When Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis delivered his speech to the team Saturday night, there was a message for both the players and coaches.
The topic was "sacrifice", but there was also some talk about tradition, and the Ravens returned to it against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The victory brought back memories from the past when the Ravens stopped the run, were aggressive on defense and successful with a ball-control offense.
When Joe Flacco completed only 10 of 20 passes for 172 yards, it was as if Trent Dilfer was quarterback again. The Ravens shouldn't tinker with the strategy.
By mid morning Monday, Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was probably locked in his laboratory wondering how he was going to get receivers Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin 11 catches each against the Cleveland Browns Sunday.
Don't do it.
Keep the offense built around running back Ray Rice, the team's top offensive player, who touched the ball 36 times Sunday for more than 200 yards as a runner and receiver.
On defense, the Ravens got pressure with their front four, but they also used a lot of blitzes, and disguised them well as they sent safety Ed Reed and cornerback Chris Carr. Against Houston Dec. 13, the Ravens were content to rush only three in the second half, and drop everyone else into coverage.
"Yes, definitely more aggressive," said Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson. "We were able to get to him [ Drew Brees] on some edges. Even on a four-man rush we were good. We mixed it up between pressure and coverage, and that was a lot more our style."
Reed said: "Hey, man, give him [Rice] the ball. We've been having that staple all year, we knew it, and it was just a matter of getting rolling and being able to read your keys as player and coaches, and execute. We're trying to get to the postseason and finish up strong."
The Ravens moved Chris Chester back to starting right guard and Marshal Yanda from guard to right offensive tackle, but coach John Harbaugh hasn't given up on third-year player Oniel Cousins, who was moved from tackle for one game back to the bench.
Harbaugh said there were other things involved in the decision.
"We thought the present group was our best five," Harbaugh said, "but we still think Oniel is going to develop into a pretty good player. He has the problem with his esophagus and then the concussion. He really hasn't had a chance to get a lot of work, but we still hold him in high regards."
'We go as Joe goes'
Flacco had a few choice words for the officials Sunday when he thought Saints defensive end Will Smith landed on him late in the third quarter, and there was no penalty.
For those who don't believe a fiery quarterback can get his teammate's attention, Flacco's expletive-laced tirade certainly fired up Rice.
"Whenever you see Joe fired up, you've kind of got to say, 'Joe's fired up.' He keeps it cool, and he maintains the balance, but I've seen him fired up before. I've seen him ready to go. We go as Joe goes."
Are you listening, Mr. Flacco?
Finished them off
Some of the Ravens denied that they didn't think about losing another fourth-quarter lead against the Saints, but that's hard to believe.
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata admits to what was on his mind.
"Of course, I think everybody on our defense was thinking that we couldn't let this one get away," Ngata said. "Throughout this year, we have always let teams finish us off. It just felt that great that our defense could help out our offense like that."
Cameron has taken a lot of criticism lately, some of it deserved. But he did make some nice changes Sunday.
That toss play to Rice on a fourth-and-1 at the New Orleans 49 early in the first quarter was a beauty. The Ravens pulled Chester to his left and then tossed to Rice going to his right. The tight end delay to Ed Dickson, which resulted in a 34-yard touchdown pass in the first period was tailor-made for New Orleans' blitz happy defense.
On Rice's 17-yard touchdown pass from Flacco in the second quarter, it's a play the Ravens have scored on several times this season with Flacco hitting either Mason or Boldin over the middle on post patterns.
This time, though, as Mason went inside to draw the safety, Rice ran a wheel route out of the backfield for a touchdown, beating a linebacker one-on-one.
Flacco did a terrific job looking off to Mason before showing nice touch on the pass to Rice.
Stallworth move explained
Harbaugh said he deactivated receiver Donte' Stallworth to get more defensive players on the field for the Saints. Apparently, the Ravens got caught short-handed against the Texans the week before, and they didn't want it to happen again.
Harbaugh cited the Saints for doing a lot of talking during the game, but the Saints saw it the other way around.
Truth be told, both teams talk a lot.
"That's them. They are a team that talks a lot," said Saints safety Darren Sharper. "They do more talking than most of the teams in the league. They start the stuff. When you play them, you've got to stay disciplined, and not get involved in that kind of stuff."
Deny, deny, deny
There were reports about New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham wanting to taunt Lewis after he caught a 1-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
Graham adamantly denied it.
"No, no, no, I would not talk to Ray Lewis. I'm not that stupid," Graham said. "I come from the U [ University of Miami]. Obviously, I know what kind of player he is. Obviously, an amazing linebacker."
Listen to Mike Preston on "The Bruce Cunnigham Show" from noon to 2 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays on 105.7 FM.