There was one thought that stayed with me throughout the 2nd half of the Ravens’ 30-7 win over the Denver Broncos Sunday was how much I wanted to say this was a “must win.”
The truth is that it wasn’t, but that’s hard to believe now.
The Ravens entered Sunday’s game 3-3, a game and a half behind both the Steelers and Bengals for first place in the AFC North; a half game behind the Texans and Jets for the final playoff spot in the AFC. They faced a daunting schedule over the next 5 weeks (@Cincinnati, @Cleveland, vs. Indianapolis, vs. Pittsburgh, @Green Bay); and they faced the possibility that the team might start questioning itself before they even got a chance to face any opponents.
Sunday’s performance did NOT answer every question about this football team (no matter how impressive it was), but it certainly allowed the team to relax and start reminding everyone else that they’re still pretty good. As Ray Rice pointed out, this was “a game that (they) needed.” Jarret Johnson concurred, adding “we needed that win…..confidence is a big thing.”
It is significantly easier to “get up” for a game against a divsion foe, but it was evident that this team was “up” for the opening kick. Jarret Johnson’s sack of Kyle Orton set the tone for the game; and Lardarius Webb did the same with a TD return on the opening kickoff of the 2nd half. Throughout the game there were big hits (including Ed Reed’s forced fumble that lead to the game’s first points); and an intensity level that was evident throughout (including Derrick Mason’s outburst that lead to a 15 yard penalty).
It WASN’T a “must win.” The team could just as well won their next 9 after a loss today, and no one would have remembered that they lost on November 1. But this team needed momentum. They needed something to keep their swagger going as they moved into a difficult part of the schedule. They needed to show that they were better than the team that had been playing for the last 3 games.
This game did that.
Now things get no easier moving forward.
Hear From The Following NOW in the Audio Vault at WNST.net:
Coach John Harbaugh
QB Joe Flacco
RB Ray Rice
WR Kelley Washington
LB Ray Lewis
LB Terrell Suggs
LB Jarret Johnson
CB Domonique Foxworth
CB/KR Lardarius Webb
K Steve Hauschka
John Harbaugh had no further information regarding Haloti Ngata’s ankle, saying he would consult trainer Bill Tessendorf.
4:01-Dannell Ellerbe wraps up this one with a tough hit on Buckhalter. Ravens win 30-7. Back with more shortly.
3:58-Rich Dubroff (of Carroll County Times fame) correctly asks why so many starters are still out on the field. There is no answer.
3:53-Flacco 20/25 throwing the ball today; and Ray Rice has added 108 total yards (and that last TD-putting the Ravens up 30-7 late).
3:46-Ryan McBean banged up for Denver, but he left the field under his power. Probably figured he had better things to do at this point.
3:44-Where the hell has that type of running from Le’Ron McClain been? Wow.
3:42-X-Rays negative on Ngata’s ankle; but he’s doubtful to return. He’s had the ankle taped twice.
3:33-Joe has completed his last 13 passes. However, it is hard to complete a pass when you are being taken to the ground by Andra Davis.
3:31-Drew thinks Ed interfered on that last drive. I’m not sure I agree. This would be the place where I’d hand the ball off to Le’Ron McClain, but they haven’t done that yet this season.
3:20-I’d like that Mark Clayton play much better if it had a pass option on it. They don’t use Clayton’s arm enough.
Doesn’t matter, as Joe Cool held tough just one play letter to deliver that great pass to Derrick Mason. He was smiling as he threw it. He should have been. 23-7 Ravens; still just a 2 possession game however.
3:18-Those two penalties there REALLY hurt the Broncos; and might help the Ravens put this one away. I reminder that I called 26-21. Another field goal and that score is totally possible.
3:08-Do the Broncos know they have a 6’4″ wide receiver? Why wouldn’t they try to throw the ball downfield again to him?
3:05-Where was all of this when Steve Hauschka was MY fantasy kicker? 16-7 Ravens now with 4:55 to play in 3rd.
3:02-Well, that play wasn’t a disaster or anything…….
2:59-Renaldo Hill down on the play for Denver; and had to be helped off the field. The training staff was in a rush to get out there when they saw him go down after the great play by Kelley Washington.
2:57-Mark Clayton did his best Ray Rice impression there in putting his hand on the ground to find some more yards. That move isn’t used as much as it probably should be by guys who are lower to the ground.
2:55-I did not see the penalty called on Andre Goodman, therefore it would be particularly difficult for me to comment on it. I’ll say it WAS a penalty.
2:53-Former KOBST contestant Phil Williams seen on the jumbotron here at M&T Bank Stadium modeling a “Play Like a Raven” t-shirt. Phil did not advance far in the contest, but maybe he will find fame from being a model here at the stadium.
2:50-Tony Scheffler was interfered with, and this KILLS all momentum the Ravens had from Lardarius’ TD. 13-7 Baltimore-Harbaugh maybe should have considered a 2 point conversion.
2:49-Haloti Ngata hobbled off the field under his own power; but that looked particularly concerning.
