Ravens dominate fourth quarter in 44-20 win over Lions

BALTIMORE — It was pointed out earlier this week that teams become cursed after facing the Houston Texans. Teams are just 1-9 this season after facing Houston for some odd reason but the Ravens were able to buck that trend with a 44-20 victory over the visiting Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Since the Lions have been known to struggle in the first quarter all season, the Ravens needed to jump out to a good start. Despite a couple of missed opportunities, they were able to do just that. After taking a 3-0 lead in the first quarter the Ravens offense was able to “let it loose” as Joe Flacco would like to describe it.

Following a missed field goal by Matt Prater, Flacco connected with Mike Wallace for a 66-yard bomb. Wallace came up just shy of the end zone but the play was still the longest of the year for the Baltimore offense. Flacco didn’t waste any time finishing off the drive as he connected with a wide open Ben Watson on the next play for a one-yard score.

The defense picked up on this unexpected burst of offense and came up with a turnover on the ensuing Lions possession. It hasn’t happened often this season but Eric Weddle was given the chance to blitz the quarterback and he didn’t miss his opportunity for a big play. The veteran safety went untouched off the blind side, catching Matt Stafford off guard and forcing a fumble. Willie Henry scooped up the loose ball for an extra 16 yards.

Flacco and the offense quickly turned this takeaway into another touchdown, jumping out to a 17-0 lead. By halftime, Flacco had racked up 192 yards to accompany his two touchdowns. It’s safe to say that this was a breakout performance as Flacco has only thrown for 200 yards in four games this season.

The only blemish for the Ravens in the first half was the loss of Jimmy Smith. The Ravens #1 corner has been having trouble with his achilles all year and it finally gave on him in the second quarter. Smith dropped back to cover his receiver but collapsed without making any contact. As soon as it happened, a hush came over the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium because everyone immediately knew what had happened.

Despite playing poorly in the first half, Detroit was prepared to make this a close game. The Lions have had a lot of experience playing from behind this season and they started the second half with a quality touchdown drive. A 42-yard pass from Stafford to Marvin Jones jump-started their offense similar to Flacco’s deep pass earlier in the game. The momentum continued to swing in Detroit’s favor as they forced the Ravens to punt on their next drive.

The Lions added another touchdown before the end of the third quarter but Prater missed the extra point. After dominating the first half, the Ravens quickly found themselves under pressure with just a one possession lead. Perhaps this is just what they needed though because nobody could have predicted what happened int he fourth quarter.

With the Lions knocking at the door, Flacco lead his offense down the field for a nine play, 74-yard touchdown drive. This score put Baltimore up by 14 but it still wasn’t enough to put the game away. However, the Ravens offense did not look complacent at any point down the stretch. With under eight minutes to play, Justin Tucker added a field goal and the defense picked up another turnover to officially put the game on ice.

The Ravens finished with 24 points in the fourth quarter thanks to another Alex Collins touchdown run and a pick six by Weddle. Flacco finished with 269 passing yards, Wallace racked up 116 receiving yards, and the team put up an impressive total of 44 points. All three of these are season highs.

This win is very big for a Baltimore team with its eyes on the postseason. For the first time all year they have a three-game win streak and the road ahead looks very nice. The Steelers are up next on the schedule but they are the only challenging opponent remaining.

For once, a late season meeting between these rivals will not mean much in terms of playoff implications. However, this rivalry is always going to be exciting and a win for either team would be a big confidence boost as the postseason approaches.

Image Credit: Daniel Mears, Detroit News

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Preview: Ravens set to battle Stafford and visiting Lions

BALTIMORE, MD – After yet another inept game offensively against the Houston Texans, albeit a win, the Baltimore Ravens turn their sights toward the second most dangerous team they have to play in this rear end of the 2017 season, the Detroit Lions.

The Ravens have seemed to regain their early season dominance defensively with Brandon Williams back at the helm. The safety duo of Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson has finally gotten comfortable working with each other and have tightened up the back end.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect for the unit, considering they are going up against an inconsistent, although immensely talented, quarterback in Matthew Stafford who can’t seem to orchestrate scoring drives when in the redzone. The Ravens have excelled at redzone defense this year. The division rival Pittsburgh Steelers managed to keep the Lions out of the end zone after consistent long marches down the field.

Things to Look For:

  1. Ravens Defensive Backs – This will be one of the toughest, if not the toughest test the Ravens back end will have this season. Teams like the Steelers like to have some sort of pass/run balance, but the Lions and Stafford just sling it. The safeties and corners will have to run harder virtually all game.
  2. Lions Wide Receivers – On the flip side, the receivers Marvin Jones and Golden Tate have been one of the more dynamic receiving duos this season, combining for 164 catches and 1,429 yards. Both men have played extremely well against tough competition, making acrobatic plays to keep the Lions in games.
  3. Alex Collins – After being on the injury report this week, Collins looks to continue his strong production this week against a porous Lions run defense that has been gashed by many backs this season. Collins could top 100 yards against this drab unit, especially if Joe Flacco has less pass attempts.
  4. Ravens Offensive Line – It’s bad that I’m putting this here, REALLY BAD. The line will be going up against speed rusher Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah and veteran Dwight Freeney, who still has one of the nastiest spin moves I’ve ever seen. Ronnie Stanley needs to handle both of these guys better than he handled Jadeveon Clowney last week.

Details:

Where: M&T Bank Stadium – Baltimore, Maryland

When: 1:00 pm EST

Radio: WBAL-1090, 98 Rock, Ravens’ website

Commentators: Gerry Sandusky, Stan White, Justin Forsett

TV: Fox

Commentators: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman

Image Credit: Baltimore Ravens 

Ravens lose Wagner and Juszczyk on first day of free agency

The first day of free agency has brought its fair share of surprises around the league and the Ravens have been a big part of the mix.  While the additions of Tony Jefferson and Danny Woodhead will be celebrated, there are some important players leaving the Ravens as well.

Offensive tackle, Rick Wagner and fullback, Kyle Juszczyk were the first two Raven free agents to sign elsewhere. Wagner landed a deal with the Detroit Lions while Juszczyk will head to the west coast with a new contract from the San Francisco 49ers.

The loss of Wagner will hurt a Ravens offensive line that is trying to find stability in 2017.  Wagner’s presence would have been great alongside an improving Ronnie Stanley and a veteran like Marshal Yanda. Juszczyk’s departure is less of a problem but still has its downsides. The fifth year fullback has become a big factor in the Ravens run game and was also a popular check down target for Joe Flacco.

Both players earned their payday by being some of the top players at their position but it would have been impossible for the Ravens to keep them.  The asking prices were too high for a Baltimore franchise that still has salary cap issues.