There’s so many different directions one can go when looking back on yesterday’s performance from the Ravens. You can jump on them for their dismal first half performance, and blame it on the coaching staff, the hangover from the Jaguars loss, the short week, the lack of effectiveness from Joe Flacco, the poor effort from the special teams unit, and so on. What I’ve mostly been reading and hearing is those who are praising the courageous and impressive second half comeback that led to a pretty dramatic Ravens win.

Either way, I feel that this game has taught us a lot about this Ravens team, and could ultimately be the turning point of their 2011 season.

I watched yesterday’s game with my good friend Justin Silberman, who is a co-host on The Black and Purple Report, an online radio show (hear me join them after the 80 minute mark here). From the get-go, Justin and I agreed that yesterday’s game seemed almost identical to last year’s game against the Bills. Yesterday was another home game against an awful team, which started poorly for the Ravens, and eventually ended with a game-winning field goal. The whole team seemed indifferent from kickoff, and aside from Ray Rice, the offense looked as bad as it did against Jacksonville. Joe Flacco was horrible in the first half, and at one point, I truly believed that Tyrod Taylor would have been a better option for the offense. I’m a massive supporter of Joe Flacco, and I thought Tyrod would have been a better option. That’s how bad it got.

Obviously, the second half was a whole different story. Anquan Boldin looked like a man possessed. Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta became factors in the passing game. Flacco, overcoming his failures of the first half, put in a great shift in the second half, prompting this legendary tweet from Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg):

Flacco in the 2nd half today was the greatest shotgun-related performance in Baltimore since Omar & his crew hit the Barksdale stash house.

Watching Flacco work so well in the second half, Justin and I were amazed by the fact that the Ravens haven’t exploited the shotgun and no-huddle more this season. He’s a chronic ball-holder, meaning he takes about double the time he should to release the ball. By pushing Flacco back to the shotgun, he gets an extra second and a half to let his receivers finish their routes. By running the no-huddle, the defensive ends get a bit tired, and calm down the pass rush. Together, it’s a lethal combination, and that was seen by Flacco’s overall effectiveness in the second half. Yes, some might complain that he threw too many passes, but what good would running the ball have done in that second half? The Ravens needed quick scores, and by allowing Flacco to experiment down the field a bit, the offense got the job done.

Just some key talking points to close this out:

  • The defense is excellent. Of the three touchdowns scored, the only one that was the defense’s fault was caused by Larry Fitzgerald’s big catch-and-run. Take out that play, and the defense played a nearly flawless game. The second half field goal was mostly due to shoddy officiating by Jeff “Pass Interference” Triplette.
  • Bernard Pollard is a liability on the field. He consistently misses tackles, plays poorly in coverage, and is lucky not to be called for unnecessary roughness more than he already is. His instincts cause him to hit helmet-to-helmet far too often.
  • Ray Rice was super effective when he was given the ball, further strengthening the validity of Terrell Suggs’ comments. He obviously got more touches than last Monday, and I think he’s due for a breakout game next week in Pittsburgh.
  • Speaking of next week, both teams are coming off close, mentally draining games. It will truly be a battle of attrition, with another 35-7 type outcome very unlikely. Flacco will need to succeed early and complete short, quick passes.