Archive for the ‘Ravens Game Recaps’ Category

Seahawks 22 Ravens 17 (The DOOMED BY DAVID AND THE D Game)

November 14, 2011

When a 6-2 NFL team goes on the road and loses to a 2-6 team, there is bound to be plenty of blame to spread around. Such was true in the case of the Ravens yesterday, as they fell to the woeful Seahawks 22-17 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. However, if you’re looking for a scapegoat at whom to direct the majority of your anger, look no further than second-year WR/kick returner David Reed.

Reed had a day he won’t soon forget – and not in a good way.

His afternoon actually started on a positive note, as he took an end-around play on the team’s opening drive 16 yards for a first down. This was just one play after fellow wideout Torrey Smith had taken an end-around the other way for an equal 16-yard gain. Unfortunately, that sequence would be pretty much the only bright spot – for Reed or for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron – all day.

After Seattle took a 7-0 lead on a 6-play, 60 yard drive, Reed took the ensuing kickoff in the end zone and decided to run it out. Then, just as he did last week in Pittsburgh, he coughed the ball up. This time, though, no friendly jerseys were there to bail him out, as the Seahawks recovered at the Ravens’ 19.

Six plays later, former Raven Steve Hauschka booted a 22-yard FG (his first of a career-high five on the day) to give Seattle a 10-0 lead.

A loud chorus of “HERE WE GO AGAIN!” could be heard echoing throughout Charm City.

In the second quarter, the Ravens began to mount their comeback. Cameron’s only other high note on the day – an option pass from Ray Rice on the 1-yard line – pulled the Ravens to within 10-7 with over nine minutes to play in the first half.

Still very much anybody’s ball game.

Alas, the vaunted Ravens’ defense – as they did for much of the day – wavered when they had a chance to seize momentum and potentially turn the game.

Seattle faced 3rd-and-9 from their own 25-yard line. A 3-and-out would have given the Ravens the ball back with favorable field position and the momentum swinging in their favor. That was not to be the case, though, as Hawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson found receiver Doug Baldin for a 50 (FIFTY!) yard gain that eventually set up another Hauschka field goal.

13-7. Again, still in this thing.

Enter David Reed.

Reed again eschewed a touchback, instead bringing the ball out of the end zone all the way to…the 20 yard line. Super. Whatever, let’s go.

Oh, wait, what’s that? Some yellow laundry on the field? An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Reed, who was so impressed by his own 20-yard freaking return that he felt compelled to TAUNT an opposing player by dropping the ball on him?

This stupid, juvenile, inexcusable mistake backed the Ravens up to their own 10-yard line, where they promptly went 3-and-out. The usually reliable Sam Koch shanked his punt to the tune of 28-yards, and it was now Seattle with the ball in Ravens’ territory and all the momentum.

Sensing a theme here? Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes.

Field goal #3 from Hauschka made it 16-7 with just under 2 minutes to play in the half. Still, the Ravens had plenty of time to drive down and at least pick up a field goal to make it a one score game heading into the locker room.

David Reed still wasn’t done though.

Trying to make up for his prior mistakes and give his team a spark, Reed again brought the ball out of the end zone. And again put it on the turf. And again Seattle recovered it.

The Seahawks managed just a single yard on the ensuing drive, but it was more than enough as Hauschka kicked a 35-yarder to make it 19-7 bad guys.

The Ravens put together a decent drive with less than a minute to work with, only to see their own kicker, Billy Cundiff, miss his second 50+ yard FG attempt of the day as time wound down in the half.

Down 19-7, Cam Cameron completely abandoned the running game (though he had already half-abandoned it when the score was about 13-7).

From there on out, Cam did all he could to try to make Joe Flacco’s arm fall off. Flacco attempted a career high 52 passes (one of which was tipped and intercepted on the opening drive of the second half, resulting in a 22-7 Seattle lead) but finished with a dismal 4.9 yards per attempt.

Joe had an up-and-down day, missing several throws that could have resulted in big plays. His receivers also once again betrayed him though, as everyone from Torrey Smith to Anquan Boldin to Ray Rice was dropping catchable passes. I counted at least 5 drops on the day.

As many have stated, Flacco and the Ravens’ receivers – while performing admirably in comeback wins over Arizona and Pittsburgh – are not yet ready to be the bread-and-butter of this offense. Nor do they have to be. The Ravens possess one of the game’s most dangerous weapons in running back Ray Rice, yet yesterday was just another game where he was a forgotten man.

In the team’s three losses this year, Rice has a grand total of 26 carries for 98 yards. He had eight carries in Jacksonville. He had FIVE yesterday in Seattle.

Now granted, the flow of the game dictated a sense of urgency that didn’t leave quite as much room to try to establish the run (wouldn’t it be nice to see this team play with a lead for once?). However, Cameron abandoned Rice entirely too early. Even against a Seattle defense that entered the game tied with the Ravens for second fewest yards-per-carry allowed, #27 needed to be more involved.

And now to chastise the Ravens’ defense a bit.

First off, kudos for holding Seattle to field goals every time they were set up with a short field. The game could have been a lot further out of hand a lot earlier had the Seahawks been able to punch in a couple of those turnovers.

Still, when the D had the chance to make a play and potentially set up another game-winning drive from Flacco, they instead floundered.

After the Ravens had pulled to within 22-17 with just under six minutes to play, all they needed was the ball back for a shot to win. Instead, the Ravens defense allowed Seattle to hold the ball for the entire rest of the game clock, twice allowing conversions on 3rd-and-5, and despite Seattle shooting themselves in the foot with consecutive penalties to open the drive at 1st-and-20 from their own 10 yard line.

For the second consecutive week, Chuck Pagano’s unit looked more like a Greg Mattison-coached one, picking up just a single sack. They weren’t able to cause a single turnover against a quarterback who entered the game with nine interceptions. They allowed 327 yards to the 29th-ranked offense in the NFL. And they let Marshawn Lynch bully them into submission with the game on the line.

Sure, they were on the field for 35 minutes, but the final six of those were all their own doing.

With another loss to a sub-.500 team, the Ravens and their fans are left again scratching their heads. You’re not going to win many games with a -3 turnover margin, that’s for damn sure. But where was the team that just finished a sweep of the Pittsburgh Steelers? Pittsburgh, by the way, beat the three teams our Ravens lost to by a combined score of 79-30.

