Archive for the ‘Ravens Game Recaps’ Category

Ravens 30 Chiefs 7 (The CHIEFS DON'T TURN THE WHAT WHERE, NOW? Game)

January 10, 2011

If that title sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same one I used for THIS game. The Ravens’ 30-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday was eerily reminiscent of the Ravens’ 27-9 win over the Miami Dolphins in the 2008 Wild Card game. As shown in the above graphic, taken from the CBS broadcast yesterday, the Dolphins were fresh off a season in which they set the modern record for fewest turnovers in a season (broken this year by New England).

Miami had turned the ball over just 13 times in 16 games.

The Ravens proceeded to take the ball from Chad Pennington and company five times.

Kansas City was just one worse than that in 2010, turning the ball over 14 times in 16 games. The Ravens went into Arrowhead and intercepted Matt Cassel three times, and recovered two more Kansas City fumbles. Only the tuck rule saved the Chiefs’ from their sixth turnover of the contest.

Although the Ravens again sputtered in the red zone (2/5), the simple fact that the defense kept giving the offense the ball time and again led to the Ravens’ second largest margin of victory of 2010. Everyone was whining a week ago about how the Ravens were the only team to limp into the postseason. Well, they shut us all up by posting the only blowout of Wild Card weekend. While the other three contests had an average margin of victory of 3.7 points, the Ravens blew the Chiefs completely out of the water, winning by 23 points, their most since winning by 24 in Carolina in Week 11.

In addition to the turnovers, the other main storyline of this game was the performance of Joe Flacco. Flacco, while compiling a 3-2 postseason record going into yesterday, had nonetheless been lackluster in the NFL’s “second season.” In his wins, he had done just enough, and in the losses, he had been awful. His 265 yards easily bested his previous high of 189 (and also set a new Ravens’ postseason record), and his two touchdown passes doubled the number he had accumulated through his first five playoff appearances.

Flacco completed 73.5% of his passes, and utilized the middle of the field more than we have ever seen from the third year signal caller. Joe basically carried the offense on his shoulders for the game’s first three quarters, during which the Ravens could find zero running room for Ray Rice or Willis McGahee. “Joe Vick” was on display at times, as Flacco scrambled around nicely and also ran 7 times for 26 yards, picking up several first downs with his feet.

Cam Cameron showed some new looks on offense – I can’t remember seeing the “trips right” formation any time in recent memory – and although I would have liked to see at least one screen pass to Ray Rice, they still did a good job of getting #27 the ball in space so he could do his thing (his thing being, of course, picking up first downs). After a few early near disasters throwing the ball to the sidelines, the Ravens changed things up and instead picked the middle of the Chiefs’ defense apart. Todd Heap did most of the damage, with 10 catches for 108 yards. It was The Stormin’ Mormon’s first 100-yard performance since 2005. Also encouraging for Ravens fans was that Anquan Boldin got involved again, catching 5 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, his most production since Week 13 against Pittsburgh.

It wasn’t a perfect performance by Joe – Flacco held onto the ball too long a couple times, as he is wont to do, and also missed seeing an open Boldin for what would have been a third-down conversion. In addition, he put the ball on the ground twice. His first fumble likely cost the Ravens a touchdown, when he mishandled Matt Birk’s snap on 1st-and-goal from the Chiefs’ 1-yard line on the game’s opening drive (the Ravens would ultimately be forced to settle for a field goal three plays later.) It looked on the replay like, had he secured the ball, Joe would have been able to fall over the goal line. Fortunately, he was at least able to recover that fumble, of which the same cannot be said of his second of the day. Joe was stripped by Tamba Hali (or “Haloti Ngata” according to Bill Cowher in the pregame show), who fell on the ball and gave the Chiefs possession. Two plays after the fumble, Jamaal Charles sprinted 41 yards for the Chiefs’ only points of the day.

Charles was very effective, with nine carries for 82 yards. For a minute, it looked like the Ravens were going to have no answer for the former track star. However, all it took was Terrence “Mount” Cody pulling a Tony Siragusa-Rich Gannon on Charles, and he was never really the same. Cody fell full-weight on the Chiefs’ runner, after knocking the ball out for the Ravens’ first of their five turnovers.

