Last Thursday night, the Ravens improved to 3-1 on the year with a close 23-16 win over the still winless Cleveland Browns. This was, of course, the return of the regular officials, who entered the field to a standing ovation. They were loved until their first call against the Ravens. Against a weak team like the Browns, this was not the dominating performance that many fans and experts alike expected for the Ravens. But in the end, a win is a win is a win. At the beginning of the game, it looked like the Ravens were poised to run away with things. A touchdown pass to Torrey Smith (botched extra point) coupled with a Tucker field goal put the Ravens up 9-0 in the second quarter. The Browns would put up a score in the final minutes of the half on a run by Trent Richardson to make it 9-7. But Flacco made sure the Ravens responded, and he made sure of it by himself. On third and goal from the 1, Flacco used his agility and speed to juke a defender and cross the plain into paydirt. After the Browns narrowed the score to 16-10 near the end of the third quarter, Ravens CB Cary Williams stepped in front of a Brandon Weeden pass and returned it 63 yards to the end zone for a score. Two more 50-plus yard field goals from Phil Dawson of the Browns cut the Ravens lead to 23-16, giving the Browns one more chance at extending the game. The Browns would go on to fail at two hail mary attempts, giving the Ravens a slim victory.
Player of the Game: Ravens QB Joe Flacco-28/46 for 356 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, 1 rushing touchdown
Key to the Win: This wasn't pretty. Or at least not as pretty as we would have liked it to be. But in the end, the defense came up with the big stop in the end zone. This team may raise your blood pressure, they may have you biting your nails, but the way they're playing right now, they'll get the job done when it matters most.
Next Sunday, the Ravens will travel to Kansas City to face a disappointing 1-3 Chiefs team. The struggling Ravens defense will look to get a pick-me-up against a Chiefs offense that turned the ball over six times last week. The Ravens also had a whole ten days to prepare for this game following the Thursday night special. When the Ravens played the Chiefs in Kansas City back in the 2011 Wild Card playoff game, Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown, while QB Matt Cassel was picked off three times. After Charles was sidelined with an injury last year, his return this year prompted many to have high hopes for the Chiefs to compete in an inconsistent AFC West. That has not been the case so far. While Charles has been successful, Cassel has been picked off seven times, and his performance has been so poor that many have called upon Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel to consider putting in Cassel's backup, Brady Quinn. Second-year WR Jon Baldwin has only 10 catches, none of those a scoring play. Excluding defenders, Dwayne Bowe is the leading receiver for the Chiefs this season, catching 25 passes for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns. For a Ravens secondary that is ranked 29th in the league, they will have a tough time guarding a tall, agile Bowe. They also may receive some early holiday gifts from Cassel if the defensive line is on their game. There is certainly no lack of talent on this Chiefs offense, and they'll need to live up to full potential to stay in the game on Sunday against a high-powered Ravens offense. On defense, the Chiefs are strongest with their front seven. Leading the way are linebackers Justin Houston and Tambi Hali. Hali is often compared to Terrell Suggs in terms of pass rushing. Hali and Houston are both excellent pass rushers, combining for 5 sacks this season, and who are sure to cause some problems for a struggling Ravens offensive line. The defense as a whole, though, have not been helping the Chiefs' cause. They are next to last this season in points per game, giving up an average of 34 points to opposing teams. A Ravens offense that has shown that they can put up points will need to show us once again come Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: The Ravens defense shouldn't have too much trouble with this Chiefs offense, but then again I said that last week. Their biggest concerns should be limiting Charles and double-teaming Bowe to counter his efficiency. On offense, Flacco will look to put up more big numbers and take advantage of a struggling, beaten-down Chiefs defense. I have the Ravens winning, 31-16.
Key Matchups for Ravens at Chiefs
Ravens secondary vs. Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe Edge: Bowe
Analysis: Bowe is a big, strong receiver that will win almost any jump-ball. Against Bowe, it could be a long day for the Ravens secondary.
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles Edge: Lewis
Analysis: While the Ravens had some trouble containing Charles two years ago, a few extra days of film study will give Lewis and his posse an advantage over Charles and the Chiefs offensive line.
Ravens T Michael Oher vs. Chiefs LB Tamba Hali Edge: Hali
Analysis: Oher has had some trouble with pass-rushing linebackers in the past, and Hali is one of the more prominent in the league.
Ravens WR Torrey Smith vs. Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers Edge: Smith
Analysis: Smith has a knack for the big play, and Flowers has a knack for the big interception. This should be fun to watch, as just one broken assignment could prove deadly for either of these players.
T Jah Reid-Calf-QST
CB Jalil Brown-Hamstring-OUT
RB Peyton Hillis-Ankle-OUT
DE Glenn Dorsey-Calf-OUT
LB Derrick Johnson-Groin-QST
As the die-hard Orioles fan I am, I have to give a quick shout-out to the Orioles for a remarkable year so far, as well as continued good fortunes against the Yankees this coming week. Go Birds! That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and go Ravens!