As I said last night on twitter (@BMoreBirdsNest), maybe the Ravens should petition the league that all of their remaining opponents have to wear Steelers uniforms when they play us. Apparently that’s the only way this team can summon the level of emotion and focus necessary to win.

They sure aren’t making things easy on themselves, but all is not lost. No team in the AFC has fewer than three losses. If the Ravens could have beaten even one of these inferior teams, they’d still be holding onto the #1 seed after Week 10. Instead, they’ve set themselves up for yet another dogfight down the stretch. They still hold the tiebreaker over the Steelers. Taking care of business at home the next two weeks against Cincinnati and San Francisco (combined record 14-4 – hey, we’re good against good teams!) will go a long way toward helping the fan base regain our sanity.

These are kind of losses that can very easily come back to haunt the team in January though. There’s no getting around that.


November 7, 2011

On the Ravens’ very first place from scrimmage Sunday night, Ray Rice took the handoff from Joe Flacco, ran right, cut back left, slipped a Troy Polamalu tackle, and was off to the races for what appeared to be a game-opening 76-yard touchdown run reminiscent of the one he had in the playoff game in New England in 2009.

However, a dubious holding penalty on Torrey Smith negated the play.

Off the top of my head, I can think of no fewer than four instances of the Ravens putting the ball in the end zone at Heinz Field, only to see the scores come back due to some home cooked laundry on that sorry excuse for a field.

2009 Week 16:

1-10-PIT 31 (9:23) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass short right intended for 10-S.Holmes INTERCEPTED by 24-D.Foxworth at PIT 46. 24-D.Foxworth to PIT 27 for 19 yards. Returned for a touchdown. Penalty marked off from spot of foul. PENALTY on BLT-55-T.Suggs, Illegal Block Above the Waist, 10 yards, enforced at PIT 27. (Ravens ultimately kicked FG)

2-10-PIT 32 (:45) 23-W.McGahee left end to PIT 17 for 15 yards. Ran for a touchdown. Penalty marked off a spot of foul. PENALTY on BLT-15-K.Washington, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at PIT 17. (Ravens ended up punting)

2010 Divisional Playoff Round:

(6:09) (Punt formation) 13-J.Kapinos punts 45 yards to BLT 45, Center-60-G.Warren. 21-L.Webb for 55 yards, TOUCHDOWN NULLIFIED by Penalty. PENALTY on BLT-11-M.Smith, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at PIT 19. (Settled for FG)

And then you have last night. Throw in Smith being unable to tap his toes inbounds on a well-thrown end zone fade from the 12, and the zebras prematurely blowing a play dead while Rice fought to get into the end zone at the goalline, and the Ravens would again be forced to settle for three points.

Instead of 28 total points from those plays, the Ravens ultimately managed only 9.

I bring this up to point out the feeling that every Ravens fan found themselves dealing with after just a single drive of this key divisional matchup. It was shaping up, from the outset, to be yet another instance of the Ravens falling just short against their arch rivals.

When James Harrison forced a Flacco fumble, then Ben Roethlisberger found Mike Wallace (not on purpose, though) from 25 yards out with just over five minutes to play to give the Steelers their first lead of the night, Ravens fans everywhere resigned ourselves to our fates.

We’d seen this movie too many times before.

Flacco, however, had a different sequel in mind.

Just as he did in the regular season at Heinz Field last year, Joe would once again dice the vaunted Steel Curtain and send the Yinzers home crying in their little yellow rags.

Last year, though, Joe did it on a short field. The odds were stacked much higher against him this time around, as the offense took over from their own 8-yard line with 2:24 on the clock and only one timeout, trailing 20-16.

Let’s back up a minute, though…

Mike Tomlin has proven himself to be a very, very good NFL coach, but two strange gaffes ending up really costing his team last night. The Steelers faced 3rd-and-5 from the Ravens’ 29-yard line with 2:37 remaining. Instead of running the ball and forcing the Ravens to use their final timeout or let the clock tick down to the 2-minute warning (assuming they were able to stop the Steelers from gaining 5 yards; if they get a 1st down, the game is basically over), Roethlisberger dropped back to throw, ultimately missing Mewelde Moore and essentially granting the Ravens an extra timeout.

Following that, the Steelers lined up for a 47-yard field goal try into the open end of Heinz Field. If Shawn Suisham hits that, the Ravens need a touchdown and an extra point just to force overtime. However, the play clock expired, nobody on the Pittsburgh sideline seemed to notice (or care?), and the ensuing 5-yard penalty forced Pittsburgh to punt.

I’d have to imagine the talk radio shows in Pittsburgh are blowing up this morning with people questioning the clock management of Tomlin there.

Still, you have to assume Tomlin had 100% confidence in his defense to prevent the Ravens from driving the length of the field to win the game in just over two minutes.

Unfortunately for him, of course, that confidence was completely unwarranted on this night.

The drive wasn’t exactly perfect from Flacco, and he saw his share of luck – good and bad – on it, but in the end it got the job done and catapulted the Ravens to 6-2 atop the standings in the AFC.

The bad luck: Dropped passes. As was the theme for a good part of the night, Ravens receivers just plain old had a case of the dropsies. Smith dropped what should have been the go-ahead touchdown from 37 yards out with :42 on the clock (but hey, in his defense, maybe he just knew that if he caught that one, it would have given the Steelers too much time to get into field goal range to tie it up!), and the usually sure-handed Boldin dropped a crossing route that would have set the Ravens up near the Pittsburgh 10-yard line with time for at least 3 throws into the end zone.

The good luck: Joe nearly saw yet another of his game-winning drive attempts end with the ball in the hands of the other team. On 3rd-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 49, he made the wrong read and put the rock right on the hands of Larry Foote, who, unfortunately for Joe, plays for the Steelers. He lucked out when Foote was unable to corral the interception. On the penultimate touchdown pass, safety Ryan Clark woefully misplayed the ball, perhaps underestimating the speed of Smith.

