKnight took an early kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown – marking the longest play in the team's history – and linebacker David Harris returned a Flacco interception 35 yards to paydirt in the second quarter.
With five returns hitting the end zone, the nationally-televised contest featured the most returns for scores in NFL annals. The 35 points off returns were also the most-ever in league history, besting the previous mark of 28, which was last reached by the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers in 2002.
One could sense that the game would be rife with such oddities from the beginning.
On the Jets' first offensive play, safety Ed Reed came screaming off the right side of the line to force a fumble from quarterback Mark Sanchez. A fortuitous bounce saw the ball land in McClain's hands, and the fourth-year veteran sprinted six yards for a touchdown.
But on the ensuing kickoff, McKnight juked several tacklers to knot the score at seven.
The Ravens added a Billy Cundiff field goal and a Ray Rice touchdown in the first quarter on 70- and 59-yard drives, respectively, but that was largely the extent of their offensive production. As the clock approached midnight, the Ravens had racked up 267 total yards of offense, with only 104 of them coming in the second half.
"From a defensive standpoint, it says that those guys are phenomenal," running back Ray Rice said of his teammates. "From an offensive standpoint, it wasn't pretty on out part, but we got the job done."
Baltimore continued to pile on the points, and the Jets certainly helped.
Sanchez mishandled a shotgun snap from rookie center Colin Baxter – who was starting for an inactive Nick Mangold (ankle) – to kick off the second quarter, and that led to another Ravens field goal that pushed the lead to 20-7.
Two Jets possessions later, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata stripped Sanchez in New York territory, a fumble that Johnson caught in-stride as he raced 26 yards past the goal line. It was evident that the two sacks and 10 quarterback hits Sanches sustained began to take their toll.
"When you're able to get after him like that and actually hit him and get sacks and force turnovers, that's always a goal," said Johnson. "He hit the ground pretty quick a few times, and you could tell he was feeling the pressure.
"When we see that, we're going to keep coming."
Still, Ryan's plucky squad hung around.
Midway through the second quarter, Flacco led Rice, who stopped short on his route, too much with a short pass over the middle, and linebacker David Harris easily picked it off and added a 35-yard touchdown return.
And Jets kicker Nick Folk pulled the margin to 27-17 with a 40-yard field goal just before halftime.
But with the Ravens consistently hitting Sanchez behind a banged-up offensive line and a rushing attack that was able to take seven minutes off the clock with 10 consecutive third-quarter runs, New York never got a chance to climb back into contention.
As Webb logged his first interception return for a touchdown – on a play where Terrell Suggs' pressure forced a poor throw from Sanchez – with nine minutes left in the third quarter, the Ravens were simply too far ahead.
"There were so many defensive plays, so how do you describe it?" McClain said of Webb's touchdown. "But it was definitely a momentum-changer. It was what we needed. He came out and responded automatically."
With two physical, defense-oriented teams taking the field at M&T Bank Stadium, such a grinding battle was not surprising.
But the extent to which the record books were rewritten definitely opened eyes.
"It just shows the potential that we have, and it shows that we neeed to dominate like this," Johnson said. "This is the NFL. We're going to have some games when we're going to have to grind it out, but it shows the potential that we have."
The Ravens now head into their bye with a 3-1 record, the lead in the AFC North and an eye on a Week 6 matchup with the Houston Texans.