Now that I’ve thawed out and feeling has come back to these fingers to type this, I can bring to you my thoughts and observations from a strange but crucial victory for the Baltimore Ravens over the Rex Ryan-led New York Jets.
I heard quite a few Baltimore Ravens fans say, “this is one of the coldest games I’ve ever been to” while inside the stadium today and you’d get no arguments on my behalf as this was indeed a bitterly-cold showdown in Jets’ safety Ed Reed‘s second homecoming at M&T Bank Stadium this season.
Speaking of Ed Reed, he actually made a play that helped the Jets, breaking up a pass in the end zone on Jacoby Jones that would have given the Ravens a touchdown in the first quarter. For Reed it was his first pass deflection of the year, leading to a smattering of “Reed” cheers in the stadium.
Ed Reed credited with first pass deflection this year, including previous stint with the Texans
— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) November 24, 2013
Maybe it was the cold weather or just a poor game plan, but the lack of an offensive explosion hung around the stadium for the first half until the Ravens picked up the energy somewhat in the 2nd half.
The slow start in the first half led to three Justin Tucker field goals and a 9-3 lead for the Ravens at halftime. For most of the afternoon, the wind swirled throughout the stadium, but Tucker’s leg proved true. He nailed field goals from 30, 26 and 33 yards respectively in the first half. In the second half, he booted his fourth from 52 yards with plenty of leg. The kick wasn’t easy. And after, he had yet another GIF worth checking out, the guy is so cool.
On offense, they tried to spice things up by utilizing the “Tyrod Taylor package”, splitting Joe Flacco out wide and lining Taylor up under center. It was a cute attempt, but the Jets weren’t buying it. They ran Taylor off tackle, or handed the ball to Rice or Pierce inside and Flacco stood on the outside as a decoy.
He wasn’t happy after the game about the wildcat package used quite extensively, telling media members, “It’s good and fun for a bit. But that’s about it.” He went on to add, “I don’t want to be lining up at Z and X, I want to line up behind center.”
I don’t blame Flacco one bit for feeling the same way a lot of fans did too.
Speaking of Flacco, it was an otherwise average day for average Joe, completing 17 of 26 passes for 273 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His two most important throws and completions came on long balls to Torrey Smith and later Jacoby Jones.
Flacco connected with Smith down the sideline for a 60-yard strike which resulted in the offense settling for a field goal. He later found Jones on a 66-yard strike for a TD that actually was thrown in stride, beating Reed for the score.
We can’t forget about the interception right before halftime that was ugly and inexcusable for a guy in his sixth season. Flacco stared down corner Antonio Cromartie while Torrey Smith ran a five-yard out and watched the ball sail over his head.
Overall the offense struggled in the red zone and Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce finished with a combined 60 yards on the day. The Ravens were lucky the Jets were even worse on offense or this may have been a different story.
The offensive line allowed four sacks on Flacco but overall, did what they could against a very strong Jets defensive front. There just wasn’t much room to run the football, but they worked hard in the trenches to allow Flacco time to move around in the pocket and dump passes off at the very last second.
Its a shame that Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden‘s ring ceremony was during halftime of today’s game because most of the stadium was busy trying to find ways to warm every extremity of their bodies and not watching a nice tribute for one of the all-time greats.
I’m sure Ogden didn’t mind, he probably wanted to get off the field and into a warm sky box.
It was a vintage defensive performance in front of the old defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, holding the Jets to 220 total yards, forcing three turnovers and into 11 three-and-out situations. Quite simply, the defense was dominant.
The Ravens brought pressure to Jets QB Geno Smith and forced him into two interceptions on poorly thrown balls. Smith had six interceptions in his last four starts coming into today’s game. Both interceptions came via Corey Graham who seemed around the football today and looked more like the Corey Graham who made key plays in games last season.
Terrell Suggs recovered a fumble that bounced his way in the second quarter after Greg Salas practically ran into the ball while in motion and Bilal Powell failed to fall on it. Suggs didn’t do much else, finishing with just two total tackles. His fellow pass rusher friend, Elvis Dumervil recorded a sack as did Daryl Smith while tallying three passes defended. Nice game from Smith.
Elsewhere the on the defensive side, Lardarius Webb had a solid game, finishing with six tackles. He looked good in open space making tackles. On the other side, Jimmy Smith finished with three total tackles, and kept Santonio Holmes quiet with one catch for 12 yards.
I know, you’re saying, “the Jets offense is atrocious” but the Ravens leaned on the defense and special teams today and they didn’t let them down.
Of course, the next Ravens/Steelers matchup in four days has playoff implications written all over it. Both teams are 5-6 and the Steelers hold the tiebreaker over John Harbaugh’s Ravens. M&T Bank Stadium will be rocking and everyone will be full of turkey and mashed potatoes.
The loser of this Thanksgiving showdown will likely find themselves on the outside looking in at the wild AFC playoff picture.