4 Downs: What does Pitta's return mean for Ravens?
1. Dennis Pitta looks good as new.
Pitta’s comeback from a fractured hip is a great story. When the injury first happened during training camp, it was natural to think Pitta would miss the entire season, and that he might never be the same. But watching Pitta work the middle of the field and get open in clutch situations Sunday, it was difficult to tell he had ever been injured. Pitta’s versatility creates difficult matchups for opposing defenses. He can line up as a traditional tight end, or line up wide in multiple formations. Having Pitta back for the stretch run is a huge bonus for the Ravens.
2. Jacoby Jones has a knack for making big plays in big situations.
Plenty was said about the Mike Tomlin – Jones sideline incident, but one of Tomlin’s comments got buried during the controversy. Tomlin pointed out that nobody had returned a kickoff past midfield against the Steelers all season. Nobody, that is, until Jones streaked down the sideline, and Tomlin did his two-step that went viral.
Jones is a threat to break a return against anyone, anytime. He did it again Sunday against the Vikings. Not only does Jones make plays, he makes smart decisions as a returner. After the Vikings regained the lead with less than a minute left Sunday, Jones could have tried to return the next kickoff. Instead, he took the touchback, saving time on the clock because he knew the Ravens had their short kick personnel on the field, rather than their return team. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs was impressed with Jones’ restraint, saving time on the clock, rather than trying to be a hero.
“Shows the character of Jacoby Jones,” Suggs said. “I’m sure he wanted to bust another one back, but he was smart and he took a knee. That says a lot about our team.”
That decision eventually gave Flacco just enough time to hit Marlon Brown with the game-winning touchdown with four seconds to play. Jones played his best football during the Ravens’ Super Bowl run last season. During this current stretch run, Jones is doing it again.
3. Calvin Johnson presents a potential Monday night problem for the Ravens.
Actually, Johnson (75 catches, 1,348 yards) presents a problem for any opponent. The Lions’ wide receiver is generally recognized as the best at his position. The Ravens must tighten up their pass defense after the Sunday display by Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. For the day, Patterson had 258 all-purpose yards.
His 79-yard touchdown run on a wide receiver screen was almost the play that wrecked the Ravens’ season.
“I know everyone in the stands thought, “I can’t believe that just happened,”’ said Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith. “They probably thought it was over, and I’m not going to lie, part of me thought it was over at that point, too.”
Smith and Lardarius Webb have been playing well at corner, but Johnson creates problems like no other receiver. Containing him will be the key for the Ravens’ defense Monday night.
Extra point: The Ravens’ 1-5 road record is their biggest black eye. Is it too much to ask for the Ravens to win either at Detroit, or at Cincinnati? Let’s face it, if the Ravens lose both of those games and finish 1-7 on the road, they probably don’t deserve a playoff spot.