Backup quarterback Ryan Mallett comes in with three minutes remaining? Victory formation to end it?
So this is what it's like to win a blowout game … and it sure feels nice.
Here are eight takeaways from the Ravens' 28-7 win over the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football:
1) Future Hall of Famer Steve Smith Demands Respect From Rodney Harrison
**Listen folks, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. is on his way to the Hall of Fame, and here's one reason why:
And next week, Smith could pass the 1,000-reception milestone with just three catches. At 37 years old, he is still getting it done with his five-catch, 60-yard and one touchdown performance against the Browns.
So all you haters – ahem, Rodney Harrison – should give Smith the respect he deserves or he is going to come at you, and come at you hard.
"Some people have said, certain people that work for this crowd [media],* *said that when this offense depends on a 37 year old, it's in trouble," Smith said on the NFL Network after the game in the video above. "I look at a guy like that, he's just upset about what I'm doing at 37, he couldn't do at 31.
"Rodney, I respect you. But just give me my credit, bro. Straight up."
Word clearly got back to Smith that Harrison said on NBC's "Football Night in America" in October that it's a "problem" when an offense's best player is an old-timer like Smith coming off major surgery.
Smith feeds off doubters to fuel his motivation, defy odds and produce at his age, and he isn't afraid to verbally punch back when someone dares question his ability. And, Smith expects more from a former player like Harrison, who played 15 years in the NFL.
"He knows how hard it is to play this game," Smith continued. "He's gonna take it away, and say 'If they depend on him at 37.' I respect the heck out of Rodney Harrison, but don't take digs at me, because I dig back and dig deeper.
"My shovel's bigger than your shovel."
2) Hold Off On The 'But' … Ravens Earned Right To Be Atop AFC North
It's tempting to take away from the Ravens' dominant win over the Browns because Cleveland is now 0-10 and had the 31st-ranked defense coming into the game.
"It's time to hold off on the ‘but ...,’ wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
"The Baltimore Ravens took sole possession of first place in the AFC North, and some will want to put an asterisk next to their name. … The Ravens (5-4) did what they had to do to turn around their season."
Can you imagine how the sky would be falling in Baltimore had the Ravens offense not found a spark in the second half and put the winless Browns away like a playoff-caliber team is expected to do?
The Ravens went 42 days without a win, and they found a way to dig deep and get two badly-needed AFC North victories in a matter of five days.
"The Ravens will get a chance to really prove themselves after a 10-day rest when they play the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 20," Hensley wrote. "Until then, Baltimore has earned the right to be in first place. It's hardly ever easy, but that's the Ravens way."
3) Joe Flacco Started To Look Like Old Joe Flacco, And Maybe This Will Spark Offense Going Forward
It was such a welcomed sight to see quarterback Joe Flacco having fun again.
He did the Mannequin Challenge after his first touchdown pass, and again when he converted a two-point conversion to fullback Kyle Juszczyk. His bright smile lit up the sideline during the fourth quarter.
Heck, he even got his slide back on point after an awkward one last week that busted up his knee brace.
"It may be a good sign the way Joe Flacco played in the second half," said CSNMidAtlantic.com's Brent Harris. "Of course, he had the two picks, but he had three touchdown passes. He started to look a little bit like the old Joe Flacco."
It's no secret that the success of this offense rides on the arm of Flacco, who has been in a slump for the first half of this season. Baltimore has seen the damage that Flacco is capable of inflicting, and if he can get back to his usual production, combined with the dominant Ravens defense, this team can do a lot of damage.
"If the second-half eruption can give Joe Flacco and the offense some confidence, then this team might be a serious contender in the division," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Mark Selig.
"Sure, it was the lowly Browns. Still, the Ravens only have to be a mediocre offense to be a good team in the AFC North. The defense delivered again, and now the team gets extra rest before playing an elite team for the first time all season."
4) Ravens Can Make A Statement Against Dallas Cowboys
Baltimore has accomplished its first goal after a four-game losing streak, which was to just find a way to win by any means necessary.
But if Baltimore really wants to make a statement, cornerback Jimmy Smith knows the Ravens have a big opportunity against one of the league's hottest teams in the 7-1 Dallas Cowboys next week.