That was a key play in the game. The Ravens had just punted the ball back to Kansas City, trailing 7-3, and the Chiefs were again on the move, having driven from their own 14-yard line to the Ravens’ 48 – mostly on the legs of Charles. After that fumble though, Kansas City would never again threaten to get on the board (they had zero red zone trips on the day).

On the Chiefs’ next drive, Ed Reed (who doesn’t hit any more) provided the exclamation point.

The Ravens drove 80 yards to go up 10-7 at the half, and the game was effectively in the books.

Matt Cassel should go back to the Little League World Series. That guy was a scared turtle all afternoon. Once the Chiefs were forced to pass to try to get back in the game, they didn’t have a chance. His second interception, to Dawan Landry, came after he had spent about 15 minutes scanning the field, as the Ravens generated next to no pass rush on the play. His favorite receiver, Dwayne Bowe, was completely shut out – much credit has to go to Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, and Josh Wilson for that, but I have to think a big part of it was Cassel being intimidated by the presence of Ed Reed.

Reed was given the game ball by Derrick Mason in the post game locker room, and was extremely emotional in stating that his missing brother “would want to beat Pittsburgh.”

Beating Pittsburgh is next on the agenda for the Ravens.

For us, it means an eighth Steelers Hate Week in the last two years. Should be fun.

Ravens 13 Bengals 7 (The GOING IN WITH A WHIMPER Game)

January 3, 2011

I won’t be one of these insufferable goofs who says that the Ravens are “the worst” 12-4 team ever or somesuch nonsense. No “bad” team wins 12 games in the NFL, and every team that wins 12 or more games in a season has at least some amount of luck sprinkled in throughout the campaign.

What I will say is this – the Ravens are perhaps one of the LEAST INSPIRING 12-4 teams in recent memory. Let’s look around the league at some of the other games featuring teams headed to the postseason against teams that will be playing golf next week:

Steelers 41 Browns 9
Jets 38 Bills 7
Patriots 38 Dolphins 7
Falcons 31 Panthers 10

Four games won by an average of nearly 29 points.

And then we have our game – Ravens 13 Bengals 7. A game that went down to the wire. A game that the Ravens only won because Cincy turned the ball over five times. A game that still required a last second head-scratching throw by Carson Palmer from the Ravens 2-yard line on 4th-and-goal resulting in an incompletion.

When those other teams were all making statements, rolling into the Playoffs with a good head of steam, the Ravens were struggling with the basement-dwelling Bungles, getting outgained 395-199 on their own field, and looking woefully inept on offense and average at best on defense.

Of course, there was another Playoff team in the AFC that had a much worse day than the Ravens, and it just so happens to be the one that they will see in next week’s Wild Card game. The Kansas City Chiefs were completely dominated by the Oakland Raiders, who handed Kansas City their first loss in Arrowhead all season, 31-10. With the Steelers’ decimation of Cleveland, it was that Chiefs’ loss, combined with a late Adam Vinatieri field goal that lifted the Colts over the Titans, which dictated that the Ravens will now travel to Kansas City in round 1, as opposed to again going to Indianapolis.

It’s easier to look forward after yesterday, because looking back is, for the most part, just cringe-inducing. The Ravens were ugly on both sides of the ball.

Offense:

  • 2/11 on 3rd down
  • Time of possession – 25:18
  • 3.6 yards per rushing play
  • Four sacks allowed
  • Two turnovers
  • Four three-and-outs
  • Four false start penalties (at HOME)
  • Seven punts
  • Stuffed on 2nd-and-1 and 3rd-and-1 with under 2:00 to play and a chance to run out the clock

Defense:

  • Zero sacks on 45 passing plays
  • Allowed 7/17 on 3rd-down conversions
  • Allowed 395 total yards
  • Cincy time of possession – 34:42

To be fair, the defense did some OK things as well.  First and foremost, Ed Reed.  The man is just incredible.  His two interceptions (for the second straight game) give him 8 for the season, which leads the entire NFL.  Ed Reed leading the NFL in picks is nothing new, but the difference is that this year he did it while playing in only 10 games.  Tied for second are Devin McCourtey of New England, Troy Polamalu of Pittsburgh, and Asante Samuel of Philadelphia, who each had seven interceptions, and played in 16, 14, and 11 games, respectively.

