It was the Justin Tucker Show for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, as the rookie kicker had three field goals, with his points being all the Ravens scored in their 9-6 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
While the Ravens did get that check mark in the win column, it was only after a flat four quarters of play where the Chiefs' mistakes contributed not only to Baltimore's victory, but to its own demise. The Ravens had just 25:50 of possession to the Chiefs' 34:10, 298 total yards to Kansas City's 338, and just 15 total first downs while the Chiefs had 12 from the run game alone.
At some point, the Ravens will have to stop being an up-and-down team on offense, but in Week 5, they were firmly in the thick of it. Fresh off of a 300-plus-yard game from quarterback Joe Flacco (his third in four games), he dipped down to complete just 13 of his 27 passes for 187 yards and an interception. He was also sacked four times.
Baltimore seemingly did the opposite of everything it needed to do in this game. Flacco was again flummoxed under pressure and could neither run the no-huddle with consistent effectiveness nor target the right receivers at the right times.
Receiver Torrey Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta were rendered practically ineffectual thanks to both the aforementioned pressure on Flacco and good coverage by the Chiefs secondary (the two combined for six receptions for 60 yards). This left Anquan Boldin to be Flacco's primary target. He had 10 passes thrown his way, with just four receptions for a nonetheless useful 82 yards.
The best thing that can be said for Baltimore in this game is that its defense somewhat held up their end of the bargain. Though they struggled to contain Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles—he had 30 rushes for 140 yards (a 4.7 yards-per-carry average) and three receptions for 21 yards—they gave up no touchdowns.
Some of that had to do with costly turnovers committed by Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel (two picks and one lost fumble, including one that could have otherwise been a score), but they allowed only field goals despite notching zero sacks on the day. (A bright note, however, is that linebacker Terrell Suggs should be back on the field in a month's time.)
This wasn't the guns-blazing Ravens team we've seen in the last four weeks, but it was luckily saved by a Kansas City team—and mainly offense—that had one of its worst performances we're likely to see all season.
Not every win can be pretty, and prior mistakes reared their ugly heads today for the Ravens.
Their struggles to put together a pass rush were again evident today, and they also looked weak against the run after two consecutive games where it appeared they had turned that problem around. Despite averaging six yards per carry, Ray Rice had only 17 rushes when 25 or more could have gotten the Ravens a touchdown and a larger margin of victory.
Five weeks into the season, no team is flawless, even those with undefeated records. The Ravens didn't do much on Sunday, but the Chiefs did far less, and the fortunate result was a Baltimore victory. However, the Ravens cannot count on their opponents playing so poorly in order to eke out a win off of just three field goals.
But regardless of how they achieved it, the Ravens have now improved to 4-1 on the season and have sole possession of the top spot in the AFC North. If they want to keep it, they need to make sure they do not play like this in the coming weeks, as their opponents coming up will be far less forgiving. At least when the Ravens had their down week, it still managed to result in a win.