How many times this season have the Ravens played down to the level of their competition or been unable to put a game away in the second half?
How many times have they failed to deliver the knockout blow or let a team come crawling back into a game in the fourth quarter?
Today, playing a less talented, less playoff-tested Chiefs team, the Ravens finally took care of business in the second half.
Up 10-7 at halftime, Baltimore’s offense stayed aggressive and added 20 insurance points, effectively sealing the game.
At the same time, the Ravens’ defense continued to bring the pressure despite holding a big lead. They got the Chiefs out of their offensive gameplan by making them throw the ball, brought countless blitzes at quarterback Matt Cassel, and held Kansas City scoreless in the second half.
That’s how you finish the job.
“You cut a team once, they’ll keep fighting. You’ve got to keep cutting them,” linebacker Terrell Suggs told reporters in Kansas City after the game. “We’ve had some teams beat in the fourth quarter and they’ve come back and either won the game or scared the hell out of our fans. So, we just tried to learn from our mistakes and kept their heads under water.”
The contrast in second half performances between the two teams today is remarkable.
The Ravens had four full second half possessions (not counting the final drive which ended the game), and scored on all four of them. The final two scores were touchdowns, providing the clinching blows. This from an offense that went five games without a second half offensive touchdown from Week 11 through Week 15.
Kansas City, on the other hand, struggled so badly on offense after halftime that they couldn’t even flip field position.
The Chiefs turned the ball over on five of their six second half drives, with Cassel throwing three interceptions, Dexter McCluster losing a fumble, and Kansas City giving the ball up on downs on another occasion.
In crucial spots, the Ravens made all the big plays, whether it was defensive tackle Kelly Gregg busting through the line to spoil a Chiefs fourth down run early in the third quarter or Flacco hitting Anquan Boldin on a nine-yard touchdown pass to give Baltimore a 16-point edge later on in that frame.
The Ravens were so dominant after halftime that, for seemingly the first time all year, they could bring on their backups late in the game with the result locked up.
Ray Rice and Willis McGahee got to take a seat while Jalen Parmele carried the rock on the final drive. Boldin and Derrick Mason could take a breather while Donte’ Stallworth took care of the blocking out wide.
And, as Suggs said, fans could finally breathe a sigh of relief and leave the Pepto-Bismol sitting in the medicine cabinet.
It’s a nice feeling to have a football game all but won with 15 minutes left, huh? With a tough road ahead, I wouldn’t get used to it, but the way the Ravens stayed aggressive today and put away an inferior opponent in the second half bodes well for them as they continue their playoff journey.