Five thoughts on the Ravens' 55-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:
Ravens' Perfect Scenario Unfolded
The Ravens' perfect scenario for this game was a win that generated some momentum, helping them put their recent run of unimpressive performances behind them. On a perfect mid-November afternoon, their perfect scenario unfolded. The Ravens talked a lot afterward about how their dismantling of the Raiders won't matter a week from now against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I beg to differ. This team needed to crush someone. It needed to see that its array of offensive weapons could indeed still be effective together, and that its maligned defense could rise up. (Nice aggressive scheme from Dean Pees, by the way.) Now the Ravens will have more confidence going into Pittsburgh, while the Steelers will see on tape that Flacco can go to his tight ends as well as his wideouts, and that Jacoby Jones is another deep threat to go along with Torrey Smith, whom, ahem, they already know.
Chargers Make Playoff Picture Look Even Better
How about those … Chargers? That's probably not what most Ravens fans are saying after watching their team set a single-game scoring record in destroying the woeful Raiders. But the San Diego Chargers' loss in Tampa Bay had a big impact on the Ravens' playoff prospects. It means the Ravens now have a three-game lead on any team that could possibly catch them for a wild-card berth. Sure, they're still more interested in capturing the AFC North, but with a tough finishing stretch looming, starting with two games against the Steelers in the next three weeks, there's no telling what might happen. And the primary goal is to make the playoffs, period. Leading their bottom-line pursuers in that race by three games with seven to play, the Ravens are in excellent shape. Yes, they have confounded themselves and the fans along the way with inconsistent play at times, but the spoils of their ability to win ugly, as opposed to not winning at all, are suddenly quite evident.
The Real Home-Road Disparity
A lot of the locker room conversation centered on the Ravens' mystifying home/road disparity, i.e., how can their offense be so thunderously dominant at home after getting shut down for long stretches in the team's prior two games, both on the road? Such scrutiny is inevitable when a team continually plays so well at home and struggles on the road, but I would contend that a different kind of disparity was responsible for Sunday's big win – the Ravens gave Flacco all the time he needed to throw in this game, as opposed to the previous ones on the road. The offensive line didn't allow a sack for the second time all season, the first time being in the home win against the New England Patriots in which Flacco threw for 382 yards. He totaled 341 in a little over three quarters Sunday. "Credit the (offensive) line," running back Ray Rice said Sunday. "We compared the Raiders (beforehand) to some of the great pass rushing teams we have played. But Joe had all the time he needed."
Nothing Unsporting About Fake FG
Let's have none of this hoo-hah about the Ravens piling it on when they called for a fake field goal with a 24-point lead in the third quarter. The game was still competitive at that point. Yes, the Ravens were well ahead, but the Raiders had shown the ability to score quickly with Carson Palmer throwing deep, and with some 20 minutes left in the game at that point, a comeback, while not likely, was within the realm of possibility. (The Buffalo Bills almost overcame a 14-point deficit in the last 16 minutes Sunday in New England.) The Ravens' trick play worked perfectly, with holder Sam Koch taking the ball through a hole and into the end zone for a touchdown that effectively slammed the door on the game. There was nothing unsporting about it. The Ravens were just playing to win, which you do in the NFL, as opposed to youth-league ball.
One Of Poorest Performances Ever By Ravens' Opponent
At the risk of piling on, I have to say something about how awful the Raiders were in defeat. That was one of the poorer displays by any team that has come into M&T Bank Stadium in recent years. Let us count the ways they beat themselves. They committed 10 penalties worth 105 yards (and had several more turned down). They lost three turnovers. They self-destructed on a pair of fourth-down tries. They gave up one touchdown on a kickoff return and another on a fake field goal. They had six passes tipped at the line. And as if all that weren't damaging enough, their secondary let Baltimore's receivers roam free all day. I'm talking wide open. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh had said earlier in the week that there are no homecoming games in the NFL, that every opponent can beat you, which is true. (See: Ravens-Jaguars last year.) But Harbaugh could only smile and shrug when asked to defend his homecoming comment after a homecoming-style win. "I have no answer for that question," he said.