Last Sunday night, the Chargers routed the Ravens on national television, 34-14. This was a domination from start to finish, as the relentless Chargers really put it on the Ravens. Phillip Rivers picked apart the previously unbeatable Ravens defense, torching corners and getting the ball out of his hand quickly. With this, the Ravens pass rush was simply not quick enough to get to the quarterback. We have to give San Diego some credit, they did their homework and played the Ravens the way you beat the Ravens. They played just as good as the Ravens did bad. The score was 17-7 at halftime after touchdowns from Mike Tolbert for the Chargers and Ed Dickson for the Ravens. Another missed Cundiff field goal dug the Ravens into a much deeper hole. Two third quarter Charger touchdowns combined with two Ravens turnovers put the game away with plenty of time on the clock. Torrey Smith caught a last-minute touchdown, but to no avail, as the Ravens dropped their fourth game of the season.
Player of the Game: Chargers QB Phillip Rivers-17/23 for 270 yards, 1 passing touchdown
What Worried Me: Well this list goes on and on. Mostly, Billy Cundiff's missed field goal made for a two-possession game at halftime instead of just a touchdown lead for the Chargers. Missed field goals is not something Ravens fans are accustomed to after 13 years with Matt Stover, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. While Cundiff is injured and a new kicker (Shayne Graham) has been signed, field goals decide games down the stretch, and the Ravens need to win those stretch games.
Next Saturday afternoon, the Ravens face off against the 4-10 Cleveland Browns, whom the Ravens downed 24-10 in Week 13. The key to this game for the Ravens will once again be the running game. The Browns' rush defense ranks 31st in the NFL, so when Ray Rice has the ball in his hands on Saturday, you can guarantee good things will happen. With Anquan Boldin out for the next two weeks, other receivers such as Tandon Doss and Dennis Pitta will have to step up and fill the void. The Browns do have a good pass defense, so don't expect Joe Flacco to pass much if he doesn't have to. Colt McCoy, who started for the Browns back in Week 13, will be out Saturday with a concussion, so backup Seneca Wallace will get the nod. While he is not a great pocket passer, he is most dangerous outside of the pocket. He runs the ball well, so he will be a threat if he leaves the pocket. To defend that, expect the Ravens to put a linebacker like Jarret Johnson in the box to prevent Wallace from trying to run. This is simply a must-win game for the Ravens if they want to stay in the hunt for a bye, and I don't expect them to let up. I have the Ravens winning, 27-10. With this win, the Ravens would finish a perfect 8-0 at home, something they have never done in franchise history.
Key to the Game: The Ravens will need to keep the ball moving and eat up the clock to rest the defense. A rested defense is a good defense, and a defense which could stop the Browns in their tracks.
Key Matchups for Browns at Ravens
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Browns QB Seneca Wallace Edge: Reed
Ravens DT Haloti Ngata vs. Browns T Joe Thomas Edge: Ngata
Ravens WR Torrey Smith vs. Browns CB Joe Haden Edge: Haden
Ravens G Marshal Yanda vs. Browns DT Jabaal Sheard Edge: Yanda
WR Anquan Boldin-Knee-OUT
K Billy Cundiff-Calf-DBT
DE Cory Redding-Ankle-QST
QB Colt McCoy-Concussion-OUT
WR Josh Cribbs-Groin-QST
CB Joe Haden-Thigh-QST
AFC North Standings
Team W L
Ravens 10 4
Steelers 10 4
Bengals 8 6
Browns 4 10
AFC North Outlook: The Ravens remain ahead of the Steelers for the division lead after the Steelers Monday night loss to the 49ers. This weekend, the Ravens can clinch the division with a win and a Steelers loss to the Rams. If the Ravens and Patriots win out, the Ravens have the #2 seed and a bye. If the Ravens win out and the Patriots lose a game, the Ravens have the #1 seed.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week, happy holidays and Go Ravens!