Last Sunday in Kansas City, the Ravens delivered a lackluster 9-6 win over the Chiefs. Looking at the score might remind one of the days of ole. Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, and Sam Adams helped shut down the opposing team. Tony Banks put the Ravens in field goal range just enough times for an automatic Matt Stover. A late interception by Kim Herring put the team in Stover's range for the winner in the final seconds. This, unfortunately, was not the case. The Ravens defense allowed 180 yards on the ground, including 140 to Jamaal Charles on 31 carries. Charles eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the first half, the first time the Ravens let that happen since 1998. They were advantageous of the Chiefs' mistakes however, picking off Matt Cassel twice and forcing him to fumble twice. Chiefs K Ryan Succop hit a late field goal to make it 9-6 and gave the ball back to the Ravens with 4 and a half minutes remaining on the clock. The offense then picked up the necessary first downs, and helped the Chiefs burn their timeouts before kneeling in victory formation at the two minute warning. The Ravens defense was able to hold the Chiefs in the red zone and avoid their crossing the goal line, ultimately sealing the slim Ravens win.
Player of the Game: Ravens RB Ray Rice-102 rushing yards, 16 receiving yards
Key to the Win: There isn't much to say about this one. The Ravens defense came through when it needed to, and the offense did the same in their own respect. This was dangerously close to being a demoralizing loss, but a win is a win.
Next Sunday, Baltimore will be invaded by the 2-2 Dallas Cowboys, looking for an upset win to set the tone for the rest of their season. Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett, the perennial backup to Troy Aikman in the 1990s, was interviewed by the Ravens for their vacant head coaching job back in 2008, but passed on the job to stay in Dallas, where he later took the helm. In a year and half as their leader, Garrett is a respectable 15-13, but he has yet to lead them into the post-season. On offense, QB Tony Romo has re-defined the term inconsistent, throwing for 5 touchdowns and a NFC-high 8 interceptions so far this season. Romo is notorious for crumbling under heavy defensive pressure, which is undoubtedly what the Ravens will do on Sunday. The Cowboys also have two dangerous wide receivers that the Ravens defense will lose sleep over. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are both physical, athletic receivers who have accounted for almost half of Romo's passing yards this season. Also look out for the Cowboys' receivers who don't get as much TV time. Kevin Ogletree has been a frequent target of Romo all year, along with veteran TE Jason Witten. As for the team's rushing game, RB DeMarco Murray had a break-out year in 2011, but has yet to turn on his game this year. Murray is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, so expect a linebacker to stay in the middle of the field to protect against the pass to a speedy Murray. The Cowboys are 30th in the league with just 67.8 rushing yards per game and 16.2 points per game. They make up for it on defense, leading the league in pass defense behind the play of cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, the team's first-round pick this past April. LB DeMarcus Ware is one of the more dangerous pass-rushers off the edge, and could cause some problems for a Ravens offensive line that has had a hard time protecting Joe Flacco. Perhaps the most interesting storyline of the afternoon is how Flacco and his offense react and execute against Rob Ryan's unpredictably scary defense. I imagine Flacco will look to the no-huddle offense to slow down the pass rush, but we've said that over the past few weeks, and it is yet to come to fruition.
Prediction: There is no better team at home than the Ravens right now. While I think this game will be closer than a lot of people here in Baltimore do, I just can't see this Cowboys team overpowering the Ravens consistently over 60 minutes. I have the Ravens taking this one, 23-13.
Key Matchups for Cowboys at Ravens
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray Edge: Lewis
Analysis: Murray hasn't lived up to expectations this year, but against a Ravens defense that hasn't lived up to expectations as well, this clash could give momentum to whomever comes out on top.
Ravens CB Cary Williams vs. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant Edge: Bryant
Analysis: Williams is reeling off of a stellar performance against the Chiefs, but Bryant's size and speed will be difficult for him to contain.
Ravens G Marshal Yanda vs. Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware Edge: Ware
Analysis: Yanda isn't having the season he's desired, and Ware is continuing his ruthless pursuit of the quarterback like he is known to. Yanda and Flacco could have a hard time avoiding his pass rush.
Ravens WR Torrey Smith vs. Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne Edge: Smith
Analysis: Smith was a no-show last week in Kansas City, but will look to take advantage of an inexperienced rookie in Claiborne to get back in the groove.
T Jah Reid-Calf-PRB
DT Haloti Ngata-Shoulder-PRB
P Brian Moorman-Groin-OUT
C/G Ryan Cook-Hamstring-QST
P Chris Jones-Knee-QST
LB Anthony Spencer-Shoulder-QST
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!