All kinds of luck aside, it was just the kind of drive that so many Ravens fans who are still on the fence about Joe the Quarterback had been waiting for. The same ones that, had the Ravens lost this game, would have been blowing up the talk radio airwaves and blog comments today blaming Joe’s fumble for the loss, completely disregarding all the times his receivers betrayed him as well as the fact that the Ravens defense reverted back to their 2010 form, blowing a double-digit fourth quarter lead.

Speaking of the defense, it was a bit of a disappointing outing for Chuck Pagano’s unit, who allowed 392 yards, caused only one turnover and registered just one sack on Roethlisberger. Give Pittsburgh credit for a strong offensive line performance and a good game plan that took Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata out of the game for the most part. Sizzle looked like he was going to have to open up his fridge and give Ben’s behind back to him until he jumped in front of a bubble screen and intercepted him early in the third quarter (a pick is worth at least 2 or 3 sacks, right?).

The season sweep of Pittsburgh is just the Ravens’ second in their existence, and first since 2006. Five years ago, the combined score of the two games was 58-7. This year: 58-27. It feels daaaaaaaaamn good.

The Ravens, for their part, need to avoid another Tennessee-esque letdown next week in Seattle against a scrappy Seahawks team. They can afford no more hiccups moving forward, especially with the Cincinnati Bengals refusing to go away.

We’ll talk more about that later, though. For today, it’s a gorgeous, gorgeous day in Charm City.

Ravens 30 Cardinals 27 (The GREATEST COMEBACK IN TEAM HISTORY Game)

October 30, 2011

Like most of you, at about 2:30 Sunday afternoon I was ready to put this game in the rear view mirror and never speak of it again. Just as the Ravens completely phoned in the first half of the game, I was preparing myself to do the same with this recap – something like “Ravens lose. You don’t want to hear about it. The end.” Entering the locker room trailing 24-6 to a 1-5 football team that hadn’t won a road game in their last 10 tries, following directly on the heels of the debacle in Jackonville Monday night, it was looking like the Ravens’ 2011 season was coming apart at the seams before our eyes.

Then, of course, the second half happened.

The Ravens came out and scored a touchdown on their opening drive, with Anquan Boldin putting the team on his back Greg Jennings/Marshawn Lynch – style, and they would ultimately outscore Arizona 24-3 over the game’s final 30 minutes for a last-minute victory that sealed the largest comeback (21 points) in franchise history.

It was truly a tale of two halves. In the first, things were going about as expected, with the defense stifling the Cardinals and the offense relying heavily on Ray Rice after Monday’s struggles, but ultimately failing to manage points, even when they did move the ball.

Then the oblong pigskin started bouncing the Cards’ way. Just like a few weeks ago against Houston, it seemed as if every time the ball hit the turf, it went right to an Arizona player.

Jarret Johnson causes a Kevin Kolb fumble, Arizona recovers.

Joe Flacco gets hit and fumbles, and the Cardinals fall on it on the Ravens’ 1 yard line.

The B’More special teams unit misses five tackles to allow a punt return touchdown.

Flacco puts one right in Torrey Smith’s chest, Smith bats it up in the air, and it goes right to a waiting white jersey.

It was looking like just another of those days.

But the Ravens went into the locker room and decided collectively – Anquan Boldin most specifically – that they weren’t going out like this. They weren’t going to fall to 4-3 in front of a home crowd that had been basically forced into booing them as they left the field following what was now six consecutive quarters of horrific offensive football (13 points total over the past 1.5 games).

It was a new team in the second, as Flacco would snap out of his funk with the team going shotgun no-huddle. He was 5/5 on the opening drive, and Boldin drew a pass interference flag in the end zone to set up what would be the first of Ray Rice’s three touchdowns in the half. Two drives later, Joe would hit Boldin four times for 80 yards on a single series, including ANOTHER pass interference in the end zone that led to a Ray Rice score.

As the quarter came to a close, the game’s third end zone PI – Rice TD sequence put the purple and black up 27-24.

On Arizona’s ensuing drive, though, they were the ones that were beneficiaries of the yellow laundry raining down on the M&T Bank Stadium turf. Twice Ravens penalties kept the Cardinals’ drive alive on what initially looked like failed 3rd down attempts. The second negated an Ed Reed interception that likely would have helped seal the game. Throw in a rare dropped pick by Ray Lewis (that would have probably went for six), and Arizona, despite themselves, had pulled the game back even.

A beautiful Sam Koch punt with just over three minutes to play that pinned Arizona at their own two could have very well been the play that really decided the game. That punt put the Cards in a precarious position of trying to move for the winning score but also having to be cognizant to not go quickly three-and-out to give the Ravens the ball right back. Though they managed a first down on a Kolb scramble, they ended up having to punt from their own 5 with just over a minute to play anyway.

On second down, Flacco hit Torrey Smith – after missing the rookie from Maryland a handful of times throughout the game – for a 36-yard gain that set the Ravens up at the five yard-line and a chip-shot game winning kick.

Boldin’s beastly 7 catch, 145 yard performance against his former team certainly earns him the offensive game ball. Credit is also due Flacco, who set career highs in attempts and completions once Cam Cameron got his head out of his own rear end and let the fourth-year quarterback do what he does best.

Speaking of that, the Ravens unfortunately find themselves at a bit of an offensive crossroads. Their best offensive player is their running back, and they have perhaps the NFL’s best blocking fullback. However, their quarterback does his best work – by far – in the shotgun, due in no small part to the offensive line’s complete inability to block anybody for any appreciable amount of time or pick up blitzes effectively (Arizona sacked Joe three times in the first half, and defenders were in his face on seemingly every drop back).

There is no clear answer. It will be very interesting to see what the game plan is next week against a Pittsburgh defense that is again playing at a high level (today holding the great Tom Brady and his New England passing attack under wraps).

On the defensive side of the ball, Terrell Suggs had perhaps the game of his life. He sacked Kolb once, but barely missed on two others, had nine tackles (at least four for losses), and hit Kolb as he was throwing to force the lame duck that Jameel McClain would ultimately intercept.

Paul Kruger had his first multi-sack day as a Raven, hauling Kolb down twice. As a whole, the defense racked up six sacks on the day, and had another overall strong performance, allowing only 207 total yards and stopping 9/11 Arizona third-down tries.

