With a hit that he personally described as one of the greatest of his career, Ray Lewis put an exclamation point on a Ravens west coast victory that will go down as one of the most exciting games in purple history.
Seriously – watch that hit again.
Whether in the bar, the living room, the den, or at Qualcomm Stadium for a lucky few, an entire fan base exploded as #52 crashed through the line of scrimmage to end San Diego’s hopes of a comeback win. Actually, on the telecast, it was tough to tell immediately which player it was that made the game winning hit, but in reality…did you ever really have a doubt? Was there an iota of surprise when you saw that it was Ray Ray who took matters into his own hands? Certainly not.
It was a fitting end that the man who has been dazzling us with his play for 14 years now would be the one to finally let us all put down the Pepto Bismol bottles that we had been clutching ever since Darren Sproles ran 81 yards untouched in the first quarter to put the Bolts up 7-0. As we mentioned here Friday, Sproles WAS GOING TO MAKE PLAYS, the Ravens just had to limit the number of times he was able to do so. As evidenced by his 278 all-purpose yards (124 receiving, 26 rushing, 128 return), Diminutive Darren did indeed run wild on the Ravens.
And it wasn’t just Sproles that had a field day. Philip Rivers’ stats jump out like a sore thumb:
25/45 436 yards 2 TD 2 INT
Basically, the mismatch that we all feared, Chargers’ big WRs vs. the Ravens’ small CBs, was exploited by San Diego all day. With Ladainian Tomlinson and two starting offensive linemen out, Norv Turner decided he wasn’t going to waste time trying to establish any sort of ground game, and would just air it all all day.
And air it out they did.
Until it really mattered.
Turner’s decision to run on 4th-and-2 from the Ravens’ 15 with 37 seconds remaining in the game is the kind of thing that would have me absolutely calling for his head if I had a closet full of pewter blue jerseys. You’ve thrown for 436 yards, you need TWO…and you’re…RUNNING?!
Game. Set. Match. Ravens. Thanks for having us.
Add that to his other bone-headed calls, including kicking a FG on 3rd-and-goal with 10 seconds to go in the first half, and you pretty much sum up Norv Turner’s head coaching career.
As far as that torched Ravens’ secondary goes, well…as John Harbaugh so eloquently put it, “we need to get better.” Gee, ya think? Fabian Washington and Dominique Foxworth had atrocious days, and safety Dawan Landry, while stout against the run, was nowhere to be found in pass coverage (unless, of course, you count “getting ran by like you’re standing still,” being “found.”) Rivers seemed to be avoiding Ed Reed on purpose, and with the kind of success he was having doing so, who can blame him? Frank Walker, filling in on the final drive for Washington, who had sustained a head injury, and who prompted me to say aloud as he took the field, “Frank Walker is going to lose this game for us,” actually had a game-SAVING play when he knocked the ball from Legedu Naanee’s grasp near the goal line on 1st down of the critical final series.
Foxworth marginally redeemed himself with two passes defensed in the 4th quarter, one of which ended up in the hands of Antwan Barnes and led to a key FG that put the Ravens up by five. Honestly, though, Foxworth could have easily been flagged for pass interference on the latter, when he got to Antonio Gates a split second before the ball did.
The secondary was bad, no question about it. Some of the blame has to lie at the feet of the defensive line though, who only sacked Rivers twice all day, despite the Chargers’ banged up O-line. They applied some decent pressure in spurts, but there were far too many “almost got ‘ims,” and not nearly enough “got ims.” Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison needs to figure out a way to get some more pressure, and quickly.
On a day where Rex Ryan’s New York Jets held the New England Patriots without an offensive touchdown (the Jets have yet to allow one all year), my preseason assertion that losing Rex was really no big deal as long as Ray, Ed, and Sizzle are around was feeling a bit empty, to say the least.
Turning the page to happier conversation…how about that Ravens offense?
Did any of you, like me, find yourself feeling like you were living in some sort of “Twilight Zone” alternate reality watching the game yesterday? The Ravens defense takes the field, and my stomach knots up…Joe Flacco and crew jog on, and I’m relaxed as can be. Down is up, up is down, what the hell is going on here?!
Flacco’s calm demeanor just seems to permeate our television sets and put us all at ease. Willis McGahee looks better than he ever has since coming to Baltimore, Ray Rice continues to develop into a great open-space weapon, Le’Ron McClain keeps chugging for the sticks on every 3rd-and-short, Todd Heap has 1 touchdown less through 2 games than he had in all of 2008, and “Groovin” Kelley Washington has emerged as a a legitimate #3 wide out.
After two games, the Baltimore Ravens are second to only the New Orleans Saints in points per game, and that is with the help of exactly ZERO points scored by the purple defense and/or special teams. Strange days indeed in the Land of Pleasant Living, my friends.
With a tip of the cap to (not so) old, faithful #52, the “Bottom Line,” is that the Ravens are 2-0, which looks a hell of a lot better than 1-1.