"I think everyone is extremely happy obviously after getting two wins in a row, but getting a victory against a team like the Cowboys – that’s a statement win," Smith told CSNMidAtlantic.com. "Especially because I'm sure everyone will want to count us out of that game.
"They like to run the ball. We like to stop the run. They got some big-play receivers. We're going to have our hands full, but we go in and get this victory against them, I think it will kind of validate the last two weeks."
5) Cornerbacks Corps Leads Top-Graded Ravens
The Ravens defense continues to dominate, giving up just 144 yards of total offense last night. It marked the eighth-fewest yards in the Ravens' 329-game franchise history.
The entire defensive unit played all-around solid football, but Pro Football Focus grades have the cornerback group leading the way.
"All three of the top cornerbacks for the Ravens had impressive games," wrote PFF's Matt Claassen. "Jerraud Powers had a pass defense on the only pass targeted into his coverage, as well as an interception on a ball that was off-target due to the quarterback being hit. Tavon Young allowed four receptions for a measly 10 total yards, and had a pass defense of his own. Jimmy Smith was the only corner to allow a reception over 10 yards, which went for 18. The other four receptions went for a combined 30 yards, and Smith also broke up a pass. They did have some help up front, led by Terrell Suggs' six total pressures on 24 pass rushes."
Top defensive grades:
CB Jerraud Powers, 85.3
CB Tavon Young, 85.0
OLB Terrell Suggs, 83.6
CB Jimmy Smith, 82.5
LB Albert McClellan, 80.7
Top offensive grades:
FB Kyle Juszczyk, 82.8
RT Ricky Wagner, 81.0
RB Kenneth Dixon, 78.8
RB Terrance West, 78.3
WR Mike Wallace, 77.2
6) Terrance West And Kenneth Dixon Look Like A Strong One-Two Punch
So this is what a healthy Kenneth Dixon looks like.
He was arguably the Ravens' best back in the preseason, but a knee injury derailed the start of the regular season. Thursday night showed what he's capable of when healthy. The rookie and third-year back Terrance West took over in the fourth quarter, combining for 157 rushing and receiving yards.
According to PFF, the two backs did a lot of that damage on their own behind a banged-up offensive line. Per the website, 78 of Dixon and West's combined* *103 rushing yards came after contact.
"This is the Kenneth Dixon the Ravens saw when they scouted him and what we saw in the preseason when he was the Ravens' best back," CSNMidAtlantic.com's Clifton Brown said. "He really hasn't been healthy since then.
"Now that he looks healthy again, I think he and Terrance West can really be a good one-two punch going down the stretch. Two young backs, fresh legs running with a lot of fire. West made people miss tonight. I thought he looked good tonight as well. But Kenneth Dixon I think seems ready now to make a consistent contribution to this offense. That's a good sign for the Ravens."
7) While X-Rays Were Negative, Lewis Isn't Out Of The Woods, Which Will Hurt O-Line
The Ravens received good news when X-rays revealed rookie left guard Alex Lewis didn't break any bones, but that doesn't mean he'll be back on the field any time soon.
I'm no doctor, but I don't think ankles were made to bend this way.
Dr. David J. Chao is a former NFL head team doctor of 17-plus years, and although he hasn't treated Lewis, he said Lewis isn't out of the woods yet and surgery is not out of the question.
If the Ravens lose Lewis for any extended period of time, it will be a big blow to the offensive line, which was already without Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) Thursday night.
The team has already started six different line combinations in nine games. And before Thursday's win, all of the Ravens' victories have come only when the entire starting unit has been healthy.
"The Ravens offensive line just can’t stay healthy," wrote Brown. "The Ravens are thankful to have 10 days off. Their offensive line needs it."
8) Terrell Suggs Is A One-Armed Monster
How does a 34-year-old outside linebacker coming off Achilles surgery and playing with a torn biceps muscle dominate a perennial Pro Bowl tackle like Joe Thomas?
"My mom and dad did something special when they made me," Suggs said after the game. "Ozzie Newsome knew what he was doing when he drafted me. I have Raven in my DNA."
Ah, that explains it.
According to PFF, the last time Thomas allowed one sack and three hurries was in a 2014 Week 17 game … against the Ravens. Suggs created pressure on 25 percent of his rushes. That's pretty good.