Playing in front of a national audience, the Baltimore Ravens racked up a season high 533 yards, 224 of those coming from the running game in what amounted to a statement game for the Ravens, delivering a huge blow to the New York Giants’ playoff chances.
The Ravens snapped a three-game losing streak beating the defending Super Bowl champs handedly, 33-14 and they got things going early, working a 14-play, 73-yard opening-drive score and never looked back. With the win, the Ravens captured their 2nd straight AFC North division title, the first time in franchise history they’ve done so.
It’s the Ravens 13th consecutive victory at M&T Bank Stadium against NFC opponents and 10-0 at home versus the NFC under head coach John Harbaugh.
“Good Joe” came to play in front of an national audience. He just looked like a different quarterback in this one. Behind a line that blocked terrifically, Flacco was in control and completely comfortable behind center. The Ravens were 11-for-18 on 3rd down and Flacco made solid throws for first downs.
When Joe Flacco has time to throw the football, he can play and beat anyone in the National Football League. He found Ray Rice for a 27-yard touchdown over the middle, firing it between two Giants defenders. Flacco found Anquan Boldin down the seam on a nice pass on 3rd-and-18. Flacco showed quick release on his touchdown throw to Torrey Smith on a slant as the Giants brought heat. He used the middle effectively with Boldin to set up the deep ball as Flacco continuously picked on Giants corner Corey Webster throughout the game.
He was accurate and efficient, completing 25-of-36 for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco’s 3,783 passing yards are now a career high.
Running Backs: A
Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce gashed the Giants defense with the run game, both running for more than 100 yards. Rice finished with 107 yards on 24 carries, and six catches for 51 yards and a TD. His playmaking ability has been sorely missed in this offense. Jim Caldwell seems to get that.
The Ravens greatly missed Bernard Pierce last week with his concussion. He was back in a big way this week. Pierce wastes no motion, he finds holes and runs hard through them. The 18-yard run early in the 1st quarter to his right where he was decisive in his cut and then instead of just going out of bounds, tip-toed his way down the sideline for extra yardage was a sweet run. Pierce accelerated through another for a 78-yard run that he nearly turned into a touchdown. He finished with 123 yards on 14 carries.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B+
Before injuring his shoulder, Anquan Boldin was a force in the middle of the field. He was able to help clear out the middle bringing the safeties up so Flacco could exploit Corey Webster deep who was busy getting burnt to a crisp all afternoon long. Boldin finished with 93 yards and seven catches. Torrey Smith returned from his concussion and looked fine, making a few acrobatic catches (five catches, 88 yards) and Dennis Pitta caught four passes for 56 yards.
Other than that, a few catches were negated by penalties from the offensive line. Jacoby Jones had a touchdown catch negated, Ed Dickson had a long reception brought back as well.
Offensive Line: A
Marshal Yanda returned from injury and that really helped to settle down the line as a whole. Tackles Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele did an outstanding job limiting what Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora did on the edges, they kept Joe Flacco upright and didn’t allow a sack to that duo who have 12.5 sacks combined. Michael Oher, however was flagged three different times on one particular drive in the 2nd half. He has to somehow limit these mistakes.
Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce had running lanes all afternoon as the blocking up front and into the 2nd level was superb.
Defensive Line: B+
This unit kept pressure on Eli Manning all afternoon which was exactly what defensive coordinator Dean Pees drew up. Haloti Ngata looked as healthy as he has all season long. He showed good burst through the line and sacked Manning in the 1st half. That pressure also slowed up the Giants ability to run the football, gaining just 67 yards on the day.
It won’t show up on stat sheets, but Art Jones and Pernell McPhee were able to help force pressure to Manning as the Ravens hit Eli Manning nine times in the game. Because of the pressure Manning threw off his back foot and looked uncomfortable most of the game. Credit the line for a job well done.
Dannell Ellerbe was active for the Ravens and led the team with five tackles. He’s such a dynamic part of this defense now, when he’s on the field he makes them better. Brendon Ayanbadejo started for Albert McClellan who was inactive dealing with injuries. Ayanbadejo recorded one of the three sacks on the day for the defense.
Paul Kruger didn’t record a tackle, but the threat of him on the edge was enough for Manning. Kruger was able to get to Manning a couple times knocking him to the ground.
Chykie Brown stepped up big time for the Ravens today. The 2nd year corner had two tackles, but defended four passes which led the team. He was a true ball hawk. Cary Williams defended two passes and while he’s good for getting beaten at least once a game, kept everything in front of him and didn’t allow much space between himself, the ball and the receiver. Because of the pressure the defensive line put on Manning, he was never comfortable throwing the ball deep on the secondary.
James Ihedigbo started for the injured Bernard Pollard who is still out with the chest injury, he has been a solid addition to this team in 2012. He plays just as physical as Pollard and isn’t afraid of contact. Ed Reed had another helmet-to-helmet hit, this time with Victor Cruz and he could be looking at discipline from the NFL in the coming days.
Special Teams: A
Justin Tucker is now 29-for-31 this season on field goals as the rookie connected on four field goals. Special teamer Omar Brown collected his first tackle and also his first sack in the NFL. Jacoby Jones really is a threat anytime he touches the ball in the return game, at least three times he had chances to bust one if he got past another tackler. Sam Koch punted just twice in the game, and one went inside the 20.
This team had a sense of urgency that had been lacking the last three weeks. The offensive game-plan was excellent. The first drive was near perfection, as the Ravens ran six times and threw six times. Caldwell used Flacco on some designed roll outs, pairing that up with play-action. The roll-outs to his right are something I haven’t seen Flacco use before, so that is a welcoming sign. Very impressed with the way the Ravens finally used the middle of the field to their advantage; Ray Rice’s TD run was a new wrinkle that hasn’t been seen in the offense as to date.
Defensively, Dean Pees devised a nice game plan, set on pressuring Eli Manning, using creative blitzes at times and staying physical with the Giants bigger receivers. Hakeem Nicks was held without a catch and Victor Cruz finished with just three catches for 21 yards. Credit the staff with the game plan and for the secondary executing tremendously.
The Ravens beat down the Giants like they were the school yard bully. They outgained and outwilled the Giants. They nearly doubled the Giants in time of possession (39:21 to 20:39). This absolutely was a game the Ravens needed and made a statement in front of 71,470 fans and to those watching on national television.
After looking flat last week versus the Denver Broncos at home, the Ravens again look like a force to be reckon with as a team coming into this season who were considered to be one of the favorites to get to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
With the win, the Ravens are guaranteed at least one home game in the playoffs and cap off back to back AFC North division titles for the first time in franchise history. This team is battle-tested and could be peaking at the right time. It was just contagious; the offense clicked on all cylinders and the defense fed off that and held the Giants to 186 yards of total offense.
Division title in hand, next up, a trip to Cincinnati to face the Bengals who will try to avenge a blowout loss in Week 1 to the Ravens.
Matt Lund is a contributor for BaltimoreSportsReport.com and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @MattCLund.