This schizophrenic B’More team needs to find some consistency, and fast. They travel to Heinz Field next week, and since nobody told the Patriots that Pittsburgh is now old and slow, the Steelers and Ravens enter the game even in the loss column with two each. Following that, they travel cross-country to take on Seattle before coming home for crucial matchups against the upstart Bengals (5-2) and 49ers (6-1).

The team that played the final two quarters on Sunday – and not the one that played the previous six – needs to show up for these games.

On offense, anyway.

The defense is fine.

It would also be great if some of these fumbles would start bouncing to the good guys.


October 25, 2011

On Friday night, I dislocated my knee while swinging a bat during a coed softball game. I ended up on the ground in the fetal position literally screaming at the top of my lungs in pain while waiting to be carted off the field on a stretcher.

That’s how my weekend started.

What a fitting end to the weekend, then, that the Ravens would have me figuratively screaming at the top of my lungs as I watched them completely embarrass themselves in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football.

However misguided and unfair they may be, there have been comparisons of this year’s Ravens defense to the 2000 squad that ended up winning Super Bowl XXXV and going down as one of the best of all time. Perhaps feeling left out, the offense did their best impression of that 2000 team – you know, that one that went five games without scoring a touchdown – last night, failing to pick up even a first down until late in the third quarter.

That’s right, the Ravens’ first nine drives went like this:

3 plays 4 yards PUNT

3 plays -2 yards PUNT

1 play 3 yards FUMBLE

3 plays 3 yards PUNT

3 plays 3 yards PUNT

3 plays 3 yards PUNT

3 plays -33 yards (yes, they faced a 4th and 43, thanks to penalties) PUNT

3 plays 2 yards PUNT

3 plays 5 yards PUNT

They punted EIGHT TIMES and turned the ball over on a fumble before the first time they even THREATENED to pick up a first down, which finally came with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter. Forty minutes of game time elapsed before the Ravens’ supposed high-powered and efficient offense managed to move the chains even once.

Utterly pathetic and embarrassing, on every level.

The numbers don’t even really do the Ravens’ level of SUCK justice though. They looked completely out-of-sorts in every facet on offense, from the offensive line’s inability to hold a block in either pass protection or in the run game, to the quarterback’s complete dearth of emotion and glassy-eyed incompetence, to Ray Rice putting the ball on the turf for the first time in a regular season game in nearly two full calendar years.

I’m still convinced, though, that it all starts with the man in charge, that pariah of Baltimore football scorn, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

Never was this more evident than just two plays after the Ravens had picked up that aforementioned first first down of the game. Facing a third-and-2 following an 8-yard completion to Ed Dickson, the Ravens were forced to take a timeout as the play clock ticked down while they had several different personnel grouping trotting on and off the field. The ESPN cameras showed Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin staring incredulously at the sideline, exasperated with Cameron’s inability to get a damn play in on time.

Same thing later in the game…

Once the Ravens FINALLY decided to play with some sense of urgency on offense – trailing 9-0 with just over 5 minutes to go in the game and taking over from their own 10-yard line – running a version of the no-huddle in an attempt to stage a late comeback, they were STILL taking the play clock down under 10 seconds on most snaps.

What the hell kind of “hurry up” is that?

The result was getting the ball into the end zone with just over two minutes left, forcing coach John Harbaugh to make what would ultimately be the wrong decision to attempt an onside kick. Had the Ravens gotten the score with 3 or more minutes remaining – as a true championship-caliber team would have been able to do – the decision to kick the ball deep and try to force a 3-and-out by the Jags would have been much easier.

The fact that Flacco is not allowed to call his own plays during the hurry-up offense in this, his fourth year in the league and his fourth in Cameron’s system, just reiterates what a complete control freak Cameron remains, to the detriment of the team’s growth and goals.

Part of me wants to be mildly encouraged by the loss. As awful and inept as the offense was for 55 minutes of the game, they still had a chance to win it at the end, and were it not for a few inches here and there (Cundiff’s onside kick attempt going 9.9 yards instead of 10, Lardarius Webb missing the block on the Jags’ final field goal by a fingernail), the outcome may have been much different.

Unfortunately, the fact remains that the Ravens still lost, and did so to an inferior opponent that was starting a rookie quarterback (who picked up his first NFL win, by the way). The Ravens’ defense did their job, making the Jags offense look just as inept all night – they got 9 of their 12 points on 50+ yard field goals, and equaled the Ravens’ 0/8 mark on 3rd downs in the first half.

As always in B’More, it was the offense that held the team back.

One defender in particular, Terrell Suggs, voiced his displeasure with the offensive game plan in the locker room following the game:

Amen, Sizzle.

Cameron continues to be enamored with the potential of the passing attack, which time and again refuses to live up to said potential. When #27 touches the ball, good things happen. Rice must have said something to get under the skin of either Harbs or Cameron though, as he sat for two straight series following his fumble. At one point, he was shown alone on the bench looking none too happy.

Eight carries for Rice in a game where the Ravens didn’t trail by more than a single score until midway through the third quarter, and even then were still down by just nine, is absolutely inexcusable.

Maurice Jones-Drew averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, and put the ball on the turf seemingly every time he touched it, but the Jags still kept giving it to him and as a result he ended up with a 100-yard day.

Rice had an equal 3.5 yards per carry, and far fewer fumbles, but was only handed the ball eight times all night.

I don’t get it.

Oh, right, yes I do. Cam Cameron sucks.

Of course I’d be remiss to not mention the fact that Flacco took over at his own 20-yard line with 1:43 remaining, needing only a touchdown to win the game and help build his legend in Baltimore…and managed all of zero completions and zero yards before being intercepted to end the game.

The Jaguars were sitting back in Joe’s old nemesis, the Cover 2, and he again proved that he is no closer to figuring it out than he has been for the past 3 years, throwing the ball right to where the linebacker knew he would.

Everything the Ravens had been attempting to build towards this season – from the home playoff game, to the AFC North title, to the top seed and playoff bye – has been put in jeopardy on the back of these two inexcusable road losses to Tennessee and Jacksonville, two teams with a combined 4-8 record.

