The Ravens produced a second-straight 12-4 record (13-5 overall), going undefeated at M&T Bank Stadium (Packers and Saints were also undefeated at home). Baltimore earned a 20-13 Divisional Round victory over the Houston Texans at home. However, to their self-destruction, the Ravens fell, 23-20, to the Patriots in a heartbreaking AFC Championship game thriller at New England.
John Harbaugh became the first head coach in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first four seasons, with his 49 total victories from 2008-11 tying (New Orleans) for third in the league (one behind New England and Pittsburgh – both with 50). Quarterback Joe Flacco has started every game under “Harbs,” and his 44 regular season wins are the most ever by an NFL field general in his initial four seasons.
Offensively, The Ravens, who finished No. 3 in the league in fewest points permitted (16.6 ppg) for the fourth-straight year, tied an NFL record for consecutive seasons of being in the Top 3 for points allowed.
Overall, the Ravens’ defense ranked third in both yards allowed (288.9 ypg) and sacks (48, behind the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles – 50 each). The Ravens finished No. 1 in red zone defense (38.1 touchdown percent), opponent QB rating (68.8), fewest offensive TDs allowed (21) and fewest TD passes permitted (11). Baltimore was second in rush defense (92.6 ypg) and third-down defense (32.1 percent). The Ravens also held nine of their 16 regular season opponents to 17 or fewer points.
Linebacker Terrell Suggs, the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year, produced a career-high 14 sacks and a team-record and NFL-high seven forced fumbles.
Suggs, linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata were 2011 Pro Bowl starters.
Despite playing eight games against defenses ranked in the NFL’s Top 8, the purple and black were 12th in scoring (23.6 ppg), seventh in third-down offense (42.4 percent) and 10th in rushing (124.8 ypg).
Running back Ray Rice produced a career-high and NFL-best 2,068 yards from scrimmage, ranking second in the league in rushing (1,364 to Maurice Jones-Drew’s 1,606). Rice also set a team mark with 15 touchdowns and was second in the NFL among ball carriers with a team-high 76 catches (704 receiving yards).
Flacco produced his third-consecutive 3,500-yard, 20 touchdowns season, and was 13 yards shy of his career high with 3,610 passing yards (3,622). Wide receiver Torrey Smith was third among NFL rookies with 841 receiving yards (off 50 catches). Smith’s receptions and yards, plus seven touchdowns, set new Ravens first-year standards. Baltimore started Smith and two second-year tight ends in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.
Over the last seven games of the season, Charm City’s finest ranked No. 3 in rushing yards (1,105). Along with Rice, fullback Vonta Leach, left guard Ben Grubbs and right guard Marshal Yanda were 2011 Pro Bowlers.
The solid units were led by 2010 Pro Bowl K Billy Cundiff and P Sam Koch, a Pro Bowl first alternate a year ago. Cundiff scored a career-high 122 points in 2011, despite missing one game with a calf injury. Koch, one of the league’s most accurate and consistent punters, produced a career-best 46.5 gross average.
Starting CB Lardarius Webb was the punt returner most of the season and averaged 10.0 yards per return, adding a 68-yard touchdown return. Injuries set back wide receiver/return specialist David Reed, who led the NFL in kickoff return average in 2010 (29.3) and ended this season on IR. (Reed averaged an impressive 29.7 yards per kickoff return on 18 attempts in 2011.)
Former Pro Bowl special-teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo – a second alternate this season – helped one of the NFL’s youngest special teams groups mature.
Ravens 2012 Schedule
The Ravens already plays in a tough, physical division in the AFC North. However, Baltimore will have their hands full as they will take on the highly competitive NFC East and the night and day division of the AFC West. The Ravens will face off against eight 2011 playoff teams, including the 2012 Super Bowl participants – the Patriots and the world champion New York Giants.
Fortunately for the Ravens, Lewis and Reed are sticking around – at least for one more run.
Oakland Kansas City
New England San Diego
New York Giants Washington
(Review was assisted by team’s press release)