If you worried about a
letdown for this one, you wasted a lot of emotional energy.
If you worried about the running game gagging again, know that the Ravens ground out 233 rushing yards Sunday, with Ray Rice (27 carries, 133 yards) finally running like the Rice of last season.
And if you worried about another Ravens wide receiver popping off about not getting more passes thrown his way -- more on that later -- know that everything was Team Harmony on the field, right down to pouty T.J. Houshmandzadeh congratulating Joe Flacco for not throwing a pass his way.
Instead, with a physical 31-17 win over the Denver Broncos at M&T; Bank Stadium, the Ravens pushed their record to 4-1 and reaffirmed their intention to go to the Super Bowl this season.
(By the way, how about the Ravens' smacking the Broncos around so thoroughly while wearing pink cleats and gloves? It's a good look for them. You wonder whether they shouldn't campaign for breast cancer awareness more often.)
The bottom line -- does Ray Lewis have that phrase trademarked yet? -- was this: The Ravens came to play. And the Broncos, with the exception of a terrific 42-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Orton to Brandon Lloyd in the second quarter and a 44-yard TD hookup by the same two in garbage time -- apparently flew 1,700 miles to nap.
It was such a dominating performance that after the game, Flacco was asked whether this Ravens team has the potential to be something special.
"Definitely," the quarterback said. "I think we definitely feel that way. I think we felt that way the last two years, to tell you the truth. We feel like we have a pretty special team here and we just have to continue to work hard to get better each week. ÃÆÃâÃâÃâ¦ We've got to continue to progress and do some better things out there week to week, and I think that's what we're really showing right now."
Amen. And give the Ravens credit for coming back strong from that embarrassing failure on the goal line on their opening series.
Was that a stinker or what?
Three cracks from the Denver 1-yard line produced this: Willis McGahee off left tackle for no gain. McGahee off left tackle again for no gain. And Flacco backpedaling for his life from Broncos linebacker Jason Hunter before being sacked at the Denver 15-yard line.
But the next time they had the ball, the Ravens drove 73 yards in nine plays, capped by Flacco's bulling over from the 1 for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
And on the series after that, the Ravens drove 72 yards in five plays, ending with Rice's scoring from a yard out for a 14-0 lead.
For all intents and purposes, that was the score that signaled nap time for Denver.
Bouncing back from that first-drive debacle was "big," John Harbaugh said.
"I think offensively, I would've liked for it to have been 21 [points] at that time," the Ravens coach added. "But for us [to move the ball well after the first drive] and then to do it again and do it again, I think it establishes [momentum]. ÃÆÃâÃâÃâ¦ That's what I'm saying: Play after play, we were executing."
Now the Ravens turn their attention to Sunday's big game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.
But before they do, I think Harbaugh had better have a little talk with Houshmandzadeh, who's doing far too much yapping about not getting the ball thrown his way.
Even though he caught the winning touchdown pass in the Ravens' win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, the wide receiver continued to gripe about his playing time and his number of catches.
He even told The Baltimore Sun's Jamison Hensley that he was happy Pittsburgh scored midway through the fourth quarter, because "we were going to go two-minute [offense] and we were going to throw it."
Meaning he might get some more balls thrown his way.
Is that unbelievable? Is he a team guy or what? When's the last time you heard an NFL player say he was glad the other team scored?
But maybe the Ravens have already talked to the guy.
Or maybe he just realized how selfish he sounded. Because after Sunday's game, Houshmandzadeh seemed both contrite and satisfied with the three passes thrown his way.
"I said a lot of stuff, and it just came out the wrong way," he said of his earlier comments. "I just say it the wrong way."
Oh, you betcha.
But maybe the guy's starting to realize that with a 4-1 start, this is no time to rock the boat and go all diva on his new team.
"T.J., man, he's going to tell me he's open every time," Flacco said with a smile. "I was surprised, one time he came to me today and said: 'I think I might have been covered. I just wanted to let you know, good job in whatever you did.'"
If that's an attitude change, it couldn't come at a better time.
This is no time for "me" guys. No time for divas.
Not with the way this team is playing.
Listen to Kevin Cowherd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.
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