Last Sunday, the Ravens got a much-needed 24-10 win over the still winless Colts. By putting continuous pressure on Dan Orlovsky and marching down the field methodically, the Ravens did exactly what they needed to do in order to pull out the win. After failing to score early in the game, Joe Flacco finished off the Ravens' first scoring drive with an 8-yard bullet to Torrey Smith, making it 7-0. Following a Billy Cundiff field goal, Ray Rice topped off another long Ravens drive with a 6-yard run into the end zone. The Colts would kick a field goal late in the second quarter, and the Ravens took a 17-3 lead into halftime. As the Ravens defense continued to halt the Colts in their tracks, Flacco was on his way to extending the lead. His next score was a scary 7-yard pass to Dennis Pitta, in which Flacco threw all the way across his body. Usually when we see quarterbacks throw that pass, it is caught by the other team. In fact, as he was making the catch, Pitta braced himself for a hit from who he thought was a Colts defender, but luckily it was fellow receiver Torrey Smith. Flacco really needs to be careful throwing those types of passes. Despite holding down Orlovsky for most of the game, the Ravens defense did let up late, allowing a touchdown in the final seconds of the game. John Harbaugh was visibly upset about the late letdown, but all that's important is the W in the schedule.
Player of the Game: Ravens LB Terrell Suggs-5 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
What Worried Me: While Suggs got to the quarterback with ease, none of his three forced fumbles were recovered by the Ravens. That means three missed opportunities to get the Ravens offense a chance to score. In closer games, those loose balls will need to be recovered, or the Ravens will pay for it.
Next Sunday night, the Ravens travel to the West Coast for a primetime matchup with the resurgent San Diego Chargers. After their trademark slow start, the Chargers have made yet another comeback, and are now just two games back of the lead in the AFC West. The Chargers are known for their December success, and quarterback Phillip Rivers is 22-2 during his career this month. Rivers has started to pick his game up lately, and after throwing 17 interceptions in his first 11 games, he hasn't thrown one in two weeks. That being said, the young Ravens secondary will have to be at the top of their game in order to slow down Rivers. His receivers include future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, and up-and-comers such as Vincent Brown and Vincent Jackson. The Ravens could be getting an extra boost on defense this weekend, as Ray Lewis is expected to make his return after missing the past four games.
Defensively for the Chargers, S Eric Weddle leads the NFL with 7 interceptions, so Flacco's recognition of where Weddle is at all times will be vital to ball security. Still, the ground game could be where the Ravens win this game. The Chargers defense ranks 24th in the league in rush defense, so Rice, who has over 300 yards over the past two games, could lead the Ravens offensive attack. There is certainly a lot on the line for both teams in this game. A loss for the Chargers could mean elimination from playoff contention, while a Ravens win clinches a playoff berth and continues their track towards a first-round bye. This all makes a great recipe for a hard-hitting, nail-biting clash Sunday night. I have the Ravens pulling out a close one, 23-20.
Key to the Game: For the Ravens, halting Phillip Rivers and what has been an explosive offense lately will be key for the win. If Rivers is able to air it out like we all know he can, the Ravens will be in trouble.
Key Matchups for Ravens at Chargers
Ravens CB Jimmy Smith vs. Chargers WR Vincent Jackson Edge: Jackson
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Chargers QB Phillip Rivers Edge: Reed
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Chargers CB Quentin Jammer Edge: Boldin
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Chargers S Eric Weddle Edge: Flacco
CB Chris Carr-Back-QST
G Ben Grubbs-Toe-QST
LB Ray Lewis-Foot-QST
DT Haloti Ngata-Back-QST
DT Cory Redding-Ankle-QST
CB Lardarius Webb-Toe-QST
LB Takeo Spikes-Back-QST
DE Jacques Cesaire-Ankle-QST
AFC North Standings
Team W L
Ravens 10 3
Steelers 10 3
Bengals 7 6
Browns 4 9
AFC North Outlook: The Ravens hold of the tiebreaker is still the difference between the Ravens and Steelers. Winning out means the Ravens take the division. The Steelers face the 49ers on Monday night. The Bengals visit the Rams. The Browns visit the Cardinals.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!