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BALTIMORE – Terrell Suggs has been around long enough to know better.
As dominant as the Baltimore Ravens were at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night in registering a 40-0 spanking that marked the biggest shutout win in franchise history, at the halfway point of the season they are nothing better than a .500 team.
Sure, the Miami Dolphins, with their three-game winning streak abruptly extinguished, might beg to differ. But as someone put it a few times, you are what your record says you are.
“Mediocrity is the worst thing in the world,” Suggs said. “You do not want to be just average. We have a lot of work to do.”
FINAL 1 2 3 4 Score
Miami Dolphins (4-3) 0 0 0 0 0
Baltimore Ravens (4-4) 7 13 0 20 40
It’s not that Suggs wasn’t pleased with the manner in which the Ravens responded on a short week, with the defense stinging Matt Moore for two pick-six touchdowns and Alex Collins running for a career-high 113 yards on a night when Joe Flacco was knocked out with a concussion.
Yet he knows this drill all too well. There’s no need to get too high or too low.
“You can’t take shutouts for granted,” Suggs said, mindful of the season-opening victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. “We have two of them this year. But we also have been on the other side of that where we have been lit up. We are .500. We have been here before. Eight (games) left, it’s all about what we do with it.”
When someone mentioned to Suggs that the Ravens notched the franchise’s 200th win, he grumbled and said he’s looking for victories in bigger games. Like championship games.
That’s a long way from here at the moment, but Suggs was part of a team that started 4-4 in 2009, earned a wild-card playoff berth, then won at Foxborough to advance to the divisional playoffs. The season before that, they started 4-3 and went all the way to the AFC title game.
So there’s still time to find consistency. Or not.
One thing that was hammered home in the latest prime-time drama: You can never quite predict how it will go down in the NFL.
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Consider a snapshot of the running games. Baltimore entered the week with the NFL’s 32nd-ranked run defense. Yet it allowed Miami a grand total of 45 yards, 2.4 per carry. Jay Ajayi ripped off a 21-yard run on Miami’s first snap, then had 2 yards on 12 runs after that. The Ravens, on the other hand, rushed for a season-high 174 yards against the NFL’s fifth-ranked run defense.
So much for reading the statistical tea leaves.
Welcome to the NFL, where strange things just happen. And happen again.
But I wonder: How were the Dolphins 4-2? Did losing Jay Cutler mean this much?
One Ravens defender whispered, speaking of Cutler with disdain, “If we played the other guy, he would have thrown it to us even more.”
In any event, this was a different Ravens team than the one that lost to a rookie quarterback (Mitchell Trubisky) and was shredded by an all-pro runner (Le’Veon Bell) in the previous two home games.
Even the embattled Flacco, having his worst season, was up to snuff before being knocked out with a concussion on a flagrant hit by Kiko Alonso, who hit the quarterback as he slid to the turf on a scramble. Flacco had his highest-rated passing game (107.9) of the season, accented by a 34-yard TD strike to Jeremy Maclin.
These were the good Ravens. The bad Ravens may be lurking, though, just around the corner.
But that’s the NFL, where matchups, injuries, mojo, as well as parity and mediocrity, seemingly influence the outcomes of games on any given week.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh won’t even attempt to explain it.
“It’s a week-to-week league,” Harbaugh said. “It really is. There’s a lot of good players and one week, the game goes one way and another week, the game goes another. To me, it’s what makes this league crazy and interesting.”
Yet one thing Harbaugh and his squad knows for sure: They’ll need to string together some consistency if they hope to, well, maybe see the revitalized Dolphins again in the playoffs.
“November and December, that’s big boy ball and it’s coming,” said Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr. “That’s when teams start to separate. Being 4-4, it keeps you in the race. We can’t go back in the past. But we’ve set ourselves up to be in the race.”
Along with 20-something other teams in the parity-laden NFL.