Ravens 19, Jets 3
STRATEGY: Instead of trying conventional methods against a stout Jets defense led by Muhammad Wilkerson, the Ravens got creative. They utilized a variation of the wildcat , albeit with backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor lining up at quarterback and Joe Flacco reluctantly splitting out at wide receiver five times. Taylor got a dozen snaps, rushing for seven yards with one catch for six yards and an incompletion on his lone throw. Eventually, the Jets caught on and stopped the gadgetry. The Ravens ran the shotgun formation 43 times out of 62 plays, and employed the no-huddle 28 times. The defense primarily created a pass rush through a four-man rush, sacking rookie quarterback Geno Smith three times.
PERSONNEL: Tandon Doss was replaced on punt returns by Jacoby Jones, who had a season-long 37-yard return. Offensively, Jones was targeted a team-high six times. Ed Dickson (55 snaps, 86 percent) got the nod at tight end over Dallas Clark (nine snaps). Torrey Smith played every offensive snap. Vonta Leach remained involved with a dozen snaps. Running backs Ray Rice (35 snap) and Bernard Pierce (30 snaps) closely split up playing time. The defensive ironmen were defensive backs Matt Elam, Jimmy Smith and James Ihedigbo and middle linebacker Daryl Smith. Lardarius Webb played all but two snaps. Elvis Dumervil has assumed most of the workload at strongside linebacker with 43 snaps, 23 more than Courtney Upshaw. Due to a knee sprain, nose tackle Haloti Ngata was limited to 27 snaps as Terrence Cody substituted for him often. Although Jameel McClain remains the starter, his 23 snaps at weak-side linebacker were only three more than rookie Arthur Brown.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: For the first time in weeks, Flacco connected deep. That included a 66-yard bomb to Jones in stride for a touchdown and a 60-yard sideline throw to Torrey Smith. Jones proved he’s recovered from a sprained knee that bothered him earlier this season. Dickson provided a complementary safety valve presence. Justin Tucker remains a reliable presence in all-weather conditions, connecting on all four field goals and has hit his past 22 kicks. Sam Koch improved his punting, averaging 45.5 yards, including a long of 64 yards. Corey Graham read Geno Smith’s eyes, reacting alertly to intercept him twice. Pernell McPhee had one of his best games with a sack and two tackles for losses. Upshaw delivered a crushing block on linebacker Troy Davis to spring Jones on a punt return, ending Davis’ season due to a chest contusion. The Jets converted just 1 of 12 third downs.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Rice had nowhere to run, averaging 1.9 yards per carry, as center Gino Gradkowsk got manhandled by nose tackle Damon Harrison, a 6-foot-4, 350-pounder. Guard A.Q. Shipley and offensive tackle Michael Oher also struggled against a talented front seven. Flacco and rookie Marlon Brown weren’t on the same page on a pass that got intercepted by Antonio Cromartie. The Ravens didn’t look prepared initially against Josh Cribbs running the Wildcat. Brown caught one pass for a single yard on two targets. The Ravens went 0 for 4 in the red zone and converted just 3 of 13 third downs.
TURNING POINT: Leading 12-3 late in the third quarter, Jacoby Jones’ post pattern left behind Cromartie and a flailing Ed Reed as he angled his route to account for a crosswind and hauled in a Flacco touchdown pass. It boosted the Ravens’ lead to an insurmountable 19-3 heading into the fourth quarter.
X-FACTOR: The defense’s patience and discipline will be tested against Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Le’Veon Bell, who’s adept at setting up his blocks to read holes and utilize cutback lane.