They’ve planted themselves firmly behind the 8-ball, as they now find themselves tied with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the loss column, with road contests still remaining at Heinz Field, Cincy, Cleveland, Seattle, and San Diego. With the way they’ve represented themselves in two of their three tries on the road so far, how can you mark even one of those games as a sure win at this point?

Disappointing, Ravens. Disappointing.


October 17, 2011

In the Ravens’ three wins leading up to yesterday’s 29-14 victory over the Houston Texans, they had managed a cumulative turnover margin of +9, forcing 13 while giving up the rock only four times themselves. While impressive, this kind of of takeaway ratio is unfortunately not sustainable; the ball isn’t always just going to bounce into your team’s arms.

Yesterday was a prime example of the law of averages correcting itself against the Ravens. The two teams combined to put the ball on the M&T Bank Stadium turf a total of three times – and each time it bounced right to someone in a white Houston jersey.

Fortunately, the Ravens showed that here in 2011, they are a good enough team to win even when the breaks aren’t going their way. On top of that, they did so by more than two touchdowns over a quality opponent despite being -2 on the day.

It wasn’t necessary as easy as the 29-14 score might lead one to believe, of course.

The Ravens found themselves in a dogfight yesterday, trailing Houston 14-13 with just under nine minutes to play in the third quarter after Matt Schaub found Jacoby Jones for a 32-yard touchdown strike. I’ve been a proponent of starting Bernard Pollard in the strong safety spot over Tom Zbikowski, but on that play we saw the glaring weakness in Pollard’s game – pass coverage – on full display. Pollard abandoned his deep half responsibility, jumping the tight end’s crossing route, which left Ed Reed all alone against Jones. While I obviously don’t know the exact play call there, as Greg Gumbel stated on the CBS broadcast, you have to imagine that’s not how defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano drew it up – with four Ravens covering the tight end while Reed was left 1-on-1 against the Texans’ fastest player.

What you have to love is the way the Ravens responded following that touchdown, outscoring Houston 16-0 over the final 24 minutes.  They did it in explosive fashion, as Joe Flacco connected with Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin for passes of 51 and 56 yards, respectively, on consecutive drives at the end of the third period. What you don’t have to love, however, is that both of those big plays led to just field goals, as the Ravens’ red zone woes continued. They managed just two touchdowns on four tries Sunday, and that is a number that is going to have to improve moving forward.

It was a workmanlike day for Flacco, who finished 20/33 for 305 yards and an interception, despite being under tremendous pressure from the Houston front seven all afternoon (and well into the evening). Though he was sacked only twice, it seemed like every time Joe dropped back he was getting hammered by not just one, but several Texans defenders. As always, Joe bounced right back up, but the protection is another issue that the Ravens need to address in the coming weeks. The good news is that the next two opponents, Jacksonville and Arizona, are tied for 19th in the league with 11 sacks each. We don’t need another gimpy Joe down the stretch like we had in 2009, and with five games left against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Cleveland (not to mention San Francisco) – all teams that can get after the passer – the offensive line is going to need to get their collective act together here as the leaves start to fall.

The Ravens did do something yesterday that we’ve been clamoring to see here for what feels like years – make adjustments on the fly. Word is that, after Ray Rice was stuffed for a five-yard loss on 1st-and-goal from the Houston 10 to end the third quarter, he and running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery went to Cam Cameron and implored him to run the ball inside more, and stop trying to get outside on the Houston linebackers. Cam listened, and the result was Rice gaining 62 of his 101 rushing yards in the fourth quarter.

On the other side, Pagano was seeing his defense get torched on third downs at the onset, as Houston converted on five of their first six attempts. Chuck dialed back the blitzes that Schaub was exploiting, and Houston finished the day just 6/16 (37%) on third down attempts (still better than the Ravens’ woeful 3/11, I have to point out).

Finally, I’d be remiss to not mention Billy Cundiff. The steady kicker was 5/5 on field goals, including a season long 48-yarder. Seven of his eight kickoffs went for touchbacks, with most going through the end zone (one all the way to the seats). Cundiff might never make Ravens fans forget local hero Matt Stover, but he has certainly made everybody forget old Steve Hauschka, right?

It wasn’t always pretty, but that 29-14 result sure looks good on the schedule. With Pittsburgh and Cincinnati (WTF?) keeping pace at 4-2, the Ravens did what they had to to hold serve at home against a team they could very well see again in January.

Ravens 34 Jets 17 (The WHO NEEDS OFFENSE TO SCORE 30? Game)

October 3, 2011

In one of the stranger games you’ll ever see (the two teams set an NFL record for return touchdowns in a single game with five total), the Ravens successfully defended their home turf against Rex Ryan and his band of blowhards, earning themselves a 34-17 victory and a share of the AFC lead at 3-1 heading into their much needed bye week.

How strange was it?

Well, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t complete a single pass between 2:37 in the first quarter and 11:50 in the fourth quarter, missing on 11 straight between those two bookends, was 10/31 (33%) overall, the Ravens still managed to hang 34 points on the scoreboard, and Flacco was still the best quarterback on the field.

As bad as Joe was, Mark Sanchez was even worse. The Jets’ QB went just 11/35 (31%), and while Flacco was betrayed by his receivers who dropped a couple good throws, most of Sanchez’s passes were nowhere near…well, anything, really.

Both quarterbacks did, however, manage to throw touchdown passes. To the other team. Flacco’s on a miscommunication with Ray Rice that resulted in a 35-yard touchdown interception return by linebacker David Harris, and Sanchez’s a woefully weak-armed out route that allowed Lardarius Webb to step in front of Santonio Holmes for a 73 yard score of his own.

On a day where 10 more NFL quarterbacks passed for over 300 yards (and two for over 400), these two teams showed that there is indeed still a place for defense in the NFL. The Jets and Ravens combined for 283 yards passing between them.

The Ravens, playing with a depleted secondary (safeties Bernard Pollard and Tom Zbikowski alternated as the 3rd cornerback for most of the game), put all their eggs in the “get after Sanchez” basket, and to say they were successful would be an understatement (calling it the greatest defensive performance you’ve ever seen, as John Harbaugh did, would probably be an overstatement though). B’More battered and bruised Sanchez all night, from literally the first play, when Ed Reed came off the edge for a sack-fumble that resulted in a Jameel McClain touchdown. Though they only registered two sacks for the night, they hit Sanchez countless other times, to the point where he was ducking as he threw late in the game. Of course it didn’t hurt that both sacks resulted in fumbles returned for touchdowns.

On the second, Haloti Ngata basically drove a truck though Sanchez as he was winding up to throw. It was close as to whether or not Sanchez’s arm was coming forward with the ball, but the play was upheld upon review, much to the chagrin of Rex Ryan, who burned a timeout just to yell at referee Mike Carey.

Despite the 34-17 final, Ravens fans will undoubtedly find a few things to concern themselves with over the next two weeks before the team plays again. Were the Ravens able to put together any kind of offense through the game’s second and third quarters, the game could have been much more of a blowout than it was. The defense allowed only a single field goal, and even that was on a drive where the Jets started in Ravens territory.

The two plays that kept the game interesting – the Harris interception return and the Joe McKnight kickoff return – should have never happened. Of course, if you’re a Jets fan, you’re saying the same thing about three of the four Ravens’ touchdowns. The fact is that, through the season’s first four weeks, the Ravens have blown out two of the AFC’s top teams as well as an NFC bottom feeder, and look every bit as formidable as any squad in the conference. If they can get healthy here during this early bye week – getting Ben Grubbs, Lee Evans, Jimmy Smith, and Chris Carr back on the field would be huge – they can find themselves in a very strong position as the season nears the mid-way point. Even better, the schedule is a bit front-loaded; they still have 3 games against the NFC West teams, as well as two each against Cleveland and Cincinnati. You don’t have to be a complete purple kool-aid drinking optimist to have little problem finding at least 10 wins for this team looking ahead.

Again, gotta get – and then stay – healthy.

We’ve already had some pretty good quotes come out of games so far this year. After the Pittsburgh game, it was Terrell Suggs’ “God can have Roethlisberger’s soul, but his ass belongs to me.”

Last night, Jarrett Johnson had this gem: “Rex created us, now he has to deal with us.”

Mark Sanchez would prefer to not have to “deal with” the Ravens any time in the near future.

Ravens 37 Rams 7 (The TORREY SMITH MIGHT NOT BE A "BUST" Game)

September 26, 2011

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.

Titans 26 Ravens 13 (The TITANIC LETDOWN Game)

September 19, 2011

I’m not hungover…I’m not hungover

After a night of binge drinking, you can wake up in the morning and look yourself in the mirror and say “I’m not hungover” as many times as you want – the fact of the matter is, your head will still hurt.

That seems to be about what happened to the Ravens this week. They spent all week saying the right things after their week 1 win over Pittsburgh – there will be no hang over, no let down, every week is different in the NFL, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Coach John Harbaugh even chastised one unlucky reporter who used the “L” word, completely dismissing any notion that his team would suffer a drop in intensity or execution at LP Field in Nashville.

Which is, of course, exactly what happened.

All credit to the Tennessee Titans, of course, who thoroughly beat the Ravens up and down the field for four quarters on Sunday. Ravens fans are left scratching their heads this Monday morning, as it will take quite a bit of convincing to make us believe that the team we saw take on the Titans is the same group of guys that beat the Steelers handily a week prior.

Sometimes the stats of a game don’t tell the whole story. Yesterday’s numbers pretty much paint an accurate picture:

  • First downs: Titans 21 Ravens 15
  • Total yards: Titans 432 Ravens 229
  • Passing yards: Titans 358 Ravens 184
  • Third down conversions: Titans 7/17 (41%) Ravens 3/10 (30%)
  • Sacks: Titans 3 Ravens 0
  • Time of possession: Titans 35:22 Ravens 24:08
  • Turnovers: Titans 1 Ravens 3

Whooped in every aspect of the game. All the questions that fans and media had about this team coming into the season – how will they pressure the quarterback? How will the secondary hold up? Will the new receivers and Joe Flacco be on the same page? What about the new-look offensive line? – that seemed to all be answered in resounding positive fashion a week ago, are now all suddenly right back on the table.

Titans’ quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw 42 passes and was not sacked even once. A far cry from the three sacks and constant pressure the Ravens managed against Ben Roethlisberger.

With Chris Carr and Jimmy Smith missing the game due to injury, Hasselbeck and receivers Kenny Britt (9 catches, 135 yards, 1 TD) and Nate Washington (7/99) had their way with the Ravens’ secondary.

All the speed that the Ravens put on display in the opener was nowhere to be found in Nashville. Just like last year, B’More route runners were getting no separation down the field in the routes, and as a result we saw the same happy-feet, indecisive Flacco that we saw in 2009 and 2010. Lee Evans is obviously not playing at 100%, and Anquan Boldin continues to be Mr. Drop-balls-in-the-end-zone.

Guard Ben Grubbs missed the first game of his Ravens career, and was replaced by Mark LeVoir. The results were less than stellar, but LeVoir wasn’t the only problem. Pretty much every offensive lineman with the exception of Marshal Yanda took a step backward yesterday; Bryant McKinnie was nowhere near the mauler he was a week ago, and Michael Oher reverted back to his old false-starting ways (two flags) after successfully waiting for the ball to be snapped to move all last week. There were no holes for running back Ray Rice to scoot through, and the Titans were getting good pressure on Flacco all afternoon – sometimes with only three rushers.

The Ravens defense couldn’t get off the field on third down – especially in the second half, with the game still very much in the balance – or convert their own attempts on offense. Cam Cameron, who looked like a genius a week ago, had some of the questionable play calls we’ve come to expect from him over the years. A throwback pass to Ed Dickson on 3rd-and-2 jumps immediately to mind – wasn’t the focus during the offseason to improve the power and short-yardage running game? You’ve got Ray Rice and Vonta Leach…jam the ball in there and get two damn yards!

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano looked like a genius against Pittsburgh, but he was unable to get consistent pressure on Hasselbeck all afternoon. Hasselbeck seemed to know exactly when and from where the Ravens were blitzing, again and again throwing quick passes to the opposite side from which the pressure was coming. With Ravens corners (especially Lardarius Webb) playing 8-10 yards off the line of scrimmage, Britt was able to turn 1-yard passes into good gains on several occasions.

