Ravens Offense Heating up at Right Time … and Joe Flacco Has Epic Reaction
The Ravens just put together their best offensive performance of the season with a 44-20 win over the Detroit Lions.
Quarterback Joe Flacco threw for a season-high 269 yards. He notched two touchdowns to no interceptions, good enough for a 105.0 quarterback rating. The 31st-ranked offense seemingly flipped a switch and cranked out a season-best 370 yards.
"Joe Flacco quieted the naysayers for one week," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "Flacco played his best game all season and the Ravens offense — yes the Ravens offense — took over the game in the fourth quarter. Jimmy Smith's season-ending Achilles injury casts a downer on this one, but the Ravens offense was still the story. Credit Flacco for making smart throws. Credit Marty Mornhinweg for staying aggressive. The Ravens will have a chance if they play this way offensively."
The breakout came at the exact perfect time – in December, against a playoff-contending Lions team, when dangerous quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 20 consecutive completions, and with the AFC sixth seed on the line. For the second consecutive week, the Ravens closed in the fourth quarter, scoring a whopping 24 points and notching two turnovers. It marked Baltimore's first three-game winning streak of the season.
Sure, it could be an anomaly.
Oooooorrrrrr, it could be the spark to an offensive awakening that heats up for the fourth quarter of the season, as the Ravens prepare for a playoff run and next week's AFC North showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Well, we have to do our part at some point, right?" asked wide receiver Mike Wallace, who had five catches for 116 yards. "Our defense has been incredible. Our special teams has been incredible. The offense, not so much. Today, we made strides and this game is about peaking at the right time, so hopefully we can do that.
"… Our defense is championship-ready. It's about our offense being championship-ready. If we do our part, we'll get there."
Flacco's epic reaction after the game was almost *as enjoyable *as the offensive breakout and win itself. It was so epic that it became a Twitter Moment.
As he stepped up to the podium for his post-game media session, Flacco didn't say a word, and instead imitated Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston by forming his fingers into a "W" and pretending to eat it. (Winston famously ate a "W" as a motivational tactic in a team huddle before a Week 9 game.)
Flacco then just looked at the media and grinned.
He was asked how long he'd been practicing it.
"We talked about it last night," Flacco said. "I was dared to do it, so I had to do it."
Thank goodness you did, Joe. The internet loved it.
"Joe Flacco is many things, but if you call him boring, you're not paying attention," wrote Russell Street Report's Derek Arnold.
Good Thing Ravens Won, Because Chargers Aren't Slowing Down
The Ravens are now considered the favorites to win the final AFC wild-card spot with their win, combined with the Buffalo Bills' loss to the New England Patriots.
Baltimore can't get too comfortable, however. Next week's opponent, the Steelers, are 9-2 and will be a massive challenge. Meanwhile, there are some pesky challengers that won't go away, including the San Diego Chargers (6-6), Oakland Raiders (6-6) and Cincinnati Bengals (5-6).
The Bengals will take on the Steelers tonight on Monday Night Football, and really, the Ravens can't lose with any outcome. The Chargers and Raiders are also heating up. Check out how the weird AFC West has developed over the year, as outlined by Sports Illustrated's Peter King:
After one quarter of the 2017 season, this was the AFC West:
Kansas City: 4-0
L.A. Chargers: 0-4
Over the past two months, this has been the AFC West:
L.A. Chargers: 6-2
Kansas City: 2-6
With one-quarter of the season remaining, the AFC West standings:
Kansas City: 6-6
L.A. Chargers: 6-6
"The Ravens improved to 7-5, and need to just split their final four games to reach nine wins, which should be enough to reach the playoffs in the vanilla AFC," wrote PressBox.com's Bo Smolka. "They figure to be favored in their final three games -- at Cleveland and then home against Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Suddenly, 10 wins seems like a possibility.
