It’s been quite a while since there were so many smiles in M&T Bank Stadium. It’s been a while since the Baltimore Ravens won. But Joe Flacco looked like the quarterback he thinks he can be, while Ray Rice got the amount of touches everyone’s been saying he should be getting, setting up a very big win to clinch the division.
The key? Playing the New York Giants didn’t hurt, who turned from Super Bowl champions into a team that just doesn’t have anything left in the tank to finish the season well. It’s not over for them yet, but it doesn’t look good either. On the other side of things, Eli Manning kept looking bad, like he has all over the second half of the season.
Ray Rice getting 30 touches didn’t hurt. It’s been a month since Rice got 30 touches, and that was also the last time the Ravens won. Rice ran 24 times for 107 yards in another 1000+ season, also catching the ball six times for 51 yards and a touchdown. Brendan Pierce had a huge day on the ground with 123 yards on 14 carries, the biggest game in the rookie’s career.
The big surprise was Flacco, who has been having a pretty bad season, throwing an interception in each of the previous three games and struggling to complete more than 50% of his passes in both of them. In the second game under the new offensive cooridnator, it looked like the Ravens were much more in sync and figured out how to execute things the right way. Flacco finished with 309 yards (his fifth 300+ game of the season, all wins for the Ravens), throwing two touchdown and completing 25 of his 36 passes.
He had a 94.5 Total QBR, his highest Total QBR since Week 1 (95.1). Flacco now has a 66.3 Total QBR at home and a 31.0 Total QBR on the road, which is the second-largest home/road Total QBR differential in the NFL. Thanks to this win, the Ravens are assured another home game this season, clinching the division and getting a home game to kick off the playoffs.
In truth, the Giants made it easy for the Ravens. Baltimore scored two touchdowns on their first couple of drives, and from there it was just a cat and mouse game, with the distance growing longer and longer. Eli Manning and his offense hardly spent any time on the field (just over 20 minutes), hardly giving their defense a breather in an afternoon of not being able to keep up. The Giants didn’t record a single sack and managed to get to Flacco with big hits only twice.
The Giants sent added pressure on 38.8% of Flacco’s dropbacks, but that really didn’t matter to him. He completed 9 of his 14 passes in those situations, two of them for touchdowns. The Ravens were well prepared for that added pressure, knowing Flacco is one of the worst in the NFL when it comes to facing five or more pass rushers this season (49.6%).
On the other side of things, Eli Manning kept looking bad, like he has all over the second half of the season. Manning completed only 50% of his passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. His offensive line failed him, as the Giants’ quarterback was sacked three times and hit six more times, and his tough to hit aura has taken quite a dive this season.
The Ravens know that one game against a downward spiraling team doesn’t mean everything’s OK now. Their defense will face sterner tests very shortly, but they have their confidence back, and what looks like the right kind of game plan to make the most out of their two most important players, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice.