The Ravens bounced back in a big way from their disappointing loss in Tennessee, crushing the overmatched Rams in St. Louis 37-7 yesterday, on the strength of not one, not two, but THREE first quarter Joe Flacco-to-Torrey Smith touchdown strikes.
It was a hell of a coming out party for the rookie wide receiver from Maryland, whom many Ravens fans have been quick to label a bust, calling him the next Travis Taylor or Mark Clayton. Smith, though, not only did something those two never did, he did something that no NFL wide receiver has EVER done – caught touchdowns on each of his first three career receptions. Some who watched the game might point out that Smith caught a short screen from Flacco in between touchdowns 1 and 2 (the play where Anquan Boldin was mistakenly flagged originally), but that pass was behind the line of scrimmage, so goes down in the books as a running play, not a pass reception.
It wasn’t just Smith setting records, though he was obviously a huge part of it. The entire Ravens offense set a franchise mark for yards in the first half (406 yards) and in a game (553 yards). Flacco set a career high for passing yards in a single game with 389, and tied his career high with those three touchdown passes.
With Lee Evans sitting out while trying to nurse his injured ankle back to 100%, it was unclear whether or not the Rams would respect the Ravens’ downfield passing attack, which would allow them to stack the box and sell out on stopping Ray Rice. However, the Ravens’ offensive mindset was obvious from the first drive – they were going to attack the St. Louis secondary, regardless of the fact that three of their four active wideouts had 0 NFL catches entering the game. It was an aggressive scheme from Cam Cameron, and it was a welcome sight for Ravens fans.
On top of the three touchdown passes (77, 41, and 18 yards), Flacco missed Smith on two other deep throws, and failed to connect with tight end Ed Dickson on another.
On the ground, it was another ho-hum 100+ total yard performance from Rice (8 carries 79 yards, 5 receptions 83 yards), and Ricky Williams added 42 yards on 5 carries, including a 28 yard scamper on which he showed an explosiveness we had yet to see from #34.
On defense, the Ravens dominated the Rams’ offensive line, collapsing it and getting good pressure on quarterback Sam Bradford from the outset. After failing to register a sack in Nashville, they got to the St. Louis signal caller five times (by five different players), and harassed him countless others throughout the game. Though they failed to record the shutout, they also scored their first touchdown of the season, when Haloti Ngata put a cherry on his great week by scooping and scoring for his first career six-pointer.
It’s hard to find much to complain about after a 37-7 beatdown, but here are a few nit-picky things that could be an issue moving forward against teams that aren’t better suited to playing in the SEC.
- Cam Cameron, though he had a brilliant game plan that the team executed to near perfection, still did some things that had us scratching our heads. On one sequence early in the second quarter, the Ravens faced 3rd-and-1 from the Rams 45-yard line, and ran consecutive empty-backfield passing plays. Flacco picked up the first down on 4th by scrambling for five yards but…come on man. Didn’t we hear all offseason that the focus was to fix the power running game? You’ve got Vonta Leach and Ray Rice…pound the ball in there twice and get a damn yard the old fashioned way.
- As for Harbaugh, his decision to continue not only playing Joe Flacco late in a blowout game, but to have him still dropping back and throwing the ball was another head-scratcher. With the game well in hand, Flacco took several nasty shots from the Rams defense, which continued to blitz and often got home with it. Why risk getting your quarterback hurt in that situation? Harbaugh said his reason was to give Joe more time with Smith, LaQuan Williams, and Tandon Doss but…come on. We can do that in practice. If you’re up by 30 in the fourth quarter, it’s Tyrod Taylor time.
- Speaking of odd personnel decisions…your new $40 million defensive tackle playing tight end on the goal line when you’re already up 21-0?
- Michael Oher. Ugh. No false start penalties, but flags for both illegal hands to the face and holding.
- The secondary had a decent day thanks to the strong pass rush, but there are still holes. Cary Williams continues to disappoint after a relatively strong preseason, and it seems that teams are starting to pick on him. Hopefully the Ravens can survive the Jets next week and go into the bye at 3-1, then get rookie Jimmy Smith on the field with Lardarius Webb and/or Chris Carr.
The Ravens have now outscored their opposition 72-14 in their two wins this year. Trouncing the Rams, who play in the woeful NFC West, is nothing to beat your chest about, but stomping inferior teams is something that championship contenders need to do, and the Ravens did just that on Sunday.
Bring on the Jets.