The Baltimore Ravens’ hallmark for the better part of a decade has been defense. It’s what has carried them to countless victories, playoff appearances and Super Bowl glory.
Early in the season, it was the offense that bailed them out.
Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the rest of the guys in black and purple finally showed up at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. They shut down Jamaal Charles and the rest of the Chiefs’ offense in the second half, and made a big fourth-quarter stand to depart Kansas City with a 9-6 victory.
”This game is as hard as it gets,” Lewis said. ”We knew the kind of game we were going to get out of these guys. We knew it would be a tough sled. For us to come in and just keep fighting, keep fighting, keep fighting, that’s the one thing we talked about. … Today was a big win for us.”
The Ravens had the NFL’s second-ranked offense through the first four weeks of the season, but it faltered against an inspired Kansas City defense. Ray Rice ran for 101 yards, but Joe Flacco had just 187 yards passing and was picked off once.
Baltimore had to settle for three field goals by Justin Tucker that turned out to be enough.
”The ones that count the most are never the prettiest,” Lewis said. ”The ones that count the most are the ones that you have to fight through. Anybody on each side of the ball will tell you they’ll take a `W’ before anything. For us to go home right now 4-1 is huge.”
About as huge as the hole Kansas City (1-4) has dug for itself.
Matt Cassel threw for just 92 yards, was intercepted twice and credited with two lost fumbles before leaving in the fourth quarter with what the Chiefs described as a head injury. Charles had 140 yards rushing, but only 15 in the second half, when the game was to be decided.
Kansas City has now committed 19 turnovers through its first five games, the most this early since the New Orleans Saints had 21 of them to start the 1997 season.
”We just want to play a sound football game where we’re not dropping the ball as much,” said Brady Quinn, who finished the game out and appears likely to start at quarterback when the Chiefs visit Tampa Bay next Sunday. ”If we can fix that, we can be a pretty solid team.”
Quinn, who was 3 of 3 for 32 yards passing on his only series, was greeted by applause from Kansas City fans when he entered the game. Some had paid for a banner to be flown behind a plane before the game asking for Cassel to be benched – and for Chiefs ownership to fire general manager Scott Pioli, the architect of a team that can’t stop beating itself.
Quinn led the Chiefs downfield in the fourth quarter, but a pass interference penalty by Dexter McCluster negated what would have been a go-ahead touchdown pass to Dwayne Bowe. The Chiefs had to settle for another field goal by Ryan Succop and play defense.
The Ravens managed to convert two third downs and run out the clock.
”It’s a good call. You can’t pick a defender,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of the penalty on McCluster. ”We’re in man coverage and they did it two or three times in the game.”
Kansas City spent most of the first half handing off to Charles and backup running back Shaun Draughn, doing everything in their power to keep from having to make Cassel win the game.
Charles responded most of the first two quarters, routinely gashing the Ravens defense for big gains. He had 125 yards rushing at halftime, more yards than Baltimore had as an offense.
Baltimore took advantage of the Chiefs’ first turnover when Tucker connected from 28 yards out with 1:21 left in the first quarter, but Succop’s 30-yarder sent the game to halftime tied.
Kansas City had a chance to pull ahead after Baltimore fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half. Pass interference gave the Chiefs the ball at the 1-yard line, but Cassel fumbled the snap and Reed recovered it, keeping the game 3-all.
Tucker added a 26-yard field goal moments later, and after Cassel was picked off on a pass that bounced off Bowe’s helmet, Tucker hit again from 39 yards to make it 9-3.
After the Chiefs’ late field goal, Baltimore took over. Flacco scrambled for 16 yards on third-and-15 with a couple minutes left in the game, and Rice plunged for another first down with just over a minute remaining to help run out the clock.
”A win is a win is a win, as they say. We knew that was a talented team over there,” Rice said. ”We just tried to get a win. That was the main objective coming out here.”
Notes: Chiefs LBs Justin Houston and Tamba Hali each had two sacks. … Quinn played for the first time since Dec. 20, 2009, with Cleveland. … The Ravens had 298 yards of offense. They’re averaging 310.5 yards in two road games and 457 yards in four home games.