In addition, the defense is to be commended for allowing only 7 points despite being on the field for nearly 35 minutes, as well as for causing five turnovers.

Flacco was an accurate 14/19, but for only 125 yards.  He threw another interception and no touchdowns, bringing his total for the season to 1 score and 5 picks against Cincy, who continues to confound him.  The offensive line was awful, and gave Joe very little time whenever he dropped back, but Flacco again looked slow and confused against the Bengals’ defense.  His interceptions to Todd Heap was a result of the ball coming out about two seconds later than it needed to, and we saw none of the pocket mobility that he had started to show in previous weeks.

Speaking of the o-line, they weren’t much better run-blocking.  Ray Rice found himself running into walls of orange all afternoon on his way to just 77 yards on 20 carries.  Absent from the game plan again were the screen passes to Rice (although there was a very nice one to Todd Heap), or any attempts to get him the ball in space.  For much of the afternoon, Rice was forced to help block, due to the aforementioned ineptitude of the o-line.

Derrick Mason came out after the game and basically admitted that many of the players are frustrated with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s play-calling (Ray Rice was visibly annoyed a few times Sunday), but stated that his teammates need to just suck it up and run the play that is called.

“I guess that has to be the theme of the playoffs — whatever is being called, we have to make it work,” Mason said. “We can no longer point the finger. We’ve got to make it work as an offensive unit. There’s no more excuses because excuses are going to get you beat. The teams that make excuses are going to have to sit at home next week, so we can’t make anymore excuses. Whatever play is called, we’ve got to make it work, so you can’t blame Cam [Cameron]. Whatever it is, we have to make it work.”

Unfortunately, the Ravens are dealing with some injury concerns coming out of this closely contested divisional game.  Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed, Josh Wilson, Dannell Ellerbe, and Michael Oher all left the game at various points yesterday, not to return.  The hope here is that all (or at least most) of those guys could have returned to game, but were held out for precautionary purposes once it became clear that the Ravens’ hopes of winning the AFC North were being summarily dismissed in Cleveland.  In fact, after the game, Harbaugh stated that Oher and Ngata could have returned.  Reed’s injury is to the rib area, and he said that he would need to talk to team doctors before knowing the severity.

The Ravens’ offensive struggles also denied Billy Cundiff another opportunity to set the NFL touchbacks record.  Cundiff tied the record when he booted his 40th of the season after Ray Rice’s 7-yard touchdown.  That score was the team’s final one of the day, despite coming with over 20 minutes of game clock remaining.

Let’s not let Sunday’s game get us too down about the team’s chances for postseason success, though.  If you remember last year, the Ravens struggled to beat the Oakland Raiders in Week 17, and then subsequently went to New England and destroyed the Patriots a week later.  Scan your memory bank even further and think back to Week 17 of the 2000 season – the Ravens had an ugly win against the New York Jets, and Vinny Testaverde threw for 481 yards against the best defense of all time.  The Ravens would barely allow that many yards passing combined over the next four games on their way to a victory in Super Bowl XXXV.

As much as it may not feel like it, the Ravens have still managed to put together a nice little four game winning streak following the gut-punch against Pittsburgh, and are a very respectable 7-2 since the bye week.  Let’s also remind ourselves that even if they had beaten the Bengals 35-0, they would still be going to the same place – Arrowhead – Sunday at 1 pm.  The postseason is here, every team is 0-0, and anybody can get hot and on a roll at this point.  Also on the bright side, there is very little chance that the Ravens will have to face #18 in blue on their way to Dallas.  Brady or Roethlisberger certainly, but no Manning.

Standing in the way first are Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles, and the Kansas City Chiefs.  Let’s hope our walking wounded get healthy over the next six days and go into Kansas City and make us forget all about the Bengals debacle.

