Originally written on Ravens Football Machine  |  Last updated 11/8/14
And the "hard part" of the Ravens' schedule is the next 3 weeks: at Pittsburgh, at San Diego, and then Pittsburgh at home... But at least the Ravens (7-2) control their own destiny, despite the madness of the schedule-makers... Wide receiver Torrey Smith was asked if the Baltimore Ravens' 55-20 dismantling of the Oakland Raiders was a statement game. "Nah," Smith said. "It was just another game." The only statement made by the Ravens was the importance of this team to get home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Ravens look like Super Bowl contenders when they play in front of sellout crowds at M&T Bank Stadium. When they go on the road, they look like a team searching for confidence and an identity. There's no question that the Ravens' focus has to be on the resurgent Steelers and winning the AFC North. But, based on how the season has unfolded, it also has become a necessity for Baltimore to beat out Houston for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. The Ravens (7-2) are one game back of the Texans (8-1), who beat Baltimore earlier this season. Joe Flacco ripped apart the Raiders' defense with 341 yards and four touchdowns (three passing and one rushing) in three quarters. In his past two road games, he totaled 300 yards passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Ravens' defense sacked Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer three times (yes, one was the result of him tripping) and knocked down six of his passes. In the past two road games, Baltimore had a total of three sacks. Baltimore returner Jacoby Jones finished off the scoring Sunday with a kickoff return for a touchdown to become the only player in NFL history to score on two kickoff returns of at least 105 yards. When did his previous touchdown return occur?---the Ravens' last home game three weeks ago. At this point, the Ravens have the NFL's second-best record and looked like a 7-2 team for one of the few times Sunday. While some will discredit the Ravens' win by pointing out that the Raiders didn't have their top two running backs, Baltimore also played without defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (shoulder) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (abdomen). The Ravens limited the Raiders to 20 points despite starting their No. 4 corner (Corey Graham) and rookie seventh-round pick (DeAngelo Tyson) at defensive tackle. It has become a tight race with the Ravens holding a 1.5-game lead over the Steelers (5-3) in the AFC North as well as a one-game advantage over the Patriots (6-3) and Broncos (6-3) for the No. 2 seed in the AFC. There are still seven games left in the regular season, but  Ravens TE Dennis Pitta acknowledged that "it's never too early" to start looking at the scoreboard. "We're going to be rooting against those guys because it's going to help us position ourselves better," Pitta said of watching the Texans. "We're at the point of the season where all these games become really critical toward playoff positioning. Yeah, we're going to keep a close eye on some of these games." This blowout came at the right time for the Ravens. The average margin of victory for Baltimore's past five wins was 4.6 points. A 35-point victory can do wonders for the Ravens' psyche heading into road games at Pittsburgh (which has won six straight home games) and at San Diego (where the Ravens lost by 20 points last season). "You could talk about confidence, but confidence is really built by playing well, right?" HC John Harbaugh said. "You prove yourself that you can do well, and you become more confident. So, that's got to [be] a plus for us. We feel like we're in the position where we wanted to be. Now, we have to go in there and put our best foot forward and play the best we can and see what happens."         Joe Flacco threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns, Jacoby Jones ran a kickoff back for 105 yards, and Baltimore set a club record for points in a 55-20 rout Sunday. The Ravens (7-2) scored on six of their first seven possessions, special teams contributed two touchdowns and Torrey Smith caught TD passes of 47 and 20 yards. Flacco and the resurgent Baltimore offense made it look easy against the struggling Raiders (3-6), who have yielded at least 40 points in two straight games for the first time since 1962. The 55 points tied an Oakland record for points allowed, set in 1961 and matched in 1981. "We had too many mental errors on defense, gave up too many big plays, we turned the ball over too many times and we didn't execute on special teams," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "When you do those things, it generally results in something like that." Baltimore led 27-10 at halftime. In the third quarter, Smith scored twice and holder Sam Koch scored on a fake field goal to make it 48-17. In the fourth quarter, Jones scored on a kickoff return for the second time this season for a 55-20 lead. Baltimore's previous record for points in a game was 48, against Detroit in December 2009. "Obviously, we had success," said Flacco, who also ran for a score. "We ran the game plan and it worked well. We stuck with it. We