Ravens Snap October, West Coast Jinxes In 30-17 Win

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Baltimore bashes Raiders with run game, defensive TD.

Many factors conspired against the Ravens going into this game. Let’s list three. It had taken a fourth-and-29 miracle 5 years ago to get their most recent regular-season West Coast win. The team had lost eight straight October games. Injuries to key players were sapping the talent base, not to mention confidence. On top of all that, if the Ravens had taken another defeat, it would have meant a fifth season in the last six with a three-game losing streak.

The Ravens exorcised all of those demons, regained offensive balance and confidence, got a big play from the defense, and ran their record to 3-2 with an impressive 30-17 win over the Oakland Raiders.

Courtesy: Yahoo! Sports

Quarterback Joe Flacco (19-for-26, 222 yards, no sacks, 98.6 rating), who commented during the week about a lack of confidence surrounding a bottom-ranked pass offense, was finally able to go downfield and found seams in the Raiders’ defense. He completed 10 of his first 12 passes as the Ravens played the most impressive first half of football since the Week 2 blowout win over Cleveland. Flacco’s ten-game streak with at least one interception ended against the Raiders–one of four NFL teams that has not picked-off a pass in 2017 (next week’s opponent, the Bears, also have no interceptions).

Flacco was only hit twice and has had that happen only 18 times in five games. But in Oakland he had time to throw. The offensive line stepped up and had its finest game of the year–despite losing backup RG Matt Skura (knee) in the third quarter. Two standouts were RT Austin Howard, who faced his former Oakland teammates for the first time; and LT Ronnie Stanley, who got TE help in blocking Oakland pass rushers, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

After a slow third quarter, which saw the Ravens gain just two yards over the first 12 minutes of that frame, the offense regrouped behind a grinding running attack. The offense put the Raiders (2-3) away with Justin Tucker field goals after 12-play and 10-play drives, respectively.

Buck Allen dances after scoring ID (photo, SFGate)

The Ravens’ rushing attempt numbers had gone down over each of the season’s first four weeks. But on this day Baltimore would run the ball 39 times, attempt 26 passes, and possess the ball for nearly 34 minutes. The rushing game shined. Buck Allen ran the ball 21 times for 73 yards with a TD, and Alex Collins contributed 55 yards on 12 carries.

The game also marked the sixth time in Ravens’ regular-season history that Baltimore committed just one accepted penalty in a game–the most recent instance coming in 2010 at Cleveland.

At the start, the Ravens’ moribund offense looked a lot more varied– unpredictable and crisp, outgaining Oakland in the first quarter (134-74), and stretching out that margin before the game ended (365-245).

Flacco had averaged a league-low 5.1 yards per attempt coming into the game, but he found Mike Wallace (133 yards, three catches) on a 52-yard pass down the left sideline on the game’s first play. That was the first of several big plays to the veteran speedster. In fact, Wallace became the Ravens’ first 100-yard receiver in a game since a midseason win over Pittsburgh last year when he had 124 yards. The Ravens’ 12-game streak without a receiver hitting the century mark was the NFL’s longest.

Wallace’s first big catch keyed a five-play, 75-yard drive that gave the Ravens their first points before halftime in three weeks. Backup TE Vince Mayle took an end-around and scored from two yards out.

Jimmy Smith on his way to a TD (photo, Baltimore Sun)

A second touchdown came within 95 seconds. Weak-side LB Patrick Onwuasor, who’s getting more snaps in place of probable starter Kamalei Correa, stripped Raiders’ receiver Jared Cook in the flat. Cornerback Jimmy Smith picked up the ball and ran 47 yards for a TD and 14-0 lead.

The Ravens’ run defense still looked porous without nose tackle Brandon Williams, who was inactive again with a lingering foot injury. Replacement Carl Davis had to leave with a hamstring problem in the first quarter, and Oakland drove 75 yards for a Giorgio Tavecchio field goal to put the hosts on the board.

But even without Terrance West (calf problem), Flacco directed an eight-minute, ten-second drive that lasted 15 plays and ended with Allen’s one-yard run and a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter.

Oakland’s run game continued to soften up the Ravens’ defense. When Manuel’s play-action fake caught CB Brandon Carr peeking into the backfield, Michael Crabtree (82 yards, six catches, touchdown) got behind him for a 41-yard TD. That play put the Raiders back in the game. It was Manuel’s first touchdown pass in nearly two years and Crabtree’s fifth career touchdown against Baltimore.

Manuel, subbing for the injured Derek Carr (back fracture), completed 13 of 26 passes for 159 yards and was sacked three times (82.1 rating).

Manuel didn’t get much help from marquee back, Marshawn Lynch (43 yards, 12 carries), who has had three slow games after a hot start.

But the newly-confident Flacco–helped by the fact that Raiders were without CBs Gareon Conley and David Amerson (injuries)–answered right back. He found Wallace for a 54-yard bomb in double coverage, which set up Justin Tucker’s 22-yard field goal. That score extended the Ravens’ lead to 24-10 five minutes before halftime.

The Ravens had put up points on three straight offensive drives, stopping a slump that had seen Baltimore score on just three of its previous 25 possessions.

All told, a season full of below-average days turned into a near-perfect one for the Ravens … even with so much stacked against them.


Next game–Sunday, October 15, 1 p.m., home, Chicago Bears (WBFF-TV; WIYY-FM).


About Joe Platania

Veteran beat writer, Joe Platania, is entering his 39th year in Baltimore media. He covers sports with insight, humor, and prescient eye. A former longtime member in good standing of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and the Pro Football Writers of America, Platania manned the CFL Stallions beat for The Avenue Newspaper Group of Essex (1994 and ’95) and the Ravens beat since the team’s inception — one of only three local writers to do so — for PressBox, The Avenue, and other local publications and radio stations. A sought-after contributor and host on talk radio and TV, he often appears on “Inside PressBox” (10:30 a.m. Sundays) and he can be heard at 10 a.m. Saturdays on the “Purple Pride Report,” WQLL-AM (1370). He has also appeared on WMAR-TV’s “Good Morning Maryland” (2009), Comcast SportsNet’s “Washington Post Live” (2004-06), and WJZ-TV’s “Football Talk” postgame show — with legend Marty Bass (2002-04). Platania is the only sports journalist in Maryland history to have been a finalist for both the annual Sportscaster of the Year award (1998, which he won) and Sportswriter of the Year (2010). He is also a four-time Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association award winner. Platania is a graduate of St. Joseph’s (Cockeysville), Calvert Hall College High School, and Towson University, where he earned a degree in Mass Communications. He lives in Cockeysville, MD.

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