2:46 And the decision pays off for Denver as Ed Reed jumps offsides. Otherwise, Brandon Marshall would NOT have had a first down.
2:43-This is a big decision here from Josh McDaniels. Not converting could really hurt a team that hasn’t exactly moved the ball with ease.
2:41-That really wasn’t bad coverage from Fabian on Gaffney there, he just missed the ball as it came in. Broncos really moving the ball now; Ravens need to keep them out of endzone to hold on to momentum.
2:40-That’s a tough call to go against Dom there. I don’t agree, but it probably is within the guidelines for interference. Of for just plain playing defense.
2:35-Boy am I glad I didn’t get back from halftime late. What a run by Lardarius Webb. That’s why they made the move to put him in as kick returner. Biggest moment of the rookie from Nicholls State’s career so far.
First kick return for TD since Yamon Figurs on 12/9/07. However, that was in a blowout loss to the Colts.
2:19-Really big stand there from Ravens defense. This should allow them to take the 6-0 lead to halftime-and they start with the ball in the 2nd half.
2:16-Big spot here for Ravens defense. If Broncos get in end zone-all momentum gone. If they get 3, some of the good vibes from the rest of the first half will be lessened.
2:11-71,132 fans here at M&T Bank Stadium this afternoon. 52,000 have said “How are the Broncos 6-0?” at some point today.
2:10-We’re already at the 2 minute warning? Where the hell has this game gone?
2:09-And for those of you scoring at home, Peyton Hillis and Eddie Royal get their first catches. Meanwhile-Drew Forrester points out correctly that Domonique Foxworth IS doing a good job on Brandon Marshall.
2:03-Ravens really self destructed there when they should have had first and goal. Hauschka bangs home another one, and the Ravens have extended their lead to 6-0.
2:02-Le Kevin Smith with the sack. Which begs the question, “what kind of name is Le Kevin?”
2:01-I don’t think I agree with the personal foul call there on Oher. I certainly don’t agree with that play call on first down after.
1:59-Chris Chester the guilty party on the false start. A play later, Joe Flacco with a MIRACULOUS save to find Ray Rice there. WOW. Best play he’s made all game.
1:57-Kyle Orton has TWO passing yards so far. That’s not particularly good.
1:56-Joe has been tall on a number of throws today. What a great play by Mark Clayton to go up and get that one. Wow.
1:52-Haloti Ngata ALWAYS has his hands up. There’s a reason why he’s one of the best D-Linemen in the NFL.
1:51-Are the Broncos aware that the Ravens’ secondary has struggled? Why would they be throwing everything underneath???
1:50-If T-Sizzle jumps there, he has an interception. Damn. Brandon Marshall called for offensive interference anyway; but that could have been a big turnover.
1:49-Broncos OT Ryan Harris is DOUBTFUL to return with a toe injury.
1:45-Do I have to be the one to say this? I don’t think the no-huddle suits Joe Flacco well.
1:43-Not certain why Mitch Berger is punting in the NFL; or why Chris Carr would risk trying to do something with that one.
1:36-A MUCH better kickoff for Steve Hauschka this time; and Eddie Royal was NOT smart to decide to bring that one out.
1:33-That was Flacco’s fault on the pass to Clayton on 3rd down. Threw it behind him.
Another bad snap from Katula on the field goal; but Hauschka gets it through to make things 3-0 Baltimore. Yay.
1:32-As the sun starts to poke out, the Ravens REALLY need to cash this great field position into 6 points. A field goal here would have to be considered a failure.
A Willis McGahee sighting! Those has been a bit rare in recent weeks.
1:30-I thought Walt Coleman would decide there “wasn’t enough evidence”, but he saw the play as being called correctly for sure.
Credit Terrell Suggs with the fumble recovery for those of you scoring at home.
1:25-For the record, while it was very clear on replay that Alphonso Smith held Derrick Mason’s jersey on that play; I really hope no one is stupid enough to say something like “See, I told you there’s a conspiracy against the Ravens.”
Broncos moving the ball a bit with Knowshon Moreno. It was Drew Forrester who told me to go with Sproles ahead of Moreno; so I’ll hold him accountable if this goes wrong.
WHAT A HIT by Ed Reed. HUGE play. McDaniels will challenge, but it is hard to tell either way. Don’t think you can overturn this. Also don’t think this should cost the Broncos a timeout if it isn’t overturned.
1:22-Surprised by just how angry Derrick Mason was there. He’s an motional guy, but there was just no need for that. Ravens would have had a great chance to pin Denver inside the 10. You could tell Harbs was not happy with Derrick’s antics.
1:21-Derrick Mason’s frustration is going to cost the Ravens 15 yards here. They were going to have Sam Koch punt anyway, but this makes the decision even easier.
1:20-Why can’t Flacco to Rice passes over the middle ever look natural?
1:19-Two straight QB sneaks on 3rd and short. They have stayed in the no -huddle throughout the start of the game.
1:17-Ravens spreading things out by going with short passes to the middle.
