So we are now eight games into the NFL season and the Baltimore Ravens are now 5-3 after a thrilling come from behind 37-27 win in Cleveland today and my question to all of you is as follows: Should the 2008 Ravens be considered a good team at this point of the season?
The question sounds easy but with half of the season to go I’m not sure we can answer yes or no yet. They’ve beaten Cincinnati, Miami, Oakland, and now Cleveland twice, lost two close games to the Steelers and the Titans and had their doors blown off by the Colts. Let’s face it, they could easily be 7-1 or at least 6-2 but they gave away two games, albeit to two good football teams.
However, today’s 14 point rally by the offense and then subsequent defensive shutdown of Cleveland has me starting to think that this Baltimore Ravens team is very close to being considered a good team and can contend for a playoff spot despite a very difficult second half of the season schedule.
When you come back from two touchdowns down on the road, as the Ravens did today at a place where the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants (7-1) lost their only football game this season, you show you not only have talent but, more importantly, you display that you can overcome adversity and doing that is the very foundation for becoming a good team.
On the field the Ravens are making lots of plays but there are still some obvious holes such as the beat up secondary that seems to hang on by a thread at times against the pass, a kick return and coverage team that takes too many penalties and has trouble covering kicks (boy am I glad we don’t have to see Joshua Cribbs for the rest of the season), and an offense that is banged up and struggled today to score a TD on a first and goal from the three yard line late in the contest.
But when you stick together and guys step up when they are behind by several points, as we saw Ray Rice, Derrick Mason, Joe Flacco, Mark Clayton, Le’Ron McClain and any of the guys on the constantly changing offensive line did today you start to build team chemistry between the offense and defense. Today I really believe that the offense won the game and energized the defense going 79 yards in just under five minutes when Cleveland was up 27-13 in the third quarter. After that Ravens TD drive the defense was lights out the rest of the way after struggling for the previous quarter of play.
This win reminded me of the one two years ago in Tennessee when the Ravens trailed 26-7 and didn’t have Ray Lewis but came back with some great offense and a stifling defense to eke out a 27-26 win. That win helped spur a 13-3 season and, I believe, made all 53 players and coaches realize they had something special going on that year. A win like today could do that with this team, especially if the players and coaches realize how special this win was and continue to learn to stick together despite some of the recent distractions (see C-Mac saga and T-Sizzle QB comments).
Flacco and the offense continue to improve and with the Ravens ability to stop any teams running game they should almost always be in the football game. So right now, if you ask me, I would have to say yes, this is a good team. But of course they have eight more games against some very good teams to prove it and it starts next week against a Houston Texans team that has a very good passing attack. What do you think?
By the way, a Redskins win over Pittsburgh tomorrow night would put the Ravens in a tie for first place in the AFC North at 5-3. Dare I say “Go Redskins??!!”