It wasn’t the prettiest victory the Ravens franchise has ever earned, but as they have three times this season, Baltimore found a way to win.
The 9-7 victory over the 49ers was literally a kick for the visiting team as Matt Stover made three field goals. The offense kept the 49ers off the field as they ran exactly double the plays San Francisco did — 76-38.
The Ravens entered Sunday tied for the most 10-play drives in the NFL with 11. They added to that figure with three more on Sunday — two of which eventually resulted in field goals. They were second in the league in average possession time and the Ravens held the ball for exactly 38 minutes.
The troubles of turning red zone possessions into six points continued as the Ravens had two on Sunday and came away with six points on two field goals — no touchdowns. Through five games, Baltimore has five touchdowns on 16 red zone tries. But Stover has 13 field goals, which ties for the league team lead with Houston.
This one almost got away even with a strong defensive effort that held the 49ers to 163 total yards — 49 on the ground and 102 in the air. Thanks to a missed 52-yard field goal by Joe Nedney, the Ravens did not have to worry about mounting a final drive in a game that saw each team punt the ball seven times.
I said on Friday’s Rob Long Show that the biggest thing I was looking for in the game was Steve McNair’s physical condition in the first quarter and I am still not convinced that he is fully healthy. RB Willis McGahee ran the ball 22 times for 88 yards and was effective most times he ran the ball while McNair threw the ball 43 times.
Yes, I know Mike Nolan knows Brian Billick and his team well from his days in Baltimore. But with McGahee’s success carrying the ball, there is no reason to throw the ball 43 times, especially when McNair’s accuracy is still in question.
The Ravens are 3-2 and are one game back of Pittsburgh for the AFC North lead. In the NFL, how you win is not important on Sunday night — just that you won. Monday, the coaching staff will begin to look at how the Ravens won — and almost lost — a game that should not have come down to a field goal by the team dominated on the stat sheet.
It seems that the 2007 Ravens will live and die by the sword of close games in the fourth quarter. That will sell a lot of heart pills and Pepto Bismol among the purple faithful each week.
The question is: How many of these type of games will the Ravens survive on the winning side of the sword before their luck runs out?