Big plays power Ravens past Jets

Big plays power Ravens past Jets
November 24, 2013, 8:45 pm
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Ravens played Jets with 'must-win' mentality

The big play returned to the Ravens’ offense Sunday. Jacoby Jones salted away the game with a superb 66-yard touchdown catch. Torrey Smith caught a 60-yard pass from Joe Flacco in the second quarter that set up a field goal. 

Two plays worth 10 points. That’s the beauty of a quick-strike offense. 

The Ravens (5-6) need to keep taking shots downfield, as they continue their important homestand Thanksgiving night against the Steelers.  Sunday’s 19-3 victory over the Jets was an example of how valuable a weapon the long pass can be for the Ravens. They have plenty of flaws offensively, but speed at wide receiver is one of their strengths, and Flacco has one of the strongest arms in football.

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On a blustery day that featured wind gusts of 25-30 miles per hour, the Ravens still managed to strike deep, and Flacco (17 of 26, 273 yards) had one of his best games of the season. Quite impressive, and something that future Ravens opponents, like the Steelers, will be wary of.

“I think it says a lot about Joe’s arm strength,” Smith said. “That was huge for our offense. It’s not that we’re depending on it, but it always helps to get chunks of yardage like that. When we get those kinds of days going, it’s usually good for our offense.”

On their way to winning a Super Bowl last season, the Ravens made quick strike plays with regularity. Who can forget Flacco’s bomb to Jones late in regulation for a touchdown that saved the Ravens’ season in Denver?

[MORE: Ed Reed looks lost on big play]

This season, those plays have been few and far between. The pass protection hasn’t been as good. Jones was hurt early in the season. Flacco hasn’t been as accurate.

However, the Ravens are now ready to strike deep.  Left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard A. Q. Shipley protected Flacco’s blindside well on Sunday. Meanwhile, a healthy Jones makes a difference. He’s a playmaker, with an uncanny knack of being able to adjust once the ball is in the air. That was evidenced by Sunday’s superb touchdown catch, when Jones tracked down the wind blown ball. Ed Reed misjudged the flight of the ball. Jones didn’t. Touchdown Ravens.

“It started drifting to the left,” Jones said. “So that’s when I cut over. The nose of the ball was sticking straight up like a punt. I just stuck my hand out, and when it stuck to my hand, I was like, ‘Ok, I’m going to this pylon so I can dance.’’’

[MORE: Versatile Taylor gives Ravens offense a spark]

The Steelers will take notice this week when they watch Jones’ catch on film, along with Smith’s 60-yard catch. Whenever the Steelers leave Jones or Smith in man-to-man coverage, they will risk Flacco taking the top off their defense. That threat may open up other things offensively. Points in Steelers-Ravens games are often hard to come by. But if Flacco can connect on some deep balls to Smith or Jones, that could make the difference, even if the weather is challenging Thanksgiving night.

“It starts with the quarterback,’’ said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “In this kind of weather, a guy that can spin the ball through the wind is pretty important, and Joe can do that.”

Maybe this was just a one-game thing. But if the deep pass has returned to the Ravens’ arsenal, their offense has a better chance of overcoming its flaws.