It took nearly 75 minutes to do it, but the Baltimore Ravens pulled out the hard-fought win over the San Diego Chargers, 16-13, thanks to a 38-yard Justin Tucker field goal with 1:12 left in overtime.
It was less about what happened in the overtime period than what got the Ravens there, however.
With Baltimore facing a 4th-and-29 that they needed to convert in order to set up the game-tying field goal, running back Ray Rice broke the ankles of would-be tacklers to net the (albeit controversial) first down.
Though Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco couldn't get going for most of the game, with just eight completions for 59 yards on 16 attempts (along with a mere 45 yards for Rice on nine rushes) in the first half, his late passing made up the bulk of Baltimore's offensive production and ultimately led to its win.
Flacco attempted an astounding 51 passes (as compared to 36 for Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers), completing 30 of them for 355 yards and a touchdown. He connected for 40 or more yards with five different receivers, including seven catches for 144 yards for Torrey Smith. Rice finished the day with 97 yards on 22 carries, and backup Bernard Pierce added 34 more yards on nine rushes.
The Ravens weren't in a must-win situation this week, but they nonetheless benefit greatly from the victory. For starters, it avenges their 34-14 beating in San Diego last season, and cements their No. 2 position in the AFC and their AFC North lead.
The Pittsburgh Steelers lost on Sunday while the Cincinnati Bengals won, and any defeat at the hands of common opponents could affect Baltimore's footing when the season wraps; Cincinnati takes on the Chargers next week, while the Steelers face San Diego in Week 14.
Baltimore didn't do much to win the game until late, however, with only 10 points to its name, but those points did include the Ravens' first offensive touchdown since facing the Oakland Raiders in Week 10. Though their point total wasn't particularly impressive, the Ravens have been a quite different team on the road than at home, and putting up an offensive touchdown—via a Flacco pass, in fact—is a sign of progress.
Though their now-9-2 record doesn't indicate it, the Ravens haven't been the team we've seen in years past.
Their initial struggles against San Diego, especially on offense, are one example of it. Regardless of that fact, they do keep finding ways to win, most notably in close games. There is a clutch aspect to Flacco that is impressive. However, if he could just be more consistent throughout the game, there also wouldn't be the need for these repeated nail-biter finishes.
Defense had much to do with both Flacco and Rivers having a mostly tough go of things. Flacco was sacked five times and Rivers six, costing each team a total of 39 yards. Baltimore's sack total included the second on the year by linebacker Terrell Suggs; he was joined by Dannell Ellerbe, Courtney Upshaw and Paul Kruger, who each had one, and Arthur Jones, with two.
With just 280 yards of total offense allowed to the Chargers (OT included), Baltimore's defense is slowly and consistently looking far better than the unit they were in earlier weeks, in which they seemingly could stop neither the run nor the pass.
And with Flacco finding ways to put together some very real offensive production on the road, they're starting to look like a well-balanced team at exactly the perfect time of the season. A few more points on the road, and they'll be ready for January.
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