What's my take after the Ravens beat the Saints, 30-24, at a cold, windy yet still rowdy M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon? Read on to find out.
1. For the second straight week and the fourth time this season, the Ravens hacked up a double-digit lead. Just like last Monday night against Texans, the Ravens were able to beat the Saints, 30-24. But why was this win much easier on the hearts of Ravens fans? The difference was that the offense was able to hang onto the ball long enough to allow the defense to suck in some air on the sidelines (those three second-half field goals by soon-to-be Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff helped, too). The rested Ravens were able to fervently chase after Drew Brees down the stretch, and by forcing him out of his comfort zone, the defense made the critical plays needed for the hard-earned non-conference victory.
2. I benched Ray Rice in fantasy football, and boy, am I upset with myself for pulling a Cam Cameron and over-thinking that one. For the first time this season, Rice resembled for a complete game the Rice of 2009. He rushed for 153 yards -- just his second 100-yard game of the season -- and caught five passes for 80 yards while scoring two total touchdowns. Trust me, if I am lucky enough to survive this weekend, Rice will be in my starting lineup going forward.
3. Speaking of Cameron, he deserves props for not pulling a Cam Cameron and sticking with what worked. The Ravens ran the ball 14 times in the first quarter and Rice got 20 touches in the first half. The ground game was working, and the Ravens kept pounding the rock. Simplicity can be smart sometimes.
4. The Ravens pass rush was awesome Sunday, even if their three sacks weren't eye-opening. Brees likes to get the ball out quick, but on many plays, the Ravens' pressure forced him to get unload the ball quicker than he probably liked. Fun fact: With 11 sacks, Terrell Suggs needs one more to match the career-high total he set in his rookie season.
5. Unleashed from John Harbaugh's doghouse, second-year linebacker Dannell Ellerbe played like a madman out there. He had six tackles and a sack after sitting out the team's past four games.
6. Drew Brees is one hell of a quarterback, and it was a pleasure watching him do his thing in person. Brees was under siege like Steven Seagal, and he didn't get much help from his running game. Yet somehow, Brees threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns on the frozen tundra of M&T. Sure, he got a little lucky -- I'm referencing that crazy tip-drill, tip-toe catch by Lance Moore in the fourth quarter -- but when you're that good, the breaks will go your way more often than not.
7. The national media has raved about Haloti Ngata less in the second half after his superlative start to 2010. But Ravens fans still see what the big man is doing out there. On the Ravens' win-sealing stop on fourth down, Ngata charged up the gut and tipped Brees' pass, which led to Cory Redding's first career interception. That unheralded play comes a week after he scared Matt Schaub into throwing that crisis-averting pick-six to Josh Wilson. I think it's time to open the checkbook, Mr. Bisciotti.