Facing their outspoken former defensive coordinator in primetime, the Ravens defense delivered a dominant performance in a 34-17 victory that, believe it or not, made Rex Ryan sound subdued as he tackled tough questions at his post-game press conference. That his New York Jets defense shut down the Ravens was of no consolation to him as he left M&T Bank Stadium with a loss.
Here are my quick-hit thoughts after the Ravens forced four turnovers and held the Jets to seven first downs and 150 yards of total offense during a showcase game on NBC’s "Sunday Night Football."
1. Much of the talk on Monday will focus on the offense, but let’s first give credit where it is due. The Baltimore defense, one of the NFL’s most formidable units over the past decade and a half, did something it has never done, scoring three touchdowns in a game. Jameel McClain, Jarret Johnson and Lardarius Webb each strutted into the end zone after Mark Sanchez turnovers, and the common denominator was heavy quarterback pressure. Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata forced fumbles that led to touchdowns, and Terrell Suggs crunched Sanchez as he threw a pick-six to Webb.
2. I liked what the Ravens, who were short-handed at cornerback, did with Ed Reed, moving him all over the field like the Steelers do with their own Pro Bowl safety, Troy Polamalu. Reed set the tone for the game when he blitzed Sanchez from his blind side in the first quarter, sacking the Jets quarterback from behind and knocking the ball out of his hands. At other times during the game, Reed lined up near the line of scrimmage and feigned a blitz, only to drop back into coverage. The Ravens were in Sanchez’s face all game, but Reed was clearly in his head, too.
3. Just in case Dustin Keller forgot who Ray Lewis was, the Ravens linebacker reintroduced himself to the Jets tight end with a hard hit in the fourth quarter. That played looked familiar, didn’t it? It would have been a carbon copy of his 2010 tackle of the year had Keller not ducked for cover.
4. OK, let’s talk about that impotent offense. Instead of trying to exploit a New York run defense that was torn apart by Oakland last weekend, Baltimore came out passing in the first half, and it was painful to watch. Joe Flacco completed eight of his 27 first-half pass attempts and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Ravens ran the rock 11 times before halftime. Pass proponents will point out that they averaged 2.6 yards per carry at the half, but Ray Rice and his linemen never got an opportunity to get in a rhythm. Thankfully, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron adjusted his philosophy as the Ravens sucked on orange slices in the locker room. Flacco threw four passes the rest of the way as the Ravens squeezed out the clock.
5. That being said, even though I didn’t agree with the pass-heavy attack, Flacco was unable to execute Cameron’s game plan. This win will go down as one of the worst statistical games of his career, and I’m actually surprised that his passer rating was 37.4; I thought it would be lower (for comparison sake, Sanchez’s was 30.5). Just like the Ravens defense, the Jets deserve props, too, but the inconsistency on offense should now be a legit concern. Flacco and the Ravens offense lit up the scoreboard in two of their first four games, but they stunk up the joint in the other two.
6. I think we can all agree that those swing passes and screen plays to Vonta Leach need to be ripped out of the playbook. They are now officially the Donte’ Stallworth end-arounds of 2011.
7. The Jets showed Torrey Smith a lot of respect. I figured Anquan Boldin would see a steady dose of Darrelle Revis, but the Pro Bowl cornerback was often on Smith’s side of the field in the first half. Smith got behind the defense a couple of times, too, but Flacco couldn’t drop it into him.
8. Fun fact: Flacco targeted Ed Dickson 12 times, but the second-year tight end came up with just four catches for 45 yards. Still, I love the athleticism that Dickson brings to the Ravens offense.
9. One more thing I love: Ray Rice in the slot. The Ravens have toyed with lining Rice up in the slot or out wide in the past. Now they’re actually throwing it to him, giving him an opportunity to get downfield quicker. His 52-yard catch-and-run was the team’s best offensive play of the night.
10. Allow me to look big picture in one small sentence: The 3-1 Ravens are in first place.