So it wasn't surprising to hear Suggs, after the Ravens 16-6 win over the San Francisco 49ers Thursday night, offer his not-so-subtle opinion of why the Ravens managed to post two big wins in the last five days.
Suggs was, of course, referring to running back Ray Rice, the player on offense the Ravens have focused on getting the ball more often these past two games. Against the 49ers, Rice didn't have a standout day statistically — he finished with just 59 yards rushing — but that seemed less important than the number of carries (21) he had. San Francisco was determined to stuff the run, but the Ravens kept running anyway. That meant slamming Rice into the line repeatedly, even when the 49ers walked the safety up to the line of scrimmage.
“I knew what kind of day it was going to be,” Rice said. “If you look at the numbers, they’re not going to be eye-popping, but, time of possession? Huge. They are a great defense, the best defense we’ve seen all year. We knew that going into this game. We’ve got similar personalities and similar style of play. But, time of possession was the key. I’m not going to sit up here and worry about the numbers because the way we won is more important than the numbers we put up.”
Instead of putting the ball in Joe Flacco's hands on every play, the Ravens relied on their quarterback to convert key third downs and keep the ball away from the 49ers. In a game where ball control and field position were crucial, Flacco played one of his best games of the season, completing 7-of-10 on third down and posting a 100.1 quarterback rating.
“When you have that kind of game plan, your line being so efficient on third downs, you have to come through,” Flacco said. “We had a lot of guys come through for us and just made some big plays in those situations.”
It was interesting to hear some of the comments made by San Francisco players after the game, especially since two weeks ago Seahawks coach Pete Carroll admitted he thought the Ravens put themselves at a disadvantage by throwing so much.
“On first and second down, they run the ball, and they keep you guessing on third down,” said 49ers defensive end Justin Smith. “Their ability to get as much yardage as they did on first and second down had us guessing a little more on third down.”
If we've learned anything about the Ravens this year, it's that it's dangerous to make any kind of definitive statements about them after wins or losses. Just when it appears they're ready to consistently play great football, they regress. And just when it feels like they should be written off as serious contenders, they've come back to shine.
But over the past two weeks, it seems fair to say the Ravens have decided other teams aren't going to dictate what they do nearly as much. Cam Cameron has been the target of plenty of criticism this year, but Harbaugh made it a point to sing the praises of his offensive coordinator Thursday night.
“I thought Cam Cameron called a winning game plan,” John Harbaugh said. “You talk about discipline and sticking to the plan and staying patient when he had to against this team. I think Cam deserves a lot of credit.”
The Ravens did, however, struggle to run the ball in short yardage once again, something that has plagued the offense for several seasons. Baltimore had the ball second-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the second quarter and couldn't find the end zone on two straight runs. Rice lost four yards on a dive that went wide to the right and Flacco gained nothing on an awkward quarterback draw the next play.
“It was just a bum play,” Rice said of his run. “It was just poor execution. Their front is different. They are a great defense, but I thought we had it. That’s going to itch us for next week. We want to get down to the one and put a touchdown on the board. This game is totally different if we get a touchdown there. I’m not saying that we were going to blow them out, but if we score seven on that drive right down there, trust me, the game is totally different.”
Are the Ravens finally ready to play good football every time they step on the field? It's impossible to say. Harbaugh knows his team has something to prove when they face Cleveland on Dec. 4. Baltimore can't start thinking about securing a home playoff game until they show they can beat bad teams on the road.
“It’s December football, and that’s when you start thinking about things like [clinching home playoff games],” Harbaugh said. “But the only thing we need to be focused on is getting healthy, first of all, and the Cleveland Browns. That’s something we’ve struggled on the road, and we have to go conquer that. That’s going to be a really tough task.”
For the moment, though, the Ravens appear to have found a formula that works.