"The Ravens take a three-game winning streak to Heinz Field next Sunday night to face the Pittsburgh Steelers, and even if they lose that game -- and they historically play very well there -- they would just need to win two of their remaining three games, all against teams with losing records with two of them at home, to finish 9-7. This is no time for the Ravens to get complacent, and they surely won't. But they suddenly have given themselves a little margin for error."
Eric Weddle Calls out Reporter, Honors Kobe Bryant, Named Defensive Player of Week
Boy oh boy, did safety Eric Weddle have himself a monster game.
He was responsible for two touchdowns. First, he forced a fumble on a massive hit and sack on Stafford in the second quarter. Six plays later, the offense punched it into the end zone. Then, Weddle essentially sealed the win with a fourth-quarter pick-six and celebrated by "dribbling" and "shooting" the football like a basketball through linebacker Patrick Onwuasor's arms.
Weddle continues to be a savvy offseason addition by the Ravens two years ago. Since he's come to town, he's forced 12 turnovers. He now has 28 career interceptions. King named Weddle one of* *his Defensive Players of the Week.
"Weddle, 32, showed a little bit of everything he's brought to Baltimore in his nearly two years since leaving the Chargers in free agency," King wrote. "And he showed how much he has left."
All of this essentially means that Weddle's earned the right to call out reporters when they doubt him and his team.
Ravens Planned for This 'Nightmare' Jimmy Smith Scenario; Marlon Humphrey Becomes Most Important Player
There's no replacing Jimmy Smith.
As Head Coach John Harbaugh said yesterday, Smith was playing at an All-Pro level.
Baltimore Beatdown's Matthew Cohen called Smith's Achilles tear a "nightmare" scenario. And in the past, that's exactly what it's been. One could easily argue that the Ravens would've reached the playoffs last year had they not lost him for four of the last six games.
It turns out the Ravens have lost Smith anyway, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday that he has been suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He was reportedly planning to appeal the suspension, but will now serve it while he's injured.
This time, the Ravens are better prepared for the nightmare scenario. During the offseason, they went out and signed the ever-durable Brandon Carr and used their first-round pick on Marlon Humphrey. They also have Maurice Canady, who can play on the outside and inside. They also have surprise undrafted rookie Jaylen Hill, and re-signed veterans Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine.* *
"This year, the depth is there," wrote Cohen.
The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker says Humphrey just became one of the most important players on the team.
"Even if the injury was far from a fait accompli, the Ravens were aware Smith's Achilles could rupture and bring an abrupt end to his run of career-best play," wrote Walker. "Their No. 1 cornerback's tenuous health was a sword hanging over the season."
"That's why it was so important for the coaches to work Humphrey into the lineup early in the season. Because the rookie has been so good, the Ravens are in far better shape to endure Smith's injury than they were in previous seasons. … He hasn't received as much acclaim as some other rookies, but that's largely because he has not played as many snaps. Now, he'll face his true trial by fire as a full-time starter in the thick of a playoff race. He's one of the most important players on the team going forward."
Humphrey struggled in relief of Smith at first, giving up five catches for a season-high 116 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. But he rebounded with a ball-tracking interception in the fourth quarter. Harbaugh said the breakdowns were because of technique, which the rookie usually has, so there's confidence he'll be fine going forward.
As for Smith …
"It must feel maddening to possess every gift — mental and physical — needed to thrive at one of the sport's premium positions, only to be undermined by injuries," Walker wrote. "Smith certainly works hard at maintaining his body. He employs a rotation of trainers and specialists who come to his house to make sure every part of his frame is strong and loose. He's just unlucky in this one way."
Terrell Suggs Left His Cleat Imprint, But Luckily Matthew Stafford Did Not Break Hand
The good news coming out of Detroit is that Stafford only suffered a hand bruise after outside linebacker Terrell Suggs accidentally stepped on it as he was falling to the ground in the fourth quarter.
The Lions are happy that Stafford didn't break it. So am I. Everyone hates seeing truly talented players miss games.
Suggs did leave his cleat imprint on Stafford's hand.