Ravens Dubbed One of the 'Scariest' and 'Most Dangerous' Teams in the AFC
With a national audience watching Monday Night Football, the Ravens wanted to make a statement to the football world.
After the defense and special teams led the way to a 23-16 victory over the Houston Texans, here's the statement that was received:
"I think they're dangerous because I think the defense is legit. I don't care who they play; I think they're legit," Jon Gruden said in his ESPN post-game wrap-up thoughts. "They have great special teams. They have a head coach and quarterback that have been there and won the championship.
"But, until they throw the ball better, they're not going to be able to beat Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. They have to get more out of this pass offense."
We'll get more into the passing offense in the next section, but time and time again, national analysts echoed Gruden's sentiments. They used adjectives like "scary" and "dangerous" to describe the Ravens as playoff contenders.
After all, which AFC wild-card contender truly strikes more fear into opponents? The Buffalo Bills? The Oakland Raiders? L.A. Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars?
Each can make their case, but the Ravens boast a premier defense that, like Gruden said, can match any offense, plus the special teams play and pedigree to make it happen.
"You want to talk about one of the scariest teams I believe in the AFC, it would be this team right here: the Baltimore Ravens," said NFL Network analyst and former Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, who added he thinks the Ravens can reach the Super Bowl with this formula.
If Terrell Suggs' massive performance, featuring two sacks and a game-saving strip, didn't speak loud enough for itself, the 15-year veteran made a Super case for his team during his post-game sideline interview.
"We're a dangerous November and December team, especially when we're healthy," Suggs told ESPN when asked why the Ravens are a threat to do some playoff damage. "Everybody knows, once we get into that second season, we become a whole different team. We become a very special team."
People doubted the 2000 defense's ability to win the Super Bowl after the Ravens offense went five consecutive games without scoring a touchdown.
The 2012 Ravens won the Super Bowl after losing four of their final five games. They accomplished the improbable by beating Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the way to the championship game.
"The thing I love about the Ravens organizationally is I think they really are what they represent they are," ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said on SportsCenter following the game. "They're a fearless group. I think that when they get to the most important games, they don't fear anybody because they've been in those moments and they've risen to those moments. So, yeah, ok, they're challenged offensively, but they'll lean upon their identity."
"That's true," Matt Hasselbeck added. "They've been there and done it. I also think their head coach sets that vision for them. Like, 'Ok, hey, listen. This is what we have to do to get into this tournament. We've done it before. We've squeaked in and then gone all the way.' And really they're looking at themselves right now and going, 'Ok, who are we competing with?' … I think they feel really good about where they are."
While the defense didn't like giving up 252 passing yards to backup quarterback Tom Savage or committing numerous penalties that extended drives, the unit was opportunistic at the most important times. It forced back-to-back turnovers (Suggs' sack-strip and Anthony Levine's interception) on the Texans' final two drives to seal the win.
After pitching three shutouts already this season, the defense showed it can also deliver a victory in a tight contest down the stretch. The unit faltered too many times in those situations last season. This year, it's trying to prove defense can lead the way again.
Suggs was asked why he doesn't mind the pressure to win mostly falling on the defense.
"Because this is Baltimore," he said. "This is the organization that Ray Lewis built. We ain't going to forget about Ed Reed. This team was built on defense so it's natural that all the games come down to us winning them."
Passing Offense Could Hold Ravens Back Against High-Powered Teams
If the Ravens are being dubbed a "dangerous" team now, can you imagine what people would be saying if quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense could move the ball?
Instead, the unit struggled to convert on third down, going just 3-of-14, and needed trick plays on fourth down to score both of its touchdowns.
"A 21 percent conversion rate on third down? That's pathetic. It's awful. It's embarrassing," Hasselbeck said. "You lose when that happens. Yet, they won. Why? Because they were 100 percent on fourth down in the first half. You have a kicker that's automatic. … They need to get better throwing the ball down field. They can't go with fake punts all the time. Trick plays all the time. They have to find offense on offense."
Flacco and his receivers have yet to find a consistent chemistry. They've hit a few plays here and there this season, but more often than not, they haven't been in sync. That may be because of an inaccurate pass, or a wrong route, a dropped pass or too much pressure.
It all adds up to the 32nd-ranked passing offense, and now defenses can focus on the top-10 rushing offense and dare Flacco to win with his arm.
"I still just wonder if because of how inept this offense can be, whether it be running the ball or throwing the football, can the defense withstand the kind of pressure that's going to be put on them," ESPN's Louis Riddick said on SportsCenter.
