The last few weeks haven't been easy on Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
He's been ripped repeatedly in the media, on message boards and on sports radio talk shows.
He's had to stand up in front of reporters every Thursday and answer question after question about his failed play calls late in games, which, I'm sure, has been less than pleasant.
He's heard people talk about how he should be fired mid-season, how he doesn't deserve to keep his job next year or even how he was the wrong guy to run this offense all along.
That's why I think it's important to recognize the job that Cameron did on Sunday calling plays against a tough, aggressive Saints defense.
Here's what Cameron was up against: He knew that if he had Joe Flacco drop back to pass 40-50 times, things could get ugly. The Saints bring all kinds of exotic blitzes at opposing offenses, and create havoc up front. The Ravens' offensive line had struggled with pass protection coming into the game, and if Cameron had stuck with a pass-oriented attack, Flacco probably would have taken a beating, and the offense could have been in trouble.
So, what'd he do? He got back to the power running game that the Ravens have not featured much of this season.
It failed on the Ravens first drive, and after the Saints scored to make it 7-0 midway through the first quarter, some fans started to squirm in their seats. But Cameron stuck with the ground game, calling runs on six of the Ravens' next eight plays after the New Orleans touchdown.
Once the ground game had been established, Cameron could start to get creative.
His call on a third-and-10 on the Saints 34 on the Ravens' second drive of the game was a thing of beauty. Cameron knew the Saints would bring pressure, and he was well aware that when the New Orleans linebackers see the tight end or running back that they are responsible for stay in to block, they join the rush as well.
So, Cameron called for tight end Ed Dickson to fake like he was staying in to pass protect, then release and run a delayed seam route. Dickson ran right by Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was responsible for the rookie tight end, caught the pass from Flacco, and ended up scooting into the end zone for a big 34-yard touchdown.
On the very next Ravens drive, facing a fourth-and-one from the New Orleans 49-yard line, Cameron opted to go for it. He knew the beast that he was up against, and understood that the Ravens would have to take some chances on offense and put a big number on the scoreboard if they were to beat the Saints and their vaunted offense.
After seeing Ray Rice get stuffed on a third-down pitch to the left a play prior, Cameron opened up the playbook on fourth down, and had Flacco sell a pitch to the left and then toss it to Rice out the backside. The Ravens' offensive line sold the fake beautifully, and Rice took the pitch to the right and picked up 20 yards on the play.
Five plays later (four of which were runs, by the way), Rice ran it in to give the Ravens the lead.
Cameron got Rice involved throughout, getting his Pro Bowl running back 38 total touches on the day. He called run after run throughout the game, which opened up the play-action passing game for Flacco, who excels in that department. And, when Flacco was called upon to look down the field, Cameron gave him some help, calling for max-protection schemes to make sure that his quarterback had time to throw.
It's been a pressure-packed year for the Ravens' offensive coordinator, having so many guys calling for the ball and so much weight on his shoulders to instantly turn this offense into an elite group. Things haven't gone quite as Cameron, head coach John Harbaugh, owner Steve Bisciotti or Ravens fans would have hoped it would through much of the season, but Sunday, the offensive gameplan was excellent.
Cameron got trashed when things didn't go well. Let's give the man a pat on the back now that they finally did.
SHAMELESS PLUG: The reason I'm up this ridiculously early (at least, this is ridiculously early in my world) is that I'll be co-hosting the morning show on FOX 1370 from 8 a.m.-noon along with Matt Zenitz this morning. If you're bored at work, feel free to call in and chat some Ravens - or O's or Terps or whatever - with me.