scored points early and continued to score them." Baltimore has 15 straight home wins, the longest current streak in the NFL. Carson Palmer went 29 for 45 for 368 yards and two touchdowns for Oakland. He was mercifully pulled in the fourth quarter. "Rough, rough, rough, rough game," Palmer said. "We didn't play any good in any facet of the game. Came in and got outplayed by a good football team. It's very frustrating. We got to put this one in our rear view mirror, because it's going to be a tough one to get past." Playing without injured running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, the Raiders gained only 72 yards on the ground. Baltimore didn't punt until the third quarter, and even that turned out well. Phillip Adams fumbled, the Ravens recovered the ball and Flacco promptly threw a touchdown pass to Smith. Burned for 251 yards on the ground last week by Tampa Bay rookie Doug Martin in a 42-32 defeat, Oakland shored up its run defense to stop Ray Rice. So Flacco went to the air, repeatedly hitting tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson over the middle in the first half before going long and outside to Smith in the third quarter. Flacco went 21 for 33 and did not play in the fourth quarter. Rice ran for 35 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. He finished the afternoon with 5,034 yards rushing for his career, joining Jamal Lewis as the only players in Ravens history to top 5,000. The Ravens won without defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and cornerback Jimmy Smith. Ngata dressed but rested a shoulder injury, and Smith could not get warmed up properly from a groin injury, according to Harbaugh. The Raiders used a 55-yard pass from Palmer to Darrius Heyward-Bey to close to 20-10 with 1:39 left in the second quarter. It was the ninth straight game in which Oakland scored in the final two minutes of the first half. But that gave Flacco enough time to add another touchdown before the break. He went 5 for 6 for 73 yards before Rice ran for a 7-yard score. Oakland's first possession ended with Palmer flat on his back. On a fourth and 1 from the Baltimore 44, Palmer took the snap from center and took one step backward before right guard Mike Brisiel stepped on his right foot. The Ravens then moved 22 yards before Justin Tucker kicked a field goal. After an Oakland punt, Flacco completed an 18-yard pass to Pitta and connected with Dickson for 40 yards before scoring on a 1-yard run to make it 10-0. Early in the second quarter, Raiders cornerback Michael Huff intercepted a pass at the Baltimore 19 to set up a field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. Flacco responded by covering 80 yards in six plays for a 17-3 lead. After completing a 47-yard pass to Jones and a 19-yarder to Dixon, Flacco tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Pitta. The Raiders followed with their first drive that included multiple first downs, but that ended poorly, too. Paul Kruger picked off a short pass and took it to the Oakland 32, which led to a field goal. Team Stat Comparison   OAK   BAL   1st Downs 19 22 Passing 1st downs 15 15 Rushing 1st downs 4 4 1st downs from Penalties 0 3 3rd down efficiency 8-18 5-12 4th down efficiency 0-2 1-1 Total Plays 73 62 Total Yards 422 419 Yards per play 5.8 6.8 Total Drives 14 13 Passing 350 341 Comp - Att 29-46 21-34 Yards per pass 7.6 10.0 Interceptions thrown 1 1 Sacks - Yards Lost 3-18 0-0 Rushing 72 78 Rushing Attempts 24 28 Yards per rush 3.0 2.8 Red Zone (Made-Att) 0-3 4-5 Penalties 10-105 4-41 Turnovers 3 1 Fumbles lost 2 0 Interceptions thrown 1 1 Defensive / Special Teams TDs 0 1 Possession 33:22 26:38   Passing Leaders     OAK C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT SACKS   BAL C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT SACKS Flacco 21/33 341 10.3 3 1 0-0 Taylor 0/1 0 0.0 0 0 0-0 Palmer 29/45 368 8.2 2 1 3-18 Leinart 0/1 0 0.0 0 0 0-0   Rushing Leaders     OAK CAR YDS AVG TD LG   BAL CAR YDS AVG TD LG Rice 13 35 2.7 1 7 Pierce 10 23 2.3 0 12 Reece 13 48 3.7 0 9 Stewart 7 22 3.1 0 6   Receiving Leaders     OAK REC YDS AVG TD LG TGTS   BAL REC YDS AVG TD LG TGTS Pitta 5 67 13.4 1 26 5 Smith 2 67 33.5 2 47 6 Moore 4 90 22.5 1 38 8 Heyward... 5 82 16.4 1 55 8   Scoring Summary FIRST QUARTER OAK BAL THIRD QUARTER OAK BAL FOURTH QUARTER OAK BAL SECOND QUARTER OAK BAL   TD 00:24 Ray Rice 7 Yd Run (Justin Tucker Kick) 10 27   FG 10:02 Sebastian Janikowski 32 Yd 3 10   TD 01:37 Darrius Heyward-Bey 55 Yd Pass From Carson Palmer (Sebastian Janikowski Kick) 10 20   FG 08:49 Justin Tucker 48 Yd 0 3   TD 10:31 Denarius Moore 30 Yd Pass From Carson Palmer (Sebastian Janikowski Kick) 17 34   TD 13:42 Torrey Smith 47 Yd Pass From Joe Flacco (Justin Tucker Kick) 10 34   TD 09:20 Torrey Smith 20 Yd Pass From Joe Flacco (Justin Tucker Kick) 17 41   TD 07:49 Dennis Pitta 5 Yd Pass From Joe Flacco (Justin Tucker Kick) 3 17   TD 05:40 Sam Koch 7 Yd Run (Justin Tucker Kick) 17 48   FG 03:16 Justin Tucker 34 Yd 3 20   FG 12:47 Sebastian Janikowski 47 Yd 20 48   TD 12:34 Jacoby Jones 105 Yd Kickoff Return (Justin Tucker Kick) 20 55   TD 03:15 Joe Flacco 1 Yd Run (Justin Tucker Kick) 0 10    
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