Is interception vindication for Matt Elam?
The defense and special teams came up very big for the Ravens on Monday night, a big reason they pulled out a nerve-wracking 18-16 victory over the Lions in Detroit that kept their playoff hopes alive. Here's a report card for the special teams and defense in the game:
DEFENSIVE LINE: B. This group did a good job up front, slowing the running game and even getting some pressure up front. Haloti Ngata and Arthur Jones again played very well. The Ravens kept rotating linemen throughout the game, and that was really helpful. The Lions have a potent offense, but this group help slow them down throughout. DeAngelo Tyson got his first career interception on a nice play off a deflection.
LINEBACKERS: B. They made a lot of good plays throughout even though Detroit moved the ball. Daryl Smith again just seemed to show up all over the place. If the ball was there, chances were Smith would be there, too. He also made a big interception although he did get beat on coverage on the Lions' late TD. They combined with the line to really slow the Lions after the first quarter with their extremely physical play. For some reason, Detroit just didn't seem to adjust well to that.
SECONDARY: B+. The Ravens did a solid job of slowing Detroit's potent passing game. Calvin Johnson made six catches but dropped two and couldn't pull in a two-point conversion late that would have helped. Translation: the Ravens were able to slow him enough to not let him run wild, which would have changed the game. Jimmy Smith again turned in a solid effort. Matt Elam led the team with 10 tackles and made a key interception late. He also learned something off the field, yes? Plus, the secondary made a lot of good tackles on runs and out in the open field.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Here's the biggest understatement of the season -- Justin Tucker had a good night. Six field goals plus a game-winning 61-yarder would make anyone happy, and that's a big reason the Ravens won. But Jacoby Jones once again came up big. His 36-yard kickoff return after the Lions' TD gave them a 16-15 lead put the offense in very good field position and set up Tucker's winning kick. He's now made 33 consecutive field goals. including a number of long shots under pressure, the main reason the Ravens remain alive in the playoff race.