In an exciting game that was a tale of two halves, the Ravens did something they had never done before after spending the first two quarters repeating the kind of mistakes they made in Monday night’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. When Billy Cundiff beat the buzzer with a chip-shot field goal on Sunday, the Ravens beat the Arizona Cardinals, 30-27, officially overcoming a 21-point deficit -- a new franchise comeback record.
Here are my quick-hit thoughts as the Ravens improved to 5-2 before next weekend’s showdown in Pittsburgh:
1. Cam Cameron is still on the hot seat, but at least he still has a chair to sit on after the Ravens roared back in the second half thanks to some key adjustments. Trailing 24-6 at halftime, the Ravens picked up the tempo and worked almost exclusively out of the shotgun in the second half. The Ravens scored three touchdowns in a row to seize the lead, and kept the foot on the gas until the final whistle. And you know what? As much as I have been advocating the Ravens to run the ball with Ray Rice, Cameron was wise to stick with what worked. His next challenge is to make all the right tweaks to the game plan that embarrassed the Steelers in Week 1.
2. Kudos to Joe Flacco, too, who admitted after the game that he would have booed the Ravens offense in the first half, too, if he was some Average Joe sitting in the bleachers at M&T Bank Stadium. He lost a fumble and threw an interception in the opening half, but he got into a groove out of the shotgun and got the ball out of his hands quickly before the pocket collapsed on him. He finished the day with 336 yards and that INT on 31-of-51 passing, and didn’t record a touchdown pass, but he put Rice in position to score a career-high three rushing touchdowns. Flacco’s beautiful bomb to Torrey Smith set up the game-winning field goal, too. I respect how he takes a beating on the field and in the media then picks himself up and comes back for more.
3. I’ve been campaigning for Rice to be the goal-line back since 2009 -- and not just because I own him in fantasy football -- and Sunday he continued to show that the Ravens don’t need Willis McGahee or Le’Ron McClain to punch it in from inside the five-yard line. All Rice needs is a crack to squeak into the end zone.
4. My apologies to the Baltimore defense for again being an afterthought, but that’s what happens when the offense disappears for six straight quarters. The defense played much better than the scoreboard indicated, as Flacco’s fumble gave Arizona the ball at the 2-yard line in the second quarter and the special teams unit allowed a touchdown on a punt return. Once again, it was the pass rush that made everything work for the Ravens. They hit Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb five times on the opening drive and kept coming after him like a horror movie villain. The Ravens had six sacks and landed eight other hits on the afternoon. Ouch.
5. Sticking with the horror movie theme, should we be surprised a guy with the last name Kruger haunted Kolb on Halloween weekend? Paul Kruger had two sacks on Sunday, giving him three in a six-day span.
6. Patrick Peterson slipped out of five tackles on his 82-yard punt return touchdown in the second quarter. It was the second return touchdown the Ravens have allowed this season (Joe McKnight of the Jets scored on a kickoff return in Week 4). They happen sometimes, but two in seven games is cause for concern going forward.
7. Anquan Boldin was in full-on beast mode in the second half, and the Ravens wouldn’t have come close to mounting a comeback without his leadership and production. Boldin was fired up on the sidelines in the first half, and played like he was all kinds of pissed off in the second. He made a 37-yard grab on the opening drive of the half, made three acrobatic catches on the left sideline on the next scoring drive and was so determined in the red zone that the Cardinals had no choice but to mug him whenever the ball came his way. Boldin, a big catalyst for the big comeback, finished the day with seven receptions for 145 yards against his former team.
8. Anyone willing to be a toe donor for Ben Grubbs? The offensive line isn’t the same without its starting left guard. A healthy Grubbs won’t cure all that ails them, but he will make the left side of the line much better.
9. Outside of that 66-yard catch and run in the first quarter, the Ravens did a good job against the Cardinals’ six-foot-three Pro Bowl wideout, Larry Fitzgerald. Kolb’s scatter-shot right arm helped them out, too, I guess.
10. Ravens fans, as expected, let out a loud “Heeeeeeeap” when the Cardinals rushed out onto the field, but Todd Heap was inactive. He did, however, get a good look at his two successors. Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta teamed up to catch 12 passes for 90 yards. Heap is missed, but the Ravens are in good hands at tight end.