All the good feelings and momentum the Ravens cultivated in their week 1 win are now a thing of the past. The Steelers – as everyone knew they would – handled the Seattle Seahawks easily. The entire AFC North is now 1-1. The Ravens go back to the drawing board, where they need to figure out what the difference in their play was between week 1 and week 2. The early returns indicate that we could be in for yet another season of maddening inconsistency from a team that has the talent to be much better.

S.I. Cover Jinx. I’m a believer.


Ravens 35 Steelers 7 (The STAIRWAY TO SEVEN….TURNOVERS Game)

September 12, 2011

For all the talk over the past eight months about how the Ravens couldn’t beat the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger on the field, they not only beat them with #7 on the field Sunday, they beat them like they stole something. Beat them like they haven’t since at least 2006, and perhaps like they never even had.

While it obviously would have been nice for the Ravens to finish a game in which they built a 21-7 halftime lead back in January like they did this time around, this result was better late than never. Let’s take a look at how it went down.

Starting Quick – with Speed and Power

Remember the Ravens’ first offensive snap of the 2010 season? Joe Flacco dropped back, the entire offensive line went to the ground, and Joe got absolutely sandwiched by two New York Jets, fumbling the ball. It was ugly.

2011 started off a little bit more positive.

Ray Rice took the handoff from Flacco and went left, behind new tackle Bryant McKinnie (who took both Jameses – Harrison and Farrior – out of the play), for a huge 36 yard gain. With that, Rice was well on his way to becoming the first opposing running back to go over 100 against Pittsburgh since he himself last did it, in 2009. On the play, Rice gave a nice stiffarm to Ryan “not a rivalry” Clark before scooting for about 15 more yards.

Joe Flacco’s first pass of the season, two snaps later, found Anquan Boldin in the end zone for a 27 yard score.

Haloti and Terrell

The Ravens absolutely dominated the Steelers’ offensive line, with Suggs and Ngata doing the most damage. On the Steelers’ second possession, already trailing 7-0, Suggs came through untouched and blew Ben up, knocking the ball loose. Ngata pounced on it, and four plays later Ray Rice punched it in from the 1 and the rout was on.

It was the first of Suggs’ three sacks and two forced fumbles (both recovered by the Ravens) on the day. The ninth-year defensive end/linebacker hybrid also surpassed Peter Boulware to become the Ravens franchise’s all-time leader in sacks.

Suggs had a now viral quip coming off the field, when he said of Roethlisberger, “God can have his soul, but his ass is mine.”

As for Ngata, he made Ravens fans who are already uneasy about his being yet to sign a long-term contract even more anxious to see a contract get done. On the Steelers’ first play of the second quarter, with Ravens fans everywhere feeling exceptionally nauseous thinking back to last year’s blown 14-point lead, Ngata busted through Pittsburgh’s line and nearly decapitated Rashard Mendenhall as he took the handoff.  The ball popped loose, Ngata pulled it in, and Joe Flacco hit Ed Dickson just one play later to extend the purple lead.

Mendenhall’s eyes were as wide as dinner plates as big #92 barreled towards him at full speed (full speed for Ngata is pretty damn fast, by the way, as he showed in chasing down the speedy Mike Wallace from behind later in the game), something announcer Jim Nantz was kind enough to point out on the CBS broadcast.


Stairway to Seven…Turnovers

The “Stairway to Seven,” as Steelers fans love to call the team’s quest for a seventh Lombardi Trophy, was derailed in February by the Green Bay Packers.

This next iteration of the stairway got off to a great start as well, as the Steelers managed to turn the ball over an incredible SEVEN TIMES in this one.

Roethlisberger himself was responsible for five of them, with the two aforementioned fumbles and three interceptions. One of the picks was tipped at the line by Ngata, but the other two were just incredibly bad and ill advised throws by the two-time Super Bowl champion.

Ed Reed, after a string of disappearing acts against the Steelers, found himself in the right place twice (almost three times) as Ben floated wounded ducks into the Ravens’ secondary.

As Ben scrambled around and unleashed those balls, Ravens fans’ hearts everywhere dropped. We’ve just seen it too many times. As the camera panned away from the line of scrimmage, we just knew we were about to see Heath Miller or Mike Wallace pull in a touchdown to get Pittsburgh back in the game.

Instead, it was Reed that was standing there waiting.

And again.

Reed handily outplayed his rival (in fans’ minds, anyway), Troy Polamalu. Polamalu’s highlight of the day was a post-whistle takedown of Ray Rice in the third quarter scrum – there’s another of your classy players there, towel-wavers.

Well, he was involved in another highlight – #43 was the one that Ed Dickson streaked past on his touchdown catch.

Offensive Line Answers

For all the hand-wringing that was done around town after John Harbaugh opted to not play his new-look offensive line for even a single play in the final preseason game, the brutes up front made John look like a genius – at least for one day.

McKinnie, Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Marshal Yanda, and Michael Oher (ZERO FALSE STARTS!) manhandled a Steelers front seven that has given the Ravens nightmares in seasons past.

In addition to the 170 rushing yards Rice and Ricky Williams racked up, they also made Harrison and Lamarr Woodley all but disappear as well. Woodley ended up with Pittsburgh’s lone sack on the day, as Flacco had time to throw all day – more time than he’s ever had against a Steelers team.

Some are saying it proves that the Steelers’ defense is getting old and slow, but I’m not going to go quite that far. Harrison is still a bit injured, and Woodley is only 26. Pittsburgh’s ferocious pass rush had an off day, and the Ravens’ O-line had a really good day – those are the only conclusions we can draw at this point.

Some Bad News, Too

As awesome as 35-7 is – and we won’t soon forget it – there were some concerning things to come out of yesterday’s game as well.

The first, and most worrisome, is the injury to rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith. Smith was injured on the Ravens’ first kickoff, and it was revealed Monday that he has a high ankle sprain and will likely miss a month.


High ankle sprains are trouble.

Smith wasn’t the only guy in the secondary to get dinged up, as Chris Carr reaggravated his hamstring injury.

Fortunately, the Ravens have the Titans, Rams (who just lost their #1 WR for the season), the Jets, AND a bye week coming up before they face any truly scary passing attacks (Houston comes to Baltimore on October 16).

