I wrote the week of the Baltimore Ravens-New York Jets game about how Joe Flacco had to be better in order for his team to make a playoff push; Flacco responded with two huge throws and 273 yards passing with the game’s only touchdown Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
Obviously Flacco couldn’t do it without the help of the rest of the offensive personnel, but to have the game he did in the cold, frigid conditions provided by Mother Nature was something positive Ravens fans have to take from Sunday. The deep ball game had to be reinserted into the offense, and it showed with two huge completions to Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.
Baltimore knew heading into the contest with New York that they were strong in defending the run — first in the NFL in run defense, 22nd in the league defending the pass — but weak in their secondary that featured two aging and former Ravens in Dawan Landry and Ed Reed. Given that Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner have disappointed this year as well, having that type of coverage over the top had to give the Ravens a feeling that they could take advantage at the back end of this defense.
That’s something we haven’t seen from this Ravens team consistently enough but we have seen in these last two games: John Harbaugh has scouted his opponents and exposed weaknesses in the defenses. The loyalty argument has been pushed to the wayside as Harbaugh elected to go with the smart, sensible choice this week by going with what worked. His receivers aren’t the best leapers and possession receivers, but they will beat almost any secondary in a foot race. Against the Chicago Bears, Harbaugh knew their run defense was weak and his team ran successfully. Against the Jets aging safeties provided for deep ball opportunities.
That’s coaching, folks — and good quarterbacking by Flacco.
When this team needed them to be good, they were.
The Ravens aren’t a great football team and they didn’t beat a great one Sunday. What they did show is that they are not only very much alive in the AFC playoff picture, but they also still play much better at home and have three more chances to snag wins against opponents in the friendly confines this season. They know their strengths and weaknesses and will play to those the rest of the way because each game remaining could determine their fate come January.