Five Things We Learned from the Ravens' 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys
Sun reporter/blogger Matt Vensel analyzes Baltimore's victory over Dallas.
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1( Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron / October 14, 2012 )
The Ravens are a flawed football team, yet they continue to win games despite their shortcomings and show that they are on the short list of contenders to win the AFC.
John Harbaugh walked into his post-game news conference late Sunday afternoon, showing little emotion after another turbulent end to a Ravens win. His team had just survived a late surge to beat the Dallas Cowboys, 31-29, and improve to 5-1 on the season, but he wasn't in the mood to celebrate. His defense had just gotten ripped apart by another offense that had success both on the ground and through the air, but he showed no signs of anger, frustration, relief or panic. Harbaugh was about to deliver the bad news, and while he seems to scoff whenever we try to read his emotions, there were hardly any as he ran through the long list of injuries on his battered defense.
"Lardarius Webb does not look good right now," he said, referencing the knee injury that will likely cost the cornerback his season. Linebacker Ray Lewis, who kneeled at the far end of the sideline as the Cowboys made a late push in the final two minutes of the game, has a right triceps injury, and the worst-case scenario is a season-ending tear. Cornerback Jimmy Smith and starting defensive tackles Haloti Ngata and Ma'ake Kemoeatu also got nicked up in the victory. Harbaugh paused, and then did his best to spin the situation into a positive one.
"That leads me into one of the main points of this whole victory, was our guys stepped up in the face of some real adversity. We had some injuries, especially on the defensive side. We were in a physical fist fight, from the beginning to the end. They threw a lot of haymakers at us, and our guys stepped up at the end and found a way to win," he said, jutting his jaw out slightly as if he were daring someone to throw another uppercut.
The next one won't come until next weekend, when the Ravens travel to Houston to take on the 5-1 Texans. Yet despite their flaws -- chief among them are their inability to stop the run, their inability to stop the pass and their sluggish starts on the road offensively -- the resilient Ravens can make a statement by beating the Texans. If they pull off the upset, they will be hailed by many as the team to beat in the AFC heading into their now-much-needed bye week. And really, how crazy is that?
The Ravens have won in back-to-back games in which they have allowed more than 200 rushing yards in each, making them the first team to accomplish that less-than-admirable feat since 1985, according to ESPN. They possessed the ball for less than 20 minutes on Sunday, but still piled up 31 points and 316 yards of total offense. And with five of their defensive regulars spending quality time with the training staff, the Ravens were able to make enough plays in the fourth quarter to hang on for a win, but not until after Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey missed a 51-yard field goal attempt with two seconds left. Are the Ravens lucky to be sitting at 5-1? I'll say this: at least two Ravens players mentioned divine intervention in the locker room after the win, so the answer to that question probably depends on how religious you are. But does is really matter whether you deserved to win the game when they add up the points at the end of the afternoon? I think the 2012 Baltimore Orioles would have something to say about that one.
Still, seemingly with each win comes another concern, and the Ravens have a few major flaws that could leave their chins susceptible to one of those haymakers in the final 10 games of the season -- or in the playoffs. But right now, they are two games clear of the field in the AFC North, and even though their schedule has a few more heavy-punchers waiting after their fight in Houston this weekend, the Ravens may still end up winning 10 or 11 games this season. Yes, they are flawed, but they are tough to knock out. Which is why after Sunday's tough, costly win, Harbaugh hadn't been sapped of one emotion: pride.
"Was it perfect? Was it pretty? No, and I'm sure that's all stuff that will get written about, and it's all fine," he said. "But a victory is still a victory. I'm proud of these guys for understanding and figuring out a way to win. We do have a bunch of fighters on this team. We have a bunch of fighters on this football team."