The early weather in this one was merely a prelude to the late-game blizzard in which the two teams scored five touchdowns (with five lead changes) in the final 2:05. It came down to whoever had the ball last, which ended up being the home Ravens. Early on, that type of finish would never have been expected as the teams combined for 13 points through three quarters. However, while the snow dissipated slightly late in the game, the defense disappeared much more quickly.
It was a much needed win for Baltimore, a team that’s fighting to stay alive in the playoff race. At 7-6, one more loss could be the knockout blow, and it looks extremely tough the rest of the way with games against Detroit, New England, and Cincinnati to come (two of those on the road). Who stood out in the touchdown flurry? Let’s take a look.
Minnesota – Three Performances of Note
Rookie WR Cordarrelle Patterson (+2.5) put his game-changing athleticism on display in his heaviest workload of the season (50 snaps), catching five passes for 141 yards on seven targets. Four of those catches impressively came with the formidable Lardarius Webb in primary coverage. No play was as spectacular as his touchdown at 1:01 of the fourth quarter — amid the scoring frenzy of the final two minutes — when he took a screen pass from 4 yards behind the LOS 79 yards for a touchdown to put the Vikings back on top. On the play he showed his ridiculous burst and elusiveness, though was helped by some terrible open-field play by fellow rookie Matt Elam. As he continues to acclimate to the Viking offense, there’s little doubt that Patterson will become one of the most exciting players in the NFL, and one that we’ll certainly be watching as the regular season winds down.
Filling in for Peterson
With Adrian Peterson suffering an early injury after 16 snaps, backup Toby Gerhart gave the Vikings his best AP impression. He forced eight missed tackles, gaining 89 yards on his 15 carries. Like Patterson, his biggest play came in the final two minutes, a bulldozing 41-yard run to answer Baltimore’s touchdown on the previous drive. On the play (4Q, 1:45), he took a draw up the middle, burst through the tackle attempts of both safeties and then held off two Raven corners to get into the endzone. As his -0.8 grade indicates, though, that play didn’t quite make up for a couple of early blunders, including a dropped pass and a fumble (1Q, 6:36).
Defending the Tight Ends
He couldn’t quite keep up with Dennis Pitta on a speed out late in the fourth quarter (though he came close), surrendering a 1-yard, go-ahead touchdown that started the late scoring onslaught, however, Andrew Sendejo was close to perfect up to that point in his 82 snaps. He finished at +4.8, particularly outstanding in coverage against Baltimore’s tight ends Pitta and Ed Dickson. Matched up against the two, Sendejo allowed just the 1-yard catch, with two pass defenses and an interception on the three other balls thrown his way. On the pick (3Q, 1:09) he took advantage of an extremely ill-advised throw by Joe Flacco, diving in front of Dickson for the turnover and giving his team great field position. He almost had a second diving interception on an overthrow, but the play was called back due to defensive pass interference by his teammate (likely the reason the ball was OT in the first place).
Baltimore – Three Performances of Note
Who Needs Torrey
Another rookie receiver made his mark late in the game, in this case for the Ravens. Marlon Brown (+2.6) finished with seven catches for 92 yards on 11 targets, but will be remembered for his two bookend plays on the team’s final touchdown drive. First, he started things off with a 35-yard reception over the deep middle to put his team into Minnesota territory. Then, with 9 seconds remaining at the 9-yard line — in a play reminiscent of what New England’s Kenbrell Thomkins did against the Saints earlier this year — Brown hauled in an incredible game-winning pass in the back of the endzone, making sure to get both feet down in the process. He did have a couple of tough drops earlier in the game, but his fourth-quarter heroics certainly made up for it, especially in a game where Torrey Smith didn’t do a whole lot.
We can’t go without mentioning the fifth touchdown (third chronologically) in the final minutes — following Gerhart’s score, Jacoby Jones took a short pooch kick (4Q, 1:27) 77 yards, more or less straight down the left sideline. Certainly credit the blocking on the play, but few other players have the speed to pull that off like he did. Earlier in the game, he returned a punt 22 yards, on which he showed a little more of his patience and instinct, hesitating initially before bursting up the sideline. He didn’t have the impact that Brown did in the passing game, but Jones sure made his presence felt before this game was over, as he often does.
Another case of a Raven not wanting to be one-upped by his Viking counterpart was that of safety James Ihedigbo. His +4.6 day was a combination of solid play in all three defensive phases that we grade at PFF — run defense, coverage, and pass rushing. To start with his rush, Ihedigbo blitzed just four times (he’s rushed just 40 times on the season), but in those four rushes picked up a pressure and an impressive hit (2Q, 14:24), where he beat Peterson inside to hit Matt Cassel on his release. Against the run, he made several stops in pursuit, wrapping up well for the most part. The exception was on the aforementioned Gerhart touchdown run when he was run over in the open field. Finally, he allowed just one catch for 7 yards and defensed the only other ball thrown his way in primary coverage.
– Ed Dickson added to his position-worst run block grade with a -3.4 effort in that area.
– Matt Cassel didn’t complete a single pass outside the numbers to the left in three attempts to that side (vs 13 attempts to the right).
– Rookie Xavier Rhodes followed up a strong Week 13 game with a +1.7, while fellow first rounder Sharrif Floyd came in at -1.1 in 34 snaps.
PFF Game Ball
Haven’t mentioned him yet, and there were a few plays he’d like back, but Joe Flacco gets this one for some huge passes (and scrambles, see 6:29 of the first) with the game on the line.
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