Heading into the bye week after ten games, the Ravens hadn’t yet played their best football. They returned to the scene of their most recent world championship and played an aggressive and flawless second half in beating the Saints. It was brawling and butt ugly and hard hitting—core behavioral traits of Ravens football.
They won a slugfest in the Big Easy. Tempers flared. There was trash talking and cheap shots after plays.
Torrey Smith caught 5 balls for 98 yards and played with a Steve Smith, Sr.-like intensity we haven’t seen since 2012. Justin Forsett racked up a career best 182 yards on the ground—finding the end zone twice against a porous Saints defense. Joe Flacco was crisp when the game was on the line and Justin Tucker channeled the great Saints kicker Tom Dempsey with a 55-yarder that might have been good from 70.
Once again though, it was the Ravens defense that set the tone.
Tied 17-17 in the third quarter, the game turned in the Ravens favor for good when safety Will Hill intercepted a Drew Brees pass and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. The Ravens sacked Brees three times and it was Terrell Suggs who rushed him into the game-changing interception. Hill also came up big against Jimmy Graham, deflecting three passes with the Saints deep in Ravens territory.
From the beginning, the Ravens dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The offensive line opened wholes for Justin Forsett and the defensive front seven eliminated the Saints ground game. But Breeze found the end zone twice and the Saints led 17-14 at half.
The Ravens showed flashes in the first half. The defense stuffed the Saints on 4th and I from the goal line–smothering Mark Ingram in the backfield. Joe Flacco then drove the Ravens 97 yards for a 7-0 lead on an amazing catch by Steve Smith in the corner of the end zone. Penalties kept two Saints drives alive that led to scores and the Ravens fumbled on the goal line.
Smith, Sr. went beserk in the third period, chasing down Kenny Vaccaro after a catch. Blows were exchanged. A sideline brawl nearly ensued and Vaccaro was flagged. The Ravens dodged a bullet there and the former Carolina Panther spent time on the bench simmering down.
The Ravens overcame an inconsistent first half and rekindled memories of their Super Bowl season by holding the Saints out of the end zone when it counted and scoring the same number of points, “34” as they did against the 49ers.
“I just tried to seize the moment,” said Justin Forsett after the game.
In the second half, the entire Ravens team did just that.