Reeling from back-to-back lopsided losses after a 2-0 start, the Ravens went to Oakland and thrashed the short-handed Raiders, 30-17, Oct. 8.
The Raiders were without starting quarterback Derek Carr, but the Ravens' offense opened up the playbook and dominated an impressive Raiders defensive front for long stretches during a win that suddenly vaults the Ravens right back into a first-place tie in the AFC North.
Here are five quick impressions about the Ravens win:
1. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterback Joe Flacco rediscovered the downfield passing game.
After four games, the Ravens ranked last in the league in yards per pass play at 4.19. Against Jacksonville in Week 3, they did not complete a pass of more than 8 yards. the strong-armed Flacco had hardly taken any downfield shots as the Ravens had resorted to checkdowns and short slants.
That changed immediately against the Raiders, as Flacco connected with Mike Wallace for 52 yards on the first play of the game. Later, Flacco unloaded a 54-yard bomb to Wallace, who finished with three catches for 133 yards. The Ravens' offensive line held up against Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack and the rest of the Raiders up front, giving Flacco all the time he needed for long throws to develop.
"It feels good to let the ball go downfield and let Mike go get one," Flacco said. "You can see it on his face, when he starts getting involved, just how much he gets revved up and how much that helps our offense."
Mornhinweg obviously got more aggressive, and it worked. It’s fair to question where those plays have been during the first month of the season.
2. Give the patchwork offensive line credit.
The Ravens' offensive line has taken its share of grief this season, but a group that featured three undrafted starters more than held its own against a Raiders defensive front that featured reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack.
Flacco finished 19-for-26 for 222 yards, with no interceptions. He was not sacked at all and hit just twice, and after saying last week he needed to be more patient with his throws and "trust the pocket," he did exactly that.
Perhaps more impressively, an offensive line that lost starting guard Matt Skura -- the undrafted second-year player who was starting in place of injured Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda -- helped the Ravens mount a scoring drive of more than six minutes in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Ronnie Stanley, James Hurst, Ryan Jensen, Skura and his replacement, rookie Jermaine Eluemunor, and Austin Howard deserve a lot of credit. It had to be especially satisfying for Howard, who was cut by the Raiders during the summer.
"The pass protection was very good," head coach John Harbaugh said. "Our offensive line did a good job. That is one of the best pass-rushing units in football. No question."
3. Marlon Humphrey is showing his value more and more.
Rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey was pressed into more action than ever against the Raiders with Jimmy Smith slowed by an Achilles injury, and the first-round draft pick is proving that he belongs in this league. He was frequently matched up against Michael Crabtree and played him well in one-on-one coverage, much as he did with Antonio Brown last week.
Smith had a 47-yard fumble return touchdown in the first quarter, but he spent the rest of the day on the bench and said he felt the injury during the fumble return. The Ravens played it safe with Smith and could afford to do that with Humphrey able to capably step in.
Plenty of people thought the Ravens should have taken an offensive playmaker with their first-round pick; general manager Ozzie Newsome tabbed the player he deemed the best available, and Humphrey is proving his value -- and should continue to do so with Smith not at 100 percent.
"Marlon Humphrey stepped up and played so well," Harbaugh said, "and that’s why we drafted him."
4. Alex Collins and Buck Allen set the tempo for a physical, grind-it-out win.
Terrance West left in the first quarter with a left leg injury, but running backs Alex Collins and Buck Allen put in a blue-collar effort as the Ravens run game wore down the Raiders in the fourth quarter. Collins, hurt by fumbles in two of his first three games with the Ravens, finished with 55 yards on 12 carries.
Allen was a battering ram, picking up 73 hard-earned yards on 21 carries. His most impressive run of the day might have been a third-and-5 run in the second quarter. Seemingly stopped well short of the first down marker, Allen drove the pile forward and gained 5. Five players later, he powered into the end zone from 1 yard out for a 21-3 Ravens lead.
The Ravens pounded out 143 rushing yards -- the most unlikely coming on a 2-yard touchdown sweep by third-string tight end Vince Mayle -- and wore down the Raiders with a time-consuming fourth-quarter drive that ended in a field goal and a 30-17 lead.
5. This is such a week-to-week league.
Just a week ago, the Ravens were reeling from their second straight embarrassing loss, and it appeared the Pittsburgh Steelers were primed to run away with the AFC North after routing the Ravens, 26-9, at M&T Bank Stadium. One week later, the Ravens rolled to a win in Oakland and the Steelers looked terrible in a home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
For all the angst and inconsistency, the Ravens find themselves tied for the AFC North lead again at 3-2, with two home games in the next three. As players like to say – especially after losses – this truly is a week-to-week league.
"It’s a one-week league," Harbaugh said. "If this doesn’t show this … any fan of the NFL should know that by now. … Every week is a different week. You just have to come out and try to play your best football and win the next game."
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