Justin Forsett powers Ravens over Saints

Justin Forsett rushed for a career-high 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the Baltimore Ravens to a 34-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night. Our takeaways:

  1. Forsett carried the offense against a New Orleans defense that couldn't stop a nosebleed. An afterthought free-agent acquisition in April, Forsett ranks third in rushing yards (903) and first in yards per carry (5.8) and runs of 20 yards or more (12) among NFL backs. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak deserves credit for finding Forsett and turning around a ground attack that was historically inept last season. Forsett and starting guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele all merit Pro Bowl consideration this season.
  1. Drew Brees' offense entered the game second in yards and eighth in points, but game-killing mistakes have haunted them all season. Brees was on-point for two and half quarters, only to toss a pick-six to Will Hill in a game that was tied at 17. Only three quarterbacks have thrown more than Brees' 11 interceptions this year.
  1. The Saints' defense is fundamentally flawed. They have been one of the worst tackling units all season, and they can't get off the field on third downs. The Bengals and Ravens have combined for 402 rushing yards the past two weeks. Linebacker David Hawthorne's dropped pick-six was a key play early in this game. With Keenan Lewis at less than full health and second-round draft pick Stanley Jean-Baptiste a non-factor, the cornerbacks are also overmatched right now. Steve Smith had more yards by the end of the first quarter (68) than any full game since Week 6.
  1. The Ravens' defense has a flaw of its own in a secondary that has surrendered big plays on deep balls all season. Second-year safety Matt Elam hasn't lived up to his first-round pedigree, and the no-name cornerbacks have struggled in coverage since Jimmy Smith was lost for the season. The one bright spot was free safety Will Hill's coverage on Jimmy Graham.
  1. Mark Ingram hasn't run with as much explosiveness since injuring his shoulder in Week 9, but it's hard to blame him for tonight's production. The interior of the Saints' offensive line has been a weak spot going back to last season, and they were dominated by the Ravens' front seven. Ingram was denied at the goal-line three times in four plays early in the game. Although he remains the lead back, his days of averaging 26 carries a game are over with Pierre Thomas back in the lineup.

  1. Wide receiver Joe Morgan came off the suspended list to give the Saints a big-play threat. He was tackled inside the 10-yard line on plays of 67 and 62 yards. It was Nick Toon, though, who received the bulk of the snaps as Brandin Cooks' replacement in the No. 3 receiver role with Kenny Stills starting opposite Marques Colston.
  1. For the first time in NFL history, a division winner is three games below .500. The Saints are still tied with the feeble Falcons atop the woebegone NFC South, which explains why this game was so much more important for a Ravens team that remains in a three-way, second-place tie -- a half-game behind the Bengals. The Patriots and Packers are the only teams with higher point differentials than Baltimore's 87, which is 62 more than the next-closest AFC North team. Boasting offensive and defensive lines among the NFL's best, the Ravens have the luxury of the most balanced roster and the softest schedule (Chargers, at Dolphins, Jaguars, at Texans, Browns) of all the AFC North squads.

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