It was also disappointing to see Lee Evans fail to pull in any passes, despite being targeted several times. Perhaps he is still feeling the effects of that foot injury, but word from M&T Bank Stadium was that he seemed to be lacking the explosiveness he showed against Kansas City in the preseason.

It was only one game.

The Steelers will be fine. They have the Seahawks and the Manning-less Colts next up on their schedule, so expect them to get healthy real quick.

The Ravens aren’t going to beat everybody by 28 points, or suddenly become the 2007 Patriots. They aren’t going to force 112 turnovers this season.

But damn, was it an awesome game.

(Screencaps c/o our old friend Christmas Ape)

Eagles 13 Ravens 6: Reviewing What we Watched for

August 11, 2011

Not from this week, but might as well have been

Well, that was even uglier than expected. One of the two teams that took the field tonight looked like a team that had zero offseason organized team activities or minicamps, and was struggling to play catch up, while the other looked halfway decent for the first preseason game. Unfortunately, the Ravens were the former.

The Ravens put on a display of football worthy of the highschool-esque production team and camera crew broadcasting the game in the B’More area. Let’s review our “what to watch for” from the other day, and go over what we saw:

Offensive Line

Oneil Cousins made the start at right tackle, and did not play well. On the other side, Michael Oher also struggled mightily, especially in running situations. On the Ravens’ second play, Oher was completely dominated by Trent Cole as he tackled Ray Rice at the line of scrimmage. I believe “bench pressed” was how Qadry Ismail described it, and he wasn’t wrong.

Rice again carried from the Eagles’ 31 yard line on a 1st-and-10, and Dennis Pitta and Oher both stood blocking nobody while their left side completely collapsed and Rice was stuffed for a 6-yard loss.

Of course, there were several false starts as well, one by Cousins when the Ravens were trying to go for it on 4th-and-2. After the penalty, they were forced to punt.

Jah Reid played the majority of the second and third quarters, and seemed to hold his own…but he had not one, but two false start penalties.

You’ll fit right in, Jah.

Wide Receiver/Passing Game

The Ravens made two plays in the passing game, and neither was particularly impressive. Dennis Pitta’s catch on the first play was spectacular, but the throw from Joe Flacco left much to be desired, as Pitta had to reach behind himself and over his defender to bring it in. Ray Rice’s 27-yard grab on the Ravens’ first 3rd down attempt was nice to watch, but was more the result of some completely busted Eagles’ coverage than anything great Joe or Ray did.

The first team offense did nothing else in the passing game. Only one throw went Anquan Boldin’s way, an incompletion on a crossing route that would have been wiped out by an illegal formation call anyway, had it been caught.

Torrey Smith was nowhere to be found.

Tandon Doss had 3 catches for 26 yards, but none came while working with the first team offense.

Joe Flacco’s final play of the game looked exactly like WAY too many plays of his last year…drop back on 3rd down, nobody open, happy feet, attempt to step up, take a sack.

Not many positives here.

Backup Quarterback


Tyrod Taylor was absolutely horrific on Thursday night. His final line: 19/28 for 179 yards and 2 interceptions. He should have had three interceptions. His first pass in an NFL game was picked off.

Taylor also had six carries for 59 yards, which is cool if you’re into your quarterback doing that sort of thing.

The silver lining is that hopefully this will force the Ravens’ brass into going out and signing an ACTUAL backup quarterback here soon, and they’ll stop with all this “Tyrod Taylor can be our backup” nonsense. No, he can’t.

If Joe Flacco gets hurt for any significant amount of time, the Ravens’ season is screwed. There are no quarterbacks on the market who can take the Ravens to the Super Bowl – or even the postseason – should Flacco go down. However, there are guys out there who can keep the team afloat should Flacco be forced out for a series, a quarter, or even a game or two.

Tyrod Taylor? Not that guy. Let the search for a real backup begin.

Sergio Kindle

Kindle, unfortunately, didn’t do much to impress either. He had two tackles, but both came after his teammates whiffed on earlier attempts (more below). I suppose the good news is that Kindle went out there in an NFL game and took some hits, and seems to be no worse for the wear. Let’s hope #94 continues to stay healthy and becomes a contributor in purple this season.

Billy Cundiff

Yeah, Billy can still kick it really far. He connected on 34 and 53 yard field goals, but missed wide left on a 55 yard attempt. He also booted all three of his kickoffs for touchbacks.

That concludes the “what we watched for” categories. If I was to put together a “what we saw” list, it would have to include, in big bold letters, this: MISSED TACKLES

It was just a horrific display of tackling by the Ravens, from the first teamers all the way down to the guys that will be cut before their jerseys are even cleaned. Hopefully it was just a byproduct of the shortened practices and rust from the offseason, but I can’t even count how many times the Ravens whiffed on what should have been sure-thing wrap ups in the backfield or near the line of scrimmage. More often than not, these misses led to big plays and extended drives. Priority #1 for Chuck Pagano moving forward needs to be to get this problem cleared up, and soon.

Speaking of Pagano, I have a bone to pick with him as well.  We’ve been hearing all preseason from the media how Pagano is much more aggressive than his predecessor, Greg Mattison. Well, early on in this game, we were treated to a huge contradiction of these assertions.  On the Eagles’ opening drive, after Jason Avant’s potential touchdown reception was upheld as incomplete, Philly faced 3rd-and-goal from the Ravens’ 3-yard line.  While the drive to that point had been a disaster for the Ravens, they could have saved some significant face (not to mention points) by holding the Eagles to a field goal there. Unfortuantely, Pagano took a page from the Greg Mattison playbook and called for a 3-man rush in that situation.  The result, of course, was an easy touchdown for the Eagles.

WTF, Pagano?

We were led to believe that the 3-man rush was a thing of the past, yet…here it was, allowing touchdowns just like it did in New England and elsewhere in 2010.


The next game is Friday August 19, at M&T Bank Stadium against “Ravens West” – the Kansas City Chiefs. As we welcome Kelly Gregg, Le’Ron McClain, and Jared Gaither back to Baltimore, let’s hope the guys can figure some things out up in Owings Mills between now and then.

Because damn…that was ugly.


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