The Baltimore Ravens answered critics around the NFL and even in their-own fan base today with a decisive 33-14 win over the New England Patriots in a pivotal wild card match up. The win was not the shocking part; however it was how the Baltimore Ravens won. Baltimore searched within themselves and finally found their identity. For the first time all year the Ravens fifty- three man squad actually played like a “Raven.”
Baltimore jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, when Ray Rice ran for an 83 yard touchdown run. The Ravens were not finished though, on the Patriots’ first possession, Terrell Suggs forced and recovered a fumble from New England quarterback Tom Brady on the Patriots’ own 17 yard line. 5 plays later, Le’ron McClain pounded in a 1 yard touchdown run to expand the Ravens lead to 14; only two minutes into the first quarter.
The Ravens, who have been notorious for starting games slow. Found a way to right the ship and finish off a Chris Carr interception of Tom Brady, with another Ray Rice touchdown to bring the game to a lopsided 21-0 lead. Baltimore finished off the 1st quarter with a field goal after an Ed Reed interception of Brady. Furthermore, increasing their lead to 24 points and kept the hottest 1st half team scoreless.
New England however, did manage to score a touchdown early in the second quarter after a punt hit off of a Ravens’ punt return player [Tom Zbikowski] and was recovered by the Patriots’ Kyle Arrington on Baltimore’s own 16 yard line. It did appear that the Patriots player did not have possession of the ball before going out of bounds, however Baltimore chose not to challenge the play. Eventually, Tom Brady led the Patriots through the red zone and hit Julian Edelman on the 11th play of the possession for a six yard touchdown. New England however, would not score again until late into 3rd Quarter with 1:47 left. Brady again found Edelman for a 1 yard touchdown strike, cutting Baltimore’s lead to thirteen. However, Willis McGahee capped off a three yard touchdown run in the 4th. Baltimore would go onto finish the game 33-14
Baltimore returned to their offensive philosophy of; “run to win”. Furthermore, Baltimore collectively as a team ran for 236 yards on the ground, and picked up 13 rushing first downs opposed to 3 in the air. However, there is no need for Ravens’ fans to worry about the Ravens passing game, because it simply wasn’t needed. Ray Rice finished off the day with 159 of the teams 236 yards on 22 carries with two touchdown runs. Willis McGahee also carried the ball 20 times for 64 yards and a touchdown run.
Baltimore can take more away from this game, than just being able to run the ball well. The Ravens as a team only committed three penalties for a total of 15 yards. Penalties had haunted the Ravens as a team during the regular season, most notably, when the Ravens committed 12 penalties against the Green Bay Packers. Five, of which was defensive pass interference calls against Baltimore. Also, Baltimore did not commit any personal foul penalties in today’s game.
Defensively, Baltimore had a sense of urgency as they were able to get Patriots quarterback Tom Brady three times, and had him running for his life. The Ravens defensive pressure also helped force errant interceptions by Tom Brady. Unfortunately for Brady, he finished the day with two touchdowns and three interceptions on 154 yards passing. Furthermore, Randy Moss finished with only 54 yards on 5 catches and seemed non-existent.
Ray Lewis put it best after the game when he said, “We’ve been through everything, and there hasn’t been one thing we haven’t faced”. Baltimore all year had been on the short end of heart breaking losses, one of which came against the Patriots earlier in the year. Although, for once they were finally on the other end and didn’t beat themselves or let officials dictate the game.
Head coach John Harbaugh also summed up the Ravens journey to the playoffs after the win against the Oakland Raiders in the final regular season game saying,
“It’s been a tough road. We’ve suffered our share of disappointments, but congratulations to our players and coaches who made [the playoffs] happen, really under difficult circumstances. We’re going to be a formidable opponent, there’s no doubt about that.”
And that’s exactly what the Ravens were today against the New England Patriots, a formidable opponent.
Next week the Ravens will travel to Indianapolis to play the Colts. After today there is a lot of hope in Baltimore. Not only to make up for the devastating loss to Indianapolis earlier in the year, which one arguably could say the Ravens should have won. Personally, if the Ravens do what THEY have to do and “run to win”, keep the officials out of the game; there is no reason why the Ravens cannot beat the Colts the second time around.
- Two Baltimore running backs ran for 20 rushes a piece, as Willis McGahee ran for 64 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown run and Ray Rice ran for 159 yard on 22 carries with 2 touchdown runs.
- Willis McGahee was named the AFC offensive player of the week in week 17 after running for a career-high 167 yards rushing and three touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders.