On Sunday the Ravens looked like their typical, horrible road selves for 2 ½ quarters and then, like magic, the light bulb came on. It was like a switch was flipped and immediately the Ravens became formidable. The defense clamped down to shut the Chargers out down the stretch and the offense fired off 13 straight points using three scoring drives in four attempts. Both field goal drives were drives the Ravens had a decent chance of scoring a TD if they had needed/wanted to, but they settled for a game tying and then a game winning kick by Justin Tucker.
First off, the offensive line started playing lights out. That was a big factor. Flacco was pressured relentlessly through most of the game and then all of the sudden the Ravens offensive line looked like a group of world-beaters. They barely allowed a pressure in the fourth quarter and overtime after allowing 15 hits (5 sacks) through the first 3.
The Ravens also finally seemed to figure out that you can’t establish offense rhythm when you run the ball twice and then take a 30 yard bomb down the field immediately followed by a punt. You have to play the short game sometimes and the Ravens are so well equipped to play the short passing game that it is silly. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are both among the leagues best at making the first guy miss them and picking up big yards after the catch. Torrey Smith had almost all of his yards (113 of 144) come on plays where he caught the ball within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. If the Ravens would continue to block well on the line, they could run those crossing routes that Boldin and Smith are so good at and use those to set up those long strikes down the field.
It doesn’t seem like rocket science, but the key to fixing the Ravens road woes has been right in front of everyone for 2 years now, get Ray Rice and Torrey Smith the ball and let them make plays. Rice is one of the most elusive players in the league and Smith can out run anyone in the open field. When those guys get the ball, even if it is within two yards of the line of scrimmage, they make things happen.
When the Ravens make plays like that, they are extremely difficult to beat. The Ravens might be figuring out this road game thing at just the right time.