The scene was perfect in Baltimore: a warm, sunny day; Ray Lewis back on the field after a two-week hiatus; a record-breaking crowd at M&T Bank Stadium...and the Ravens absolutely demolishing the rival Steelers.
The Ravens didn't just settle for a win—they shut out the defending champs, holding them to 21 rushing yards and tallying 9 sacks against Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers only managed to cross midfield three times, and the Ravens' seemingly unstoppable defense scored its fifth touchdown of the season.
Unbeaten since the firing of offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, the Ravens seem to have solved their ball-movement problems—and Brian Billick, who has assured the safety of his head coaching job, may have finally silenced the critics who said he couldn't call plays.
Even more importantly, the Ravens have maintained their three-game lead over the formerly dominant Cincinnati Bengals, and can clinch their division with a win against them on Thursday.
For the gritty, physical Steelers, Sunday's loss officially killed the dynasty dreams, and left fans and players alike wondering what happened to Big Ben. Maybe it was the motorcycle accident; maybe it was the appendectomy; maybe it was the concussion—whatever the case, the Steeler faithful ended Thanksgiving weekend with nothing to chew on but a big, round goose egg.
On the other side of the state, scores of passionate Philly fans were just as disappointed. The Eagles are lost without Donovan McNabb...and the Colts are dominant because of Peyton Manning. The pairing of these two teams illuminated both the risks and promises of betting the franchise on the success of a star quarterback.
Brian Westbrook rushed for 124 yards for Philadelphia, but Joseph Addai was better for Indianapolis, finishing the day with 171 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Colts took the lead on their first possession, and the Eagles would never get any closer than ten points.
It's hard to imagine what the Colts would look like without Peyton...but you can bet it would resemble Philly without Donovan. 2006 marks the third season during the McNabb Era in which the Eagles have had to without their stud field general. Jeff Garcia proved himself a decent but not overpowering replacement, and it remains to be seen what he can do against a less formidable opponent.
In the meantime, the Colts (10-1) maintained their one-game lead over the Chargers and the Ravens (both 9-2), and proved that last week's loss was a fluke. They also left Philly fans with little to cheer for...but hey, at least they've got Ryan Howard.
One state north, New Yorkers are holding out hope that the Jets can close the gap on the Patriots in the AFC East. Folks from the Steel City to the City of Brotherly Love can take solace in the fact that at least they don't have to deal with Eli Manning, who helped the Giants blow a 21-point fourth quarter lead...and who floated the idiotic pass which eventually led to a game-winning Titans field goal. It might be a bad week to be from Pennsylvania, but—as always—it's still worse to be Eli.