Semi-quick hits: The Ravens win the Harbaugh Bowl

November 25, 2011|By Matt Vensel

The Ravens smothered the San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving night, putting the visiting team to sleep with some football tryptophan in a 16-6 win. The defense was excellent, shutting down Frank Gore and sacking Alex Smith nine times. And the offense was effective enough to play keep-away and keep the defense off the field.

I apologize for not giving you my instant analysis right after the game, but I was busy asking a bunch of guys in towels about holding Gore to 39 yards. Here are my belated quick-hit thoughts on the Harbaugh Bowl victory.

1. Terrell Suggs is back. So is the rest of the pass rush. The Ravens had recorded four sacks in their previous three games, but they cranked up the heat against Smith because they know that he isn’t capable of beating an elite defense by himself. According to ESPN Stats and Information, five of the sacks came when the Ravens sent five or more pass rushers and eight came with five or more defensive backs on the field. But it was the big guys -- Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Cory Redding -- who finished Smith off. That trio combined for 7.5 sacks, including three from Suggs, who now has nine on the season. Hopefully the Ravens continue to be aggressive.

2. Lardarius Webb might just make it to the Pro Bowl. The third-year cornerback has bounced back in a big way after he got beat deep in the final minutes of last season’s playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He leads the Ravens with three interceptions and has broken up 12 passes. He has made 51 tackles, too, but that’s a hard stat to qualify for cornerbacks. Webb’s sparkling play this season – along with a surprise showing from Cary Williams – is one of the main reasons why the Ravens have been able to attack quarterbacks. Thought by some to be a liability entering the season, the cornerbacks have been a strength. It all starts with Webb.

3. Thursday’s game was a testament to the Ravens’ depth. The Ravens were without Ray Lewis for a second consecutive week, and his backup, Dannell Ellerbe, was sidelined as well. That left the Ravens shorthanded at linebacker, but given how well they contained Gore, you couldn’t tell without looking at the numbers on the backs of their jerseys. Jameel McClain was all over the place -- usually in a good way -- and Brendon Ayanbadejo and little-known linebacker Albert McClellan picked up the slack, too. Credit Ozzie Newsome for finding these guys.

4. Joe Flacco’s Fu Manchu mustache is awesome. That is all.

5. The game-deciding drive brought back memories. Remember when the Ravens used to embark on those long, opponent-deflating drives in John Harbaugh’s first couple of seasons? We saw the first of that kind in a while during the third quarter when the Ravens marched 76 yards in 16 plays, putting seven points on the board and taking seven and a half minutes of clock. The drive gave me another reason to think the Ravens can go all the way this season. I like the quick-strike offense, but I needed to see that they can work the clock, too.

6. Thank you, Cam Cameron, for running the ball. The Ravens had their most run-heavy game of the season, running the ball 35 times while throwing 23 passes. It wasn’t exactly effective from a yards-per-carry sense, but they clearly wore down a strong San Francisco defense. Now it’s time to figure out how to get Ray Rice running strong again. The electric back is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry over the team’s past six games.

7. Thank God the Harbaugh Bowl is over. If I had to hear or read about the Sherriff’s All-Stars one more time, I was going to pick up my laptop and throw it at my flat-screen television. I’m sure Harbaugh feels the same way.

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