"Can special teams continue to come up with plays of the magnitude they're going to need to in order to deal with the high-powered players in the AFC and get to ultimately where Baltimore expects to be, which is in the Super Bowl? That's the problem. I think maybe they get in [the playoffs]. And if they do, I just think they're going to get bounced pretty quickly because the offense is just that limited."
Flacco and Head Coach John Harbaugh essentially echoed Riddick's point after the game. Both said that reaching the playoffs isn't the goal for this team. The goal is to reach the Super Bowl, and the offense needs to carry a greater load for that to happen.
Flacco only threw for 141 yards against the Texans, and Mike Wallace was the Ravens' receiving leader with just 48 yards.
As strange as it sounds, Hasselbeck sees it as a major opportunity. The Ravens know Flacco can win a championship because he's done it before. With the way defense and special teams are playing, if Flacco can get the offense to raise its level of play, even by a little bit …
"Here's why they're dangerous: they've got a Super Bowl-winning quarterback who's not playing like a Super Bowl-winning quarterback," Hasselbeck said. "So they're winning games without an offense that's scaring anybody."
Sam Koch Had Best Passer Numbers Monday Night
Neither Flacco (72.5) nor Savage (57.5) had the best passer rating of the night.
Nope, that award went to punter Sam Koch finished with a 118.8 rating after Harbaugh called a gutsy fourth-down fake punt. Koch connected with wide receiver Chris Moore on the play after the punter LOOKED OFF the safety like a real quarterback to ensure Moore only had one man to beat.
Not only was Koch impressive last night, but the man is 4-for-4 on passes over his career.
Buck Allen's Rugby-Style Touchdown Makes Top-5 Rushes of the Week
It wasn't all bad on offense, as the entire unit should get credit for Buck Allen's 10-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Allen looked like he was stopped several yards short of the end zone, but he kept moving his legs as essentially the rest of the offense piled together to push him across the line.
It was so remarkable that NFL.com named it among the top-5 rushes of Week 12 in the video below.
Gruden: Terrell Suggs Is a Hall of Famer, No Doubt
At 35 years old, Suggs has found the fountain of youth and is still leading his team to victories.
He made play after play against the Texans, leading to Gruden declaring that he is "no doubt" a future Hall of Famer.
"This is a week to step back and admire Suggs," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker. "[Harbaugh] believes Suggs is playing as well as he has at any time in the past 10 years. It's hard to argue after the 'old' man raised his season total to 9 ½ sacks and made the biggest play of the game.
"Even during his most battered seasons, Suggs has produced indelible moments. The difference this year is that he's producing every week as the stretch run nears. He's at worst the third best defender in team history behind Lewis and Ed Reed. But neither Reed nor Lewis made this great an impact at the same age. It's something to see."
ESPN Turned Flacco Into a Graphical Dancing Raven With Wings
I don't know what's happening in this world.
ESPN turned Flacco into some sort of dancing-Raven-with-wings thingy last night, and I don't understand why.
Wait, yes I do. It grabs attention and gets people like me to highlight it in their stories.
"I have so many questions," wrote The Sun's Jonas Shaffer. "Why is he shedding so much? Are the wings affixed to his uniform, or do they just through a custom-made jersey? Why doesn't he fly when he flaps his wings? So are his wings merely ornamental, then? …What does the actual raven in the corner think of him? Why does he still need a hand warmer?"
I have zero answers.
Tom Savage Leaves Presser Before Anyone Asks a Question
Savage initially came under fire for leaving the post-game press conference before a reporter could ask any questions. He was accused of not facing the music after two costly turnovers that led to the Texans' loss.
But reporters came to his defense, saying there was confusion about where he would speak. Savage ended up talking with journalists at his locker.
Ravens Made Superb Adjustment Against Jadeveon Clowney
Through a quarter of action, it looked as if former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney would single-handedly destroy the Ravens' chances of winning and keeping an inside track on their playoff position.
It got worse when Ronnie Stanley temporarily left the game with a leg injury. But the franchise left tackle returned, and the rest of the line figured out ways to prevent Clowney from wreaking havoc.
"The Ravens made superb in-game adjustments to neutralize Jadeveon Clowney," wrote Walker. "Basically, he looked like Lawrence Taylor reincarnated.
"But give the Ravens credit for finding all manner of solutions to the Clowney problem. On some plays, they double-teamed him. On others, they used running backs and tight ends to chip at him and blunt his momentum. Sometimes, Stanley just handled him. Over the last three quarters, Clowney made zero tackles, didn't lay a hand on Flacco and committed a costly offsides penalty in the fourth quarter."