A common theme as we chatted throughout the night Thursday night was the idea that the Ravens defense has gone from “elite” to “average.” That’s probably not fair, as the Ravens still probably deserve to be considered a “good” defense, but it is ABSOLUTELY fair to say that they are no longer “elite.”
The numbers will bear that out. Entering Thursday night’s game, the Ravens had the NFL’s 9th rated defense, allowing 310.8 yards per game. They allowed 362 to the Falcons Thursday night, meaning they will probably end the weekend outside of the Top 10, but still well within the top half of the league.
They’re still a bit above average. It’s unlikely that teams will consistently torch them for 25-40 points the rest of the season, but it is also unlikely that the Ravens will hold teams to 17 or fewer points the rest of the season.
The biggest difference for this team now is that the defense can no longer be counted on to “carry” the load down the stretch. The Ravens are going to have to continue to be a balanced team, winning games with offense, defense and special teams. They’ve done that in six of their first nine games in 2010.
What struck me Thursday night was that for the second time this season in a crucial situation, the Ravens WERE able to march down the field and come up with a score late in the game when absolutely necessary. After finding WR TJ Houshmandzadeh in the final two minutes to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Week 4, Flacco delivered again in finding Heap with 65 seconds to play in Atlanta.
The problem is, it seemed like everyone in the stadium knew the Ravens had probably left too much time on the clock.
Of course, that’s because they had.
Great teams don’t always have elite defenses. Great teams don’t always even have defenses that make the biggest plays in the biggest games(cont).