Fortunate or not, Ravens win in San Diego, 31-26

September 20, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Ray Lewis and Norv Turner to the rescue.

Lewis had a 12-tackle game and stopped Darren Sproles on 4th down in the game’s final minute and Turner contributed some strange play calling down the stretch as the Ravens won, 31-26, on Sunday in San Diego to improve to 2-0.

Phillip Rivers threw so much on Sunday he’s now a Cy Young candidate in the National League.

The Ravens defensive backfield, according to John Harbaugh after the game, “has to get better”.

Gee, Coach, ya think?

It was a strange but very good win for the Ravens, who played the “bend but don’t break” defense to perfection most of the afternoon.

Baltimore’s pass rush on Phillip Rivers was virtually non-existent and those left to do battle with the San Diego pass catchers were torched all afternoon.  Domonique Foxworth, Fabian Washington and Dawan Landry were victimized all day long. Oddly enough, the much-maligned Frank Walker replaced Washington late in the game and made a nice play in the end zone to nullify a go-ahead score by the Chargers.

That was one of the rare occasions when the Ravens defensive backfield performers won a battle on Sunday afternoon.  

But a road win is a road win and a win in San Diego could potentially be VERY important down the road if these two teams should be jockeying for post-season position in January.

Norv Turner chipped in as expected, only throwing the ball into the end zone once in his team’s last four plays inside the Baltimore 40-yard line.  His Chargers wide receivers had exposed the smaller Ravens secondary all afternoon, but Turner elected to do the short dump-off stuff late in the game.  Then, on 4th down, he tried to run Sproles UP THE MIDDLE and he was crunched by Lewis to end San Diego’s hopes.

And to end the second quarter, Turner elected to kick a sure-thing field goal on 3rd down instead of throwing one more ball into the end zone with 10 seconds to play.  I don’t think any other coach in the league would have done that at home.

Coaching does matter, and Turner coached himself right out of that game in the waning moments of both halves.  

Ray Lewis matters, too, and he earned his paycheck on Sunday with a virtuoso performance that showed everyone around the league he’s still the boss in Baltimore.

Make no mistake about it, though, this Ravens defense MUST get better if the club fancies themselves legitimate playoff contenders.  Right now, they’re probably missing Rex Ryan more than they’re missing any one player in particular, although Bart Scott’s departure and Trevor Pryce’s mysterious disappearance through two games are also major factors in the club’s inability to get to the quarterback.

When you can’t pressure the guy throwing the ball, you’re going to give up yards and points in the NFL.  That’s how the Ravens got torched in San Diego.  Rivers wasn’t pressured nearly enough.  When he WAS pressured, he did dumb things like threw an ill-advised pass that was snared by Dawan Landry to set up Todd Heap’s touchdown.  But, for the most part, Rivers had a lawn chair back there and he picked apart Baltimore’s under-sized defensive backs.

It will be “get well week” next Sunday when the Browns come to town.  I’ll early-call that one a 30-10 Baltimore win.

I have to say I’m a tad disappointed in the way Cam Cameron is using Le’Ron McClain, especially today in the 4th quarter when the Ravens could have used him to pound that small, inexperienced San Diego front four.  That was McClain’s specialty a year ago…grinding out wins with 8-10 carries in one drive.  He’s only hauled the ball 10 times in two games thus far; not enough for my liking.

Speaking of running backs, Willis McGahee has been a big contributor in the two games thus far.  Hats off to him.

Last but not least, a salute to Kelley Washington, who caught a TD pass (might want to actually get in the end zone first before the dance) and has CLEARY become the team’s #3 wide receiver.  

Lots of stuff to work on for the Ravens — and some legitimate player evaluations need to take place in week #2 — but a 2-0 start is way better than 1-1.  

Every win in September counts the same as they do in December.