Ravens 18, Lions 16
STRATEGY: The Ravens broke character defensively, deploying cornerback Jimmy Smith to match up in press coverage against Lions star wide receiver Calvin Johnson. He was primarily responsible for limiting Johnson to six receptions for 98 yards and no touchdowns despite being targeted a game-high 14 times. The Ravens devoted most of their resources to flooding zones, with the lone sack coming on a blitz by middle linebacker Daryl Smith. The approach paid dividends, though, with quarterback Matthew Stafford intercepted three times in the second half. Offensively, the shotgun was used on nearly every snap while the no-huddle was minimized to six snaps. With the deep passing game ineffective despite the Lions' injury-riddled secondary, quarterback Joe Flacco attacked the middle.
PERSONNEL: Torrey Smith played every snap and was targeted a dozen times, but caught just four passes for 69 yards. Marlon Brown was in for all but one play. Dennis Pitta's playing time decreased to 29 snaps, seven fewer than the previous week when he first returned from a hip injury. Ed Dickson got four more snaps than Pitta. Dallas Clark was active but didn't play at all. The trend of reduced playing time for fullback Vonta Leach continued with just three snaps, his fewest in the past two months. In his sixth consecutive game without a sack, Terrell Suggs played 47 snaps and failed to record a tackle or a quarterback hit. Coming off a bruised, sprained ankle, Elvis Dumervil managed to play 33 snaps. The defensive ironmen were safeties Matt Elam, cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith and Daryl Smith. Nickel back Corey Graham was on the field for all but seven snaps.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Justin Tucker delivered a clutch 61-yard field goal to win the game. It was one of six field goals for him as he provided all of the Ravens' points and has now connected on 33 kicks in a row.. Jacoby Jones made himself a target over the middle with six catches and 80 yards. Ray Rice broke a few tackles, rushing for 56 yards on a dozen carries with a 4.7 average per run. Defensive end DeAngelo Tyson alertly intercepted a pass deflected by nose tackle Haloti Ngata. Elam, a rookie, had the best game of his NFL career with 10 tackles and his first interception to seal the win. Daryl Smith read Stafford's eyes well to intercept his third pass of the season.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Suggs doesn't appear to be as explosive as he was earlier this season when he recorded nine sacks. He also failed to set the edge on a touchdown run by Reggie Bush to his side. Tackling and pursuit angles left something to be desired against Bush, who rushed for 86 yards on 17 carries. Flacco's deep-ball accuracy remains off-rhythm. The red-zone offense was unproductive again, failing to score a touchdown in three opportunities. They converted just 4 of 14 third downs.
TURNING POINT: If not for Jones' 27-yard reception over the middle on third-and-15 to get into Lions territory, Tucker probably never gets a chance for his late-game heroics. Jones cut across the middle for extra yardage as the Ravens advanced from their own 28-yard line down to the Lions' 45-yard line. That set up Tucker's winning kick.
X-FACTOR: The Ravens need to figure out a way to create more pressure and will need sounder tackling against a New England Patriots offense led by one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the game in Tom Brady and two elusive, sure-handed receivers after the catch in Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun