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PRESTON: For Baltimore Ravens, great opportunity looms against more suspect quarterbacks

The Baltimore Sun (TNS)
  • The Baltimore Ravens are coming off a big 30-17 road win against the Oakland Raiders.
  • The Raiders started backup quarterback E.J. Manuel.
  • The Ravens will likely face several more suspect QBs over the coming weeks.

The Ravens weren’t in a must-win situation, but they needed a win Sunday, Oct.. 8.

Any win.

Oakland Raiders quarterback EJ Manuel (3) is pressured by Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Willie Henry (69) during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017.

So as they walked out of the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday after a 30-17 win against the Oakland Raiders, there was a sense of relief and it put them in a much more favorable position.

The victory was against a Raiders team that seems to quit when it doesn’t have star quarterback Derek Carr, who missed the game with a back injury. Oakland lacked enthusiasm and intensity for most of the game, which was similar to the effort of the Carr-less Raiders in the playoffs last season.

But teams are supposed to take advantage of that situation and the Ravens did.

More opportunities ahead: And they might get even more opportunities like this in the coming weeks. The Ravens play the Chicago Bears next Sunday with quarterback Mitch Trubisky, whose name seems more suitable for a linebacker than a quarterback.

And then they travel to the Minnesota Vikings, whose starting quarterback might be Case Keenum.

That’s followed by the nomad of quarterbacks in Miami named Jay Cutler, and no one knows for sure whether Marcus Mariota’s hamstring will be well enough when the Ravens play the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 5. The starter might be Matt Cassel.

Go ahead and smile. It’s all good news, and that’s why Sunday’s win was big.

It’s huge.

“It’s a 16-game season,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “So losing two games, well, that happens. When it is a four-game losing streak, that’s hard to come back from.”

Rebounding from ugly efforts: Coming back from the previous two games was not easy for the Ravens. They got humiliated, 44-7, by the Jacksonville Jaguars two weeks ago in London and then embarrassed by the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-9 last week.

Now, they are right up top in the AFC North again, tied with Pittsburgh, which lost to Jacksonville on Sunday, and they can create some distance for themselves in the next couple of weeks before the bye Nov. 12.

It’s not as if Ravens fans can start making reservations for the 2018 Super Bowl, but anything can happen in this crazy league. There is only one unbeaten team in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs, who played Sunday night, and the rest of the AFC is one lump of teams.

Unpredictable league: Each week is so unpredictable.

Who ever thought Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Rosethlisberger would throw five interceptions in a game, the way he did Sunday?

The New York Jets (3-2), whom some picked to not even win a game this season, are in a first-place tie in the AFC East.

The Cincinnati Bengals, who didn’t score a touchdown in the first two games, are now back in the AFC North race, and the New England Patriots have one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

Big win on road: So it’s a big deal when a team like the Ravens, which performs miserably on the road, wins in an opponents’ house.

“What a win, what a game, what a finish,” Ravens safety Eric Weddle said. “It was a total team effort — offense, defense and special teams. We got off to a fast start, and once that happens we’re pretty tough to beat.”

It was virtually the first “clean” game of the season for the Ravens.

They had only one penalty and didn’t allow a sack. Quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t throw an interception, and running back Alex Collins didn’t fumble.

But here is the priceless nugget: Wide receiver Breshad Perriman had two catches for 15 yards and didn’t drop a pass. No kidding.

Flacco, receivers look in sync: For the first time all year Flacco and his receivers looked in sync and the Raven played long ball as wide receiver Mike Wallace had two receptions for over 50 yards.

Flacco completed 19 of 26 passes for 222 yards, and the Ravens finished with 365 yards of total offense.

The Ravens toyed with Oakland. They basically did whatever they wanted except for the third quarter, when they decided to become more conservative.

“We haven’t scored enough, so we’re not where we need to be,” Wallace said. “We want to score 30, 40 or 50 points a game. That’s how the Patriots do it. We want to be like that, so we have a lot of work to do.”

Defense excels: On defense, the Ravens allowed 66 rushing yards in the first half and only 42 in the second. Those young defensive linemen, filling in for starters Brandon Williams and Brent Urban, seemed to settle down in the final two quarters.

That’s a good sign heading into the next stretch of games.

It’s not easy to win in Oakland. A lot of Raiders fans are rude, crude and socially unacceptable.

The Ravens got off to a fast start and were able to finish the game with a time-consuming drive in the fourth quarter.They won in all three phases of the game and finally put together an offense that was worthy of other NFL teams.

And Flacco had his best game of the season.

Crucial time: It comes at a crucial time because the Ravens could be facing a stretch of quarterbacks who aren’t as accomplished. It all began Sunday with Oakland’s EJ Manuel. 

And it doesn’t appear it will get better.