When quarterback Joe Flacco got sandwiched between Jets DE Shaun Ellis and LB Bryan Thomas on the first play of the Ravens’ 2010 season and immediately fumbled the ball, things looked bleak and dire.
But it turned out that play-which occurred on first down-had no bearing on the game on Monday Night, which the Ravens squeaked out of, 10-9. Where the game was won in the New Meadowlands Stadium was on the critical third-down conversions.
After that fumble, the Ravens became more conservative on first down more often than not. And with Ray Rice struggling against the Jets tenacious run defense (42 yards on 21 carries), the Ravens often found themselves in the critical third-and-long situation.
But this is where the Ravens thrived on Monday, and where the Jets came crashing down, and played a huge role in the victory for Baltimore.
The Ravens were 11-of-19 on third down against the Jets, while New York turned out only to be 1-of-11, failing to move the sticks on several occasions, sometimes deep into Baltimore territory after being granted a great starting position by the special teams or turnovers.
The key piece turned out to be the stellar debut of Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin, acquired in the off-season for third-and-fourth round picks in April’s draft, who caught a game-high seven passes for 110 yards.
Three of those passes came on critical third down conversions, and Flacco targeted Boldin one more time trying to convert.
That catch over former Raven Jim Leonhard kept the drive alive, and later allowed the Ravens to move into position to allow Billy Cundiff to kick the deciding 25-yard field goal with 7:11 remaining in the third.
Todd Heap also came up big with several catches, reaching 75 yards highlighted by his 35 yard catch with 4:27 left in the final quarter which allowed the Ravens to chew up much needed clock to preserve the win.
Heap showed remarkable route-running ability Monday night, as he often was in perfect mismatch situations against a smaller defender like Leonhard or a slower linebacker.
He nearly had a touchdown with 5:34 left in the first quarter had rookie corner Kyle Wilson not been in perfect position to knock the ball way.
Wilson would extend the drive for the Ravens several plays later on a holding call, but the drive ended with the Willis McGahee fumble at the Jets 20 yard line, marking the second of three turnovers for the Ravens in that half.
But the Jets could not capitalize off those turnovers. They could not run the ball effectively with their starter, Shonn Greene, who only rushed for 18 yards on 5 attempts on top of putting the ball on the ground twice, and quarterback Mark Sanchez-despite not turning the ball over-was only 10-of-21 for 74 yards.
His mental miscues, along with his tight end Dustin Keller-were highlighted at the end of the Jets’ final drive as the two connected on a nine yard reception, but they needed ten yards on fourth down.
It’s simple math there Jets fans, and guess what, that 1 yard is also the number in the loss column for you guys going into Week 2 to play the Patriots, instead of having that number in the win column.
- Jets DT Kris Jenkins left with 8:16 left in the first quarter after suffering an apparent left knee injury. Jenkins, a former MD Terp, when healthy is one of the most dominant nose tackles in the game, but knee injuries have cut his NFL short. He was ruled out of the game.
- Two big hustle plays by not the fastest guys on the team. First came punter Sam Koch being the only man for Jets returner to beat on a punt return with 11:39 remaining in the second quarter. Otherwise, Leonard would have had a touchdown. The other came minutes later, when CB Antonio Cromartie intercepted a pass intended for either Todd Heap or Anquan Boldin on the left sideline close to the end zone. Cromartie squeaked through the Ravens offensive line trying to tackle him, and quarterback Joe Flacco caught Cromartie after a 66 yard return, keeping another potential Jets touchdown off the boards.
Greene fumbled two plays later, which Dawan Landry recovered.
- With the Jets leading 6-0 after the Landry recovery, T.J Houshmandzadeh recorded his first catch of a Raven. You could read his lips as he responded “Let’s Go!” The play went for 27 yards with Cromartie trailing behind the newly-acquired receiver. The Ravens capitalized off Cromartie again, as his holding penalty the next play extended the drive yet again. Three plays later, the Ravens found the end zone on a Willis McGahee 1 yd Td run, the only touchdown of the game.
- What made this interesting was that several plays before, the Ravens had kicked a 46 yard field goal from Billy Cundiff. The kick was good and the points were on the board, but a running into the kicker call on Browns receiver Braylon Edwards-who broke through the Ravens wedge-extended the drive.
- Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was lucky because they say in the NFL you NEVER take points off the board. What if the Ravens went 3 and out the next several plays, and lined up for the field goal and missed? Luckily this call paid off for Baltimore.
Hopefully the Ravens won’t have to worry about that kind of situation next week when the Ravens travel to Cincinnati to take on the division-rival Bengals, who are coming off a 38-24 loss to the New England Patriots. The Bengals of course were the AFC North Division Champions last year after going 6-0 in the division, and the Ravens will be facing them on a short week.
Game time is 1PM on Sunday the 19th.