On a day when the Cardinals and their undrafted rookie quarterback shocked the reigning Super Bowl champion Saints, the Buccaneers topped the Bengals in Cincinnati, and the Raiders stunned the Chargers, it seemed like very few teams were able to take care of business and beat the team they were supposed to beat.
The Ravens didn't have any such issues.
Winners of three in a row and owners of the NFL's best record (tied with the Chicago and Atlanta), the Ravens rolled through the Broncos yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium, providing a statement win as traditional powerhouse teams all around them were struggling against lesser competition.
Five games into the season, the Ravens have hit their stride. They've shown the ability to win on the road (including at places where they've struggled in the past), are now 2-0 at home, and seem to be playing solid, consistent football week in and week out.
"I think we have an opportunity to be a really good team," head coach John Harbaugh said after the win yesterday. "That kind of a football team is in us, and that's what we talked to our guys about. We want to take steps today toward finding that. We wanted to play that way today, play like the team we can be. I think in many ways, we did, but in some other key ways, we didn't. Maybe that's how it usually works, but that's what we need to find out as we go."
Nearly a third of a way through the season, the Ravens have gotten, at various times, dominating performances from every single aspect of their team.
Week 1 against the Jets, it was the play of the defense as a whole. Against the Browns, it was Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin, and the special teams. It Pittsburgh, it was the run defense and Flacco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh's dramatics. Yesterday, Ray Rice and the rushing offense took over, showing the form that we saw down the stretch the last two seasons.
"That's what good teams do," safety Tom Zbikowski said. "You look at good teams on any level - basketball, football, baseball ... I think [we've got] too many good players, too many weapons. Like T.J. last week, Anquan the first week. On defense, Ray [Lewis] with the pick [last week]. I think the list is just going to go on, and we'll just keep playing the way we're playing and see where the chips fall."
This smart, consistent play isn't just exciting the fans and the national media, many of whom will likely have the Ravens at the top of their respective Power Rankings this week. It's also exciting the players themselves.
The Ravens have a feeling that they've got something special this year, and even those who normally shy away from saying so publicly, like Flacco, for one, couldn't help but make their feelings known yesterday.
"We feel like we've got a pretty special team here," Flacco said, "and we just got to continue to work hard to get better each week. We can't stay the team we are. We've got to continue to progress and do some better things out there week-to-week, and I think that's what we're really showing right now.
"We're showing a lot of promise and getting better week-to-week. And that's the mark of a championship team. We've just got to keep it up."
Here's your Monday morning question of the week:
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the Ravens overall through the first five weeks of the season?
Are you convinced at this point that they've got all the pieces in place and are poised for a deep run into the playoffs? Or do you still have questions about how the offense will mesh, the inability to create turnovers, or the Ravens' play against elite teams?
What are your feelings about where this team stands at this point?