Five Things We Learned from the Ravens' 16-13 win over the San Diego Chargers
Baltimore Sun reporter/blogger Matt Vensel breaks down the Ravens' overtime win at Qualcomm Stadium.
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1( US Presswire / November 25, 2012 )
The Ravens are impossible to figure out, but they are also impossible to count out, and you can't help but think that something magical might be brewing in Baltimore.
For the first three quarters in San Diego on Sunday, the Ravens treated us to familiar inefficiencies and seemingly-mandated amounts of malaise. Because they were playing away from M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens were required to make things uncomfortable against an inferior opponent. They did it, as it is usually done, by keeping punter Sam Koch more involved than Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice and by giving the San Diego Chargers free yards and extra opportunities with penalties. At the end of the third quarter, just a moment after Rice stood on the sideline as the offense failed to gain the few necessary inches on fourth down, the Ravens trailed by a touchdown. Nothing we had seen from them in the previous seven quarters suggested that we should have expected them to cobble together a comeback. The defense was doing its part, but the offense? Let's just say Cam Cameron's ears were burning a bit.
The Chargers increased their lead to 13-3 after an unnecessary roughness penalty from safety Bernard Pollard that was, well, totally unnecessary, aided their advancement down the field. But all of the sudden, the Ravens offense began to click. Quarterback Joe Flacco started to get in a rhythm with wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith, and he tossed the team's first offensive touchdown in two weeks to tight end Dennis Pitta to pull the Ravens within a field goal. The defense gave them the ball right back. The Ravens continued to trudge ahead despite a holding penalty and erratic passes. But after Flacco was sacked on third-and-long, they faced fourth-and-even-longer from the wrong side of midfield.
They needed a miracle or, more specifically, 29 yards. And with perhaps the most electrifying check-down catch-and-run of the 2012 NFL season, Rice gained all of them and a few extra inches to spare. We know how the rest played out -- we know this because our hearts are still beating -- but after Justin Tucker sent the game into overtime with a field goal, he ended it with another in sudden death, though it was more of a gradual goodbye, with the Ravens and Chargers exchanging punts throughout overtime.
Don't even bother asking me what changed for the Ravens in the fourth quarter, because I don't know and they probably don't know either. On the surface, Flacco got better protection and his receivers started running under more of his passes. I'm sure some adjustments were made. The defense kept the pressure up on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. But maybe, just maybe, a little magic is at work here.
In another game the Ravens probably should have lost, they were able to come away with the pivotal plays that their opponent let slip through their grasp. In the aftermath of this 16-13 win, it's futile to try to explain exactly what happened. Just know that they keep finding ways to win, and there is something to be said for that. They found a way to eke by the New England Patriots, a team few expected them to beat. They survived anemic offensive performances in Kansas City and Pittsburgh and Cleveland. And the football gods were on their side when they beat the Dallas Cowboys and the Chargers on Sunday. No doubt, many of their same issues continued to glare in San Diego, and maybe one or all of them will end up costing them sometime in the playoffs. But right now, it feels like something special might be happening with this Ravens team.