Ravens, R. Lewis Come Up Big in San Diego

week2thoughts

The Ravens victory over the Chargers yesterday wasn’t pretty, but when have the Ravens ever been a team of style over substance? Never.

The defense gave up 476 yards, but Ray Lewis, who on fourth and 2 made the game’s biggest play, summed it up best. “You see a couple of big plays here or there, but I told the defense earlier, those third- and fourth-down goal-line stances will win us the ballgame. I’ve been in games where we’ve held under 150 yards. That’s cute. Stats are pretty. But if you don’t win, you’re sick.”

The franchise’s M.O. for winning over the past decade has been to play great defense, and hope the offense can do SOMETHING. However yesterday, in front of a crowd of 66,882 at sun-splashed Qualcomm Stadium, it was a bit of a role-reversal as the offense picked up the slack for the defense.

Willis McGahee rushed for 79 yards and was able to find the endzone twice. Dan Fouts made mention during the CBS telecast of how motivating it can be to a player when he has to earn his carries. This is a remarkably different McGahee than the one we saw in 2008. He has a great attitude this year and is looking even better than he did in 2007 when he averaged 81 yards per game and had almost 300 carries.

Joe Flacco, aside from throwing an interception early in the fourth quarter, was brilliant. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 27 yard lob to Kelley Washington looked great. He pumped to Mark Clayton who was setting up for a screen, and the Charger defense bit hard. What a great piece of play calling from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

The receivers were decent; I was expecting a bit more from Clayton and Derrick Mason. Together they only totaled 4 receptions. Kelley Washington is quickly becoming one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets. Todd Heap only caught one pass, but it was good for six and gave Baltimore their biggest lead of the game. Mason needs only 3 catches to become the 23rd player in league history to amass 800 or more receptions.

For the Ravens’ defensive front seven, it was business as usual. They held the explosive Darren Sproles to only 26 rushing yards and the Chargers as a whole to 53. The play of the secondary was cause for concern though. Sproles and Phillip Rivers connected on a 81 yard catch and run that went the distance. And receiver Vincent Jackson snagged in 6 balls for 141 yards. Down the road, teams are going to exploit corners Fabian Washington and Dominique Foxworth like the Chargers. Each is only 5-foot-11, and when the Ravens face big, tall receivers, (i.e. Braylon Edwards next week and Randy Moss in 2 weeks) they are going to have get help from the safeties and use double coverage. If they don’t figure out a way to contain these playmakers, yesterday’s game will not be the only time Baltimore gives up 400+ passing yards.

Overall, a win is a win and the play of this team right now should excite any fan. Both games this year have revealed weaknesses that could have potentially led to losses. Yet both times, the Ravens have found ways to come out victorious.

With Pittsburgh losing in Chicago yesterday, Baltimore now sits atop the AFC North. I know, I know, it’s early, but starting out 2-0 historically bodes well for the Ravens. The last three times they’ve done it, they’ve made the playoffs (2000, 2006, and 2008). An excellent opportunity to improve to 3-0 awaits this Sunday when Baltimore hosts the 0-2 Cleveland Browns.

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