Todd Heap’s 2nd catch was the 400th of his NFL career. I’m rooting for him to get 400 more today.
1:14-Greg Mattison’s defense has been much more attacking early on. Big TFL for Dawan Landry on the 2nd drive. Mitch Berger has been fortunate to not have either of his first two punts blocked; Chris Carr hasn’t had a chance to do anything yet.
1:12-Correll Buckhalter got the first carry of the game for Denver for all of you scoring at home. I benched Knowshon Moreno in favor of Darren Sproles on my fantasy team personally.
1:08-Couple not-so-perfect passes from Flacco to Heap and Mason; then Brian Dawkins breaks up a great throw to Kelley Washington. Surprised they’s go with 3 straight pass plays there.
1:06-Cam Cameron’s offense working in a no-huddle and trying to force the ball with Ray Rice.
HUGE effort from Todd Heap on 3rd down to get the initial first down of the game.
As a note: Fabian Washington is wearing sweat pants on the sideline. I guess just to stay warm.
1:04-How many times do you see a 6’4″ Wide Receiver used on a screen? Brandon Marshall is DANGEROUS after he gets the ball-even though he didn’t do much on his first touch.
Do you think Frank Walker was de-activated because they were afraid he would spit in Mitch Berger’s mouth?
1:03-Jarret Johnson absolutely LEVELED Kyle Orton. Wow. Big statement early for a pass rush. That’s how you get in the head of a quarterback.
As a note, the rain has picked back up, but the flags aren’t moving at all. Surprised Hauschka’s opening kick was so short.
1:02-Broncos won the toss and chose to receive. Steve Hauschka is kicking to Eddie Royal. That’s it for play-by-play; now I’m back to analysis.
12:59-The “Fire Mishael Miller” people are insane; but that was a STRANGE rendition of the national anthem.
12:52-The rain has let up here at “The Bank”, but the ponchos throughout the stadium take away from the purple atmosphere. Ravens being introduced now; offensive introductions highlighted by Joe Flacco and Derrick Mason.
12:47-Am I a bad person if I choose not to stand for “God Bless the USA”? It’s not our national anthem. Why do they ask everyone to stand for a Lee Greenwood pop song?
12:23-Today will be David Tyree’s debut in purple…..he was inactive when the Ravens visited the Vikings on October 18. There was a thought process that David Tyree’s arrival would leave Demetrius Williams inactive; but I can only remind everyone that David Tyree really is not here to be a WR. He’s here to play Special Teams.
12:19-And of COURSE Rachel Nichols from ESPN would be here again today. She was at 1 Winning Drive Friday, and my work output was not outstanding. Also here-Woody Paige from The Denver Post; who you know from “Around The Horn”….fellow “Around The Horn” contributor Kevin Blackistone (formerly of the Dallas Morning News, now with Fanhouse/AOL Sports), and ESPN’s John Clayton.
12:05-While this is the first time John Harbaugh and Josh McDaniels have faced off as head coaches, it certainly isn’t the first time the Ravens have played the Broncos. The all-time regular season series is tied at 3 games apiece; with the Ravens having won the only matchup between the teams in the postseason (2001 Wild Card playoffs right here in Baltimore en route to the Ravens winning Super Bowl XXXV).
12:01-From everything I can gather, Frank Walker IS a healthy scratch.
As a note-The Ravens are apparently not particularly concerned about Jared Gaither today; as they de-activated both Tony Moll and Oniel Cousins. This means Gaither will start on the left side, Oher on the right side, and Marshal Yanda will be the backup to both.
Also, Tavares Gooden is still slated as the starter at the JACK LB position, but I would expect to see plenty of Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain today as well.
QB John Beck (3rd QB)
LB Antwan Barnes
CB Frank Walker
RB Jalen Parmele
OT Oniel Cousins
OT Tony Moll
DT Kelly Talavou
DE/LB Paul Kruger
Certainly, Frank Walker comes as a surprise-but with Lardarius Webb working with the first team this week; this could be a major message to the Cornerback.
QB Tom Brandstater (3rd QB)
WR Kenny McKinley
RB LaMont Jordan
G Seth Olsen
DL Chris Baker
OT Brandon Gorin
WR Brandon Lloyd
OLB/DE Jarvis Moss
10:59-Greetings from M&T Bank Stadium in downtown Baltimore, where the 3-3 Baltimore Ravens face the 6-0 Denver Broncos today at 1pm. I’ll be keeping you company throughout the day here at WNST.net, as the Ravens face what is ALMOST a “must win” against the Broncos.
For those of you who can’t make it to the stadium today, the game can be seen on CBS (WJZ 13 in Baltimore); with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf calling the action. The game can also be heard on the Sports USA Radio Network; with Eli Gold, John Robinson and Pete Medhurst on the call.
The biggest injury question marks are OT Jared Gaither and LB Tavares Gooden. My gut says both play; but we’ll find out in the next 30-45 minutes for sure.
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST), as Drew Forrester joins me here in the press box, and will offer witty commentary during the game as well.