Many of the talking points in Baltimore during the Ravens Bye Week focused on how the team’s defense would rebound after allowing over 500 yards to the winless Buffalo Bills the week prior to the bye.
Most of the questions surrounding the Ravens defense were answered with the sound defeat of the Miami Dolphins (4-4) in Baltimore, 26-10.
The Baltimore Ravens, now 6-2 and atop the AFC North, returned to a style of play that many fans were hoping for—relying heavily on the run and not committing turnovers in the passing game. QB Joe Flacco has been better than average, however.
Since Week 3, Flacco is the NFL’s highest-rated passer, boasting a 105.0 rating during that period. With two more touchdown passes against Miami today, Flacco now yields an 11-1 TD to INT ratio in that same timeframe.
The last time Ravens fans witnessed a Flacco interception was Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Flacco continued to impress today, going 20 of 27 for 266 yards and two touchdowns—good for a passer rating of 129.6—edging out punter Sam Koch, who delivered a 13-yard strike to DB Cary Williams on a fake punt early in the third quarter.
The surprise fake punt was a bold call with the Ravens only up by three at the start of the second half, but Baltimore was looking to make a statement after being criticized in the past for not playing aggressively enough on offense.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron called an aggressive, yet well-balanced game today in Baltimore. There’s no doubt Cameron heard the voices of many critics in weeks past, and it will be up to him to keep the consistency going that every fan witnessed today.
Ravens RB Ray Rice had a productive day with 83 yards on the ground in 22 attempts. Rice’s role in the passing game was even more valuable. Baltimore was able to keep several drives alive with their perfect execution of the screen pass, and Rice was the beneficiary with 97 yards off screens alone.
Baltimore’s ability to keep their defense off the field with their effective play on offense proved invaluable. Outside of the first quarter, Miami was unable to move the ball on a Ravens defense that looked like something reminiscent of their 2000 Super Bowl campaign.
Miami QB Chad Henne didn’t have an awful day, but as most people figured, Henne started to struggle as the Dolphins fell deeper into an insurmountable deficit.
Henne threw for 231 yards, but failed to find any of his receivers in the end zone. On top of that, three interceptions went to the Ravens defense. Ball-hawk safety Ed Reed grabbed one errant pass—his third interception in two games. Cornerbacks Josh Wilson and Lardarius Webb also managed one interception apiece.
With Reed back and 100 percent healthy, the turnover margin should continue to trend in favor of the Ravens. Reed’s presence on the field alone is enough to force opposing quarterbacks into making poor decisions with the ball, and that’s exactly what we saw today with Henne going up against a well-rested Baltimore secondary.
Even though Baltimore left six points on the field due to missed field goal attempts, this game was as close to a perfect win as you can get, taking into consideration all of the areas the Ravens wanted to improve in during the Bye Week.
We saw a drastic improvement in the run-pass ratio today—something Baltimore had to improve on after abandoning the run in recent weeks.
Coverage by our secondary was stout. CB Fabian Washington still had trouble grasping fundamentals of the game, and was subsequently benched in favor of Wilson at the start of the second half.
Wilson shined for the second straight week, blanketing Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall for the majority of the game.
Look for Wilson to start over Washington against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football.
Taking all of the above into consideration, one must include Baltimore in any discussion about the best teams in football. Winning their seventh straight home game today, the Ravens remain undefeated at home in 2010. In addition, it gets better for the high-flying Ravens from here on out.
Six of their remaining eight games will be played in the comforts of their own home—giving the potential Super Bowl contenders in Baltimore a leg up on the competition.
If you happen to be a die-hard Ravens fan, you have to like the position Baltimore is in now.
With the AFC East looking weaker by the minute and no clear leader emerging in the AFC West or South, this could be the year Baltimore finally earns home field advantage throughout the playoffs—something they have yet to achieve in the NFL.
Todd McGregor is a Baltimore Ravens Featured Columnist here on BleacherReport.com
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