Each week, Baltimore Sun reporters Aaron Wilson and Matt Vensel look back at the Ravens' previous game and that of their next opponent.
Bears 23, Ravens 20, OT
STRATEGY: Embracing a smash-mouth approach due to extremely sloppy field conditions, the Ravens revitalized their running game to exploit a shoddy run defense. Ray Rice ran decisively behind an offensive line that delivered second-level blocks to wall off linebackers. The passing game avoided deep shots, given the severe weather at Soldier Field. Using the shotgun formation 57 of 75 plays as the offense gained 317 yards, the no-huddle was employed 25 times. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees didn't blitz much, employing few overloads after succeeding with that gambit a week ago. The nickel package got plenty of work against a large, talented group of receivers headlined by Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
PERSONNEL: Vonta Leach got more involved than usual with 18 snaps. Ed Dickson (54 snaps) got the majority of the playing time at tight end over Dallas Clark (23 snaps) . With just four active receivers, Torrey Smith played 96 percent of the snaps. The rest went to Tandon Doss (60 snaps), Jacoby Jones (37 snaps) and Deonte Thompson (34 snaps). The defensive iron men were cornerback Lardarius Webb and middle linebacker Daryl Smith as strong safety James Ihedigbo and cornerback Jimmy Smith missed just one snap apiece. It was a quiet game for outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (53 snaps) and Elvis Dumervil (26 snaps), combining for just one tackle and no sacks as Dumervil was flagged for a late hit for his only statistic registered. Suggs' rush angles were cut off quickly and Dumervil disappeared. With Haloti Ngata out with a left knee injury, nose tackle Terrence Cody held up in his first start of the season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Rice displayed explosiveness, tackle-breaking ability and improved vision, reacting fast to holes to gain a season-high 131 yards. A.Q. Shipley double-teamed Stephen Paea and then delivered a second block downfield to kick out linebacker Jon Bostic. Leach crushed Tim Jennings on Rice's lone touchdown run. Smith caught a touchdown on a quick slant, proving he could be a greater red-zone threat if used more frequently. Justin Tucker is clutch in all weather, hitting field goals from 52 and 21 yards, with his second kick tying the game late in regulation. Chris Canty was the most active defensive lineman, shedding blocks with sound leverage. Jimmy Smith impressively shadowed Marshall, employing physical coverage techniques.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Julius Peppers steamrolled Eugene Monroe, overwhelming him with powerful bull-rushes to rack up 11 tackles and two sacks. Monroe was beaten on a speed rush by Cheta Ozougwu, causing a fumble by Joe Flacco. Flacco forced an interception into heavy traffic intended for Clark. Rice failed to cut-block David Bass, leading to another interception, returned by Bass for a touchdown. Flacco remains erratic, with five interceptions in the past three games, and he was sacked 13 times in that span. His longest completion was 17 yards. Daryl Smith, Corey Graham and Canty missed tackles on a key touchdown by Matt Forte in the fourth quarter. Gino Gradkowski's flubbed shotgun snap in the mud disrupted a potential game-winning pass to Torrey Smith. Doss' hands were an issue on two important drives.
TURNING POINT: Beating a blitz by Matt Elam, Josh McCown identified the matchup he wanted in overtime: 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end Martellus Bennett against 5-10, 182-pound Webb. His well-timed 43-yard lob left Webb unable to prevent Bennett from elevating to set up the game-winning field goal.
X-FACTOR: Rediscovering their running game, the Ravens now face a much sterner test against the New York Jets' formidable defensive line, led by Muhammad Wilkerson. They have the top-ranked run defense, allowing only 73.2 rushing yards per game.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun