If the Ravens somehow work their way through the AFC in January and wind up in the Super Bowl, there’s little doubt that most people will point to the 2nd half of Sunday’s win over Arizona as the turning point.
Baltimore – trailing 24-6 at the intermission – was 30 minutes of bad football away from falling to the lowly Cardinals and dropping to 4-3 with a looming visit to Pittsburgh in seven days time.
And then Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin went to work, the visitors folded like a cheap suit in the 3rd quarter, and the Ravens got a last second field goal from Billy Cundiff to pull off a 30-27 win.
It wasn’t pretty.
But it was way better than losing.
Flacco and the offense spent most of the first half in a state of confusion, as the offensive line turned in a putrid opening 30 minutes and a bunch of mistakes in every facet of the game helped the Cardinals to a shocking 24-3 lead. The defense surrendered a long pass play to Larry Fitzgerald, Flacco fumbled the ball on his own 2 yard line and Patrick Peterson returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown — all in the first half. Three mistakes and an 18-point deficit.
But a funny thing happened on the way to what would have been a stunning home defeat.
The old Cardinals team showed up, the one that is now 1-6 on the season and headed nowhere fast.
And the Ravens offense came to life, thanks in part to the no-huddle scheme, a whopper of a 2nd half from Anquan Boldin and much better pass protection from an offensive line that was staggering in the first two quarters.
If ever Cam Cameron and Joe Flacco needed thirty minutes of redemption, it was on Sunday afternoon.
Cameron got in the act by making a subtle but important change to start the 3rd quarter. He had Flacco use the short pass to eat up yards, with the two tight ends getting most of the work along with Boldin, who made several spectacular catches along the sideline.
Flacco finished the day 31-for-51 with 336 yards, but it was his 2nd half play that gave the fans reason to smile. After going 12-for-23 in the opening half (98 yards), the 4th year quarterback piled up big 2nd half numbers, throwing for 238 yards (19-for-28) and using Boldin time after time as the Cardinals couldn’t find an answer for the Pro Bowl receiver. Flacco also made good use of Dennis Pitta (career-high 6 receptions), Ed Dickson (6) and Torrey Smith (3), with Smith’s 25-yard collection in the final minute of the game putting Baltimore in game-winning field goal territory.
It was closer than most people expected, but 5-2 is still 5-2.
And it certainly sends Baltimore to Pittsburgh for next week’s showdown with the Steelers in a much better frame of mind.
The Jacksonville loss was hard enough to swallow.
A home defeat to the Cardinals would have officially ignited a stage of panic in these parts.
As it is, there are still plenty of concerns at the 7-game mark, most notably a horribly inconsistent Baltimore offensive line that has seemingly gotten worse over the last three weeks.
The special teams haven’t been very special.
And the defense, while ranked #1 in the league prior to Sunday’s game, has been somewhat susceptible against the run over the last three games.
It all adds up to a good Ravens team that still has people wondering…which is the REAL Ravens — the one that fell behind 24-6 in the first half on Sunday? Or the one that pulled off a great win with a stunning 2nd half offensive outburst?