Boy, the NFC really helped the Ravens out yesterday, huh?
The Charm City faithful should pool their money this afternoon and send gift baskets to Saints coach Sean Payton and Packers coach Mike McCarthy after those two men led their teams to wins over the previously-scalding hot Steelers and Jets, respectively.
New Orleans frustrated Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense in a way that no team had been able to do since Roethlisberger returned from his four-game suspension at the start of the season.
The Saints brought pressure at Big Ben all night, usually overloading one side of the Pittsburgh line, forcing Roethlisberger to work to his hot routes and check down out of any deep plays down the field. They sacked him three times, hit him seven times, and did a great job containing Roethlisberger's scrambling ability as well.
Pittsburgh had just six passing first downs all night, went just 3-of-10 on third downs, and never seemed to get into an offensive rhythm.
What's interesting here is that the Saints' pressure style of defense that was so effective against the Steelers last night goes contrary to what Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has shown through his first season and a half running the Baltimore D. Mattison rarely brings seven bodies at the quarterback as New Orleans often did, and he doesn't like to blitz on a consistent basis.
The Ravens try not to leave their secondary under-manned and vulnerable, but that blitz-heavy strategy worked last night for the Saints, who had a beat-up defensive backfield as well. This is something to store away as the season progresses and the Dec. 5 matchup with the Steelers looms.
The Pack, meanwhile, shut out Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense - a group that had been clicking recently. They took advantage of three New York turnovers (and one other time that the Jets turned the ball over on downs on a fake punt in their own territory), played smart football, and ended Rex Ryan's five-game winning streak.
Elsewhere around the league, former Ravens quarterback Troy Smith earned his first win since the 2007 season here in Baltimore by leading the 49ers over the Broncos in London yesterday.
Smith was an efficient 12-of-19 for 196 yards and a touchdown, and he added a rushing touchdown as well. The Heisman Trophy winner led San Francisco to 21 fourth-quarter points and got coach Mike Singletary just his second win on the season.
I didn't get to see the game (and even if I had a chance to, I would have kindly declined), but those of you who were on the "Troy Smith should start" bandwagon here in Baltimore probably enjoyed watching Smith do his thing yesterday.
Other things I learned from the Sunday around the NFL: The Bengals are a legitimately bad football team; Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh are both going to be absolute studs in the NFL; under no circumstances - none - should Donovan McNabb be pulled for Rex Grossman; and if Jerry Jones wasn't Jerry Jones, he'd have fired Jerry Jones by now.