With six games remaining in the season for the Ravens, could this be a sign of things to come?
Playing in front of the home crowd at M&T Bank Stadium, the Baltimore Ravens routed the Oakland Raiders 55-20 to improve to 7-2, just the 2nd time in franchise history they have started 7-2 after their first nine games. The 55 points amassed by Baltimore is also a franchise record.
The Ravens scored on six of their first seven possessions on the day, racked up 419 total yards, (which by the way, was three less yards than what they allowed to the Raiders). Special teams also scored two touchdowns, while the defense generated three sacks and an interception from Raiders QB Carson Palmer. They imposed their will on Oakland and set the tempo from the jump.
At least for one day, they handled business in the way only a team with aspirations of a Super Bowl can do, beating down an inferior opponent not only physically but mentally as well.
Joe Flacco’s arm was very strong today. Oakland made an attempt to shut down the Ravens run game after being torched by Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin last week, so the Ravens turned to Flacco’s arm to pick apart a sorry Raiders secondary.
Flacco wanted to throw deep and was able to do so, he also found his groove underneath and on intermediate routes as well, throwing for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns. Flacco also added a touchdown on a goal-line keeper in the 1st quarter.
The offensive line did not allow a sack in the game, so having Flacco upright and comfortable in the pocket will lead to big days for Joe the QB.
Running Backs: B
Because the Ravens took control of the game quickly, the running game didn’t have to do much. Ray Rice carried 13 times for 35 yards but scored on a short-yardage touchdown just before halftime. Bernard Pierce always runs hard when he gets into games. Rice grinded the Raiders down and Pierce and his fresh legs were a great one-two punch. It may be cliche, but, Vonta Leach brings his hard hat and lunch pail each game, nothing new there.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A
Outstanding effort from this unit. Anquan Boldin matched physicality with most of the the Raiders secondary like safety Michael Huff and corner back Joselio Hanson who jawed with Boldin after making a play. Boldin simply pointed to the scoreboard and that shut Hanson up. It was that kind of day.
Torrey Smith continues to flourish, hauling in two scores from Joe Flacco, the first on busted coverage, and the second with a defender draped on him. The play from tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are huge for Flacco and this offense moving forward.
Pitta shook off a nasty hit in the 1st half to catch five passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. Pitta has great hands and used his 6’4″ frame to climb the ladder on one pass from Flacco. Ed Dickson had two catches, one that went for 40 yards.
Offensive Line: A
The offensive line allowed zero sacks to Oakland. Its always a good thing when your quarterback is kept upright and given time to throw the football effectively.
Because the game was in hand fairly quickly, the Ravens were able to give some starters a breather in the game. Jah Reid replaced Bobbie Williams at LG, subbed briefly for Marshal Yanda at RG and opened a Mack truck-sized hole for Ray Rice to run through on his seven-yard scamper.
Oakland had no pass rush, but the Ravens blocked well in the a-gap when Oakland tried their different looks. Both Matt Birk and Marshal Yanda had very strong games.
Defensive Line: A
Seventh-round rookie Deangelo Tyson started for Haloti Ngata and played outstanding in his role, defending two passes. It was huge for the Ravens to not have to play Ngata, who was dressed but can now focus on getting healthier for the showdown in Pittsburgh.
Bryan Hall was also active for the Ravens and Terrence Cody was decent in his role today.
Jameel McClain had a strong game with seven tackles and Dannell Ellerbe had six tackles. Both played well in pass coverage where tackles weren’t all just being made down field.
Paul Kruger had the athletic play of the day, batting a pass into the air and intercepting Carson Palmer. Kruger also collected two sacks as well. He’s played a lot better since Terrell Suggs returned to the field. Suggs only had two tackles, but defended two passes.
Carson Palmer threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders played from behind all afternoon, so a lot of the yardage came with the defense playing softer coverage off the ball.
Corey Graham played extensive minutes for Jimmy Smith, who according to head coach John Harbaugh, “could not get warmed up properly from a groin injury.” Graham was beaten on a long touchdown throw to Denarius Moore in the 3rd quarter. Bernard Pollard led the Ravens with 8 tackles and laid some big time hits on Raider receivers. Just another day at the office for Pollard.
Special Teams: A+
This unit had themselves a day. There will be people that say the fake field goal scored for a touchdown by punter Sam Koch was unnecessary and showed up head coach Dennis Allen and his Raiders, but also because it put the Ravens up by 31 in a game that was out of reach. Head coach John Harbaugh said it was a “play they practiced during the week and the Raiders gave them a look to be able to run it.”
Jacoby Jones returned his 2nd kickoff for a touchdown this season. He’s been a fine pickup for the Ravens. Justin Tucker had a normal afternoon, converting all seven extra points and two field goals (48, 34 yards)
For the first time since the Cincinnati Bengals game, the Ravens dominated in all three phases of the game. They certainly weren’t looking past the Oakland Raiders for their showdown next Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
The Ravens will savor this victory over Oakland, but not for long. It’s already Steelers Week and the Ravens will quickly prepare for the showdown in Pittsburgh next Sunday night.
With the win, the Ravens run their record to 15 straight victories at M&T Bank Stadium, but what’s being shown with each home win is that for the Ravens to go far in the playoffs, the games need to be played in Baltimore. The team just plays better at home. And with three of the next four games being on the road, now is the time to see what these Baltimore Ravens are made of.
Matt Lund is a contributor for BaltimoreSportsReport.com and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @MattCLund.