AFC North: 2012 Week 3 Rapid Reaction
September, 24, 2012
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com
BALTIMORE -- A few thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 31-30 victory over the New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium:
What it means: Eight months after coming up short late in the AFC Championship Game, the Ravens delivered in the final minutes of the fourth quarter against the Patriots. Down nine points in the fourth quarter, Flacco threw a 5-yard touchdown to Torrey Smith and put Baltimore in field goal range in the final minute. Unlike the AFC Championship Game, when Billy Cundiff missed a last-second 32-yard field goal, rookie kicker Justin Tucker hit a 27-yarder that sliced just inside the right upright to lift Baltimore to the comeback victory.
Emotional night: Smith came up big on what was a painful night. On the same day that his younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident, Smith caught six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Two big plays by Smith -- a third-down conversion and a 32-yard catch -- set up Ray Rice's touchdown in the third quarter to put Ravens up 21-20. His 5-yard touchdown pulled the Ravens to within a score at 30-28 in the fourth quarter.
Key play by No. 3 receiver: The Ravens lost in the AFC Championship Game because Lee Evans couldn't hold onto the winning touchdown pass. This time, Jacoby Jones, the team's new No. 3 wide receiver, drew a pass interference penalty that put the Ravens on the New England 7-yard line.
Keeping streaks alive: The Ravens extended two significant streaks. They won for the 12th straight time at home, the longest current streak in the NFL. They also won for the 14th time following a loss, which is also the longest streak in the league. Baltimore (2-1) moved into a tie with the Bengals atop the AFC North.
Flacco enjoys big game: Flacco led a winning eight-play, 70-yard drive to cap a big game. He finished 28-of-39 for 382 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Flag day for Ravens: It looked like Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb made the game-changing interception at the Patriots' 40-yard line with 2:23 left in the game. But Webb, who grabbed Wes Welker's jersey with his left hand, was flagged for illegal contact. The Ravens were penalized 14 times for 135 yards. This is the same Ravens team that was critical of the replacement officials last Sunday.
Lack of discipline: The Ravens' defense committed three major penalties. Haloti Ngata's personal foul led to a field goal. Bernard Pollard's personal foul came in a touchdown drive. And Ed Reed's unnecessary roughness penalty was converted into a field goal. Total damage: 13 points. The Ravens capped the night with an unsportsmanlike conduct on their sideline in the Patriots' final drive.
Pass rush disappears: Tom Brady had too much time in the pocket to pick apart the Ravens' secondary, especially on routes along the sideline. The Ravens got a sack on Brady on that first drive, but they got to him only one more time for the rest of the game. Baltimore tried to generate pressure with the blitz. But Baltimore couldn't collapse the pocket with Terrell Suggs, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, on the sidelines.
What's next: The Ravens play their third nationally televised game in four weeks when they face the Browns on Thursday.