In a game full of great performances, it’s hard to determine to whom the game ball should we awarded. Let’s take a look at the three stages of the game in the Baltimore Ravens’ commanding 55-20 win over the Oakland Raiders.
Game ball to the offense?
The Ravens scored 55 points, which set a new franchise record for the team in its 16th season. While personnel in all three parts of the game contributed to those points, there is no doubt that the Ravens offense put up a stellar performance. Joe Flacco, who threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns in three quarters, got tight end Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson involved early and often. Two of Flacco’s touchdown passes were to wide receiver Torrey Smith. At the end of the first half with about 1:30 left on the clock, Joe Flacco orchestrated an aggressive drive which resulted in a Ray Rice rushing touchdown. It wasn’t exactly a balanced performance as the Raiders defense proved effective against the run, but the Ravens took what the defense gave them and capitalized.
Game ball to the defense?
The Raiders without key playmakers Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson did not have many weapons to work with. However, the Ravens defense was able to get to Palmer sacking him three times and batting down six of this throws. The secondary had several near-interceptions and played without cornerback Jimmy Smith. Also noticeably absent from the lineup was defensive tackle Haloti Ngata who was replaced by rookie DeAngelo Tyson. Next man up, right?
Game ball to special teams?
It was a special day for John Harbaugh’s special teams. Baltimore returner Jacoby Jones became the only player in NFL history to notch two kickoff returns of at least 105 yards for scores when he returned a kick for 108 yards against the Raiders. Punter Sam Koch scored a touchdown on a fake punt play and special teams extraordinaire Brendon Ayanbadejo recovered a muffed return attempt by the Raiders.
So in a performance this dominant, who gets the ball? I’m giving out two. One game ball goes to Jacoby Jones. In a game full of gladiators, it’s not easy to make NFL history. The other game ball goes to John Harbaugh. During the week eight bye, he committed bringing the coaching staff together and attacking his team’s countless problems. On Sunday, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and defensive coordinator Dean Peas had their squads ready to play. Talent on the field can’t win alone; solid leadership off the field is an essential piece. As Harbaugh said in a post-game interview, “Our guys played hard. We played four quarters like it was the fourth quarter. And that’s what we need to keep doing.”
That’s my take. Who gets your game ball?