Ravens 20 Browns 10 (The ED REED IS ON FIRE Game)

December 27, 2010

Another week, another run-of-the-mill not overly impressive win for the Ravens. After seeing them beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints a week ago, many expected a thorough beatdown of Cleveland, as they thought this Ravens team had finally “turned the corner.” However, that’s just not who this team is, and, as I correctly predicted, this game was far from a blowout.

Which isn’t to say that the Browns ever REALLY threatened the Ravens on Sunday. Their only touchdown of the day was not only very questionable (as to whether or not the ball was actually caught), but it was scored on a rinky-dink trick play. Brian Robiskie’s 29-yard touchdown reception that put the Browns up 7-0 in the first quarter was not thrown by quarterback Colt McCoy, but by fellow wideout Mohamed Massaquoi. Cleveland was pulling out all the stops in trying to prevent the Ravens from clinching their third consecutive playoff berth and steal a win. From the aforementioned WR-reverse-pass to Wildcat plays with Joshua Cribbs and an onsides kick attempt to start the second half.

The Ravens never pulled away from Cleveland, which will be sure to have some fans whining this week. However, as they’ve shown us time and again in 2010, that’s just not what they do. While the New England Patriots were decimating the Buffalo Bills 34-3 on their way to locking up the AFC’s #1 seed, the Ravens were producing just another workmanlike win as they clinched a spot of their own. The game plan was much simpler going into Cleveland, on both sides of the ball, then the one we saw a week ago against New Orleans. Less blitzing on defense, far fewer screen passes and complicated running plays on offense, and a lot more vanilla, “we can beat these guys straight up” tactics from Cam Cameron and Greg Mattison.

It wasn’t pretty, but in the end, the result is the same at 20-10 as it would have been at 40-6 – the Ravens finish the season with a respectable 5-3 road record, and still have a chance to win the AFC North title and get a first round playoff bye going into Week 17. Wax ecstatic all you want about their lack of “killer instinct” or whatever other nonsense, but don’t forget to take a moment to celebrate the franchise-first accomplishment that Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh have managed, in making the post-season in three consecutive years.

Speaking of Flacco, while his numbers were very pedestrian (12/19 102 yards), he threw two beautiful touchdown passes, was sacked only once, and also had several nice scrambles in racking up 16 yards and two first downs with his feet on plays where it looked like he was dead in the water. And not to mention he tied Ben Roethlisberger for second all-time for wins in his first three seasons as a starter, and joined Dan Marino and Bernie Kosar as the only QBs ever to make the playoffs in their first three years. Unfortunately, he broke out his old friend the “back foot floater” after keeping it under wraps for much of the season. His lone interception of the day, a lame duck intended for Anquan Boldin that was picked off by Joe Haden, was ill-advised and unfortunate.

It didn’t matter much though, because Flacco’s opposite number, McCoy, was far more eager to throw the ball to the wrong team than Joe was. Led by Ed Reed (two interceptions), the Ravens picked McCoy off three times (Lardarius Webb had the other), and caused a total of four turnovers on the afternoon. It was nice to see Jameel McClain scoop up Massaquoi’s second quarter fumble, as those bounces have been going against the Ravens all season. Despite forcing 20 fumbles, that was just the fifth that the Ravens have managed to recover on defense or special teams. That play set up Flacco’s first touchdown strike, a 15-yard bullet to T.J. Houshmandzadeh that beat double coverage, just three plays later.

For Reed, it was his tenth career game with two or more interceptions (but presumably the first game during which he managed to catch his jacket on fire.)

In addition to ruling the air, the Ravens ruled the ground as well.  Ray Rice had 92 yards rushing and Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain added on 34 and 19, respectively, in addition to Flacco’s 16.  In all, the Ravens ran 38 times for 162 yards, another strong performance that bodes well going into the postseason.

On defense, the Ravens backed up their big talk, suffocating Peyton Hillis for just 35 yards on 12 carries.  The Browns had 102 total yards rushing, but many of those were from McCoy (30), and running back Mike Bell (7 carries 27 yards).  Their season average will take a slight hit, but anyone watching the game could clearly see that the Ravens stuffed Cleveland time and again, and did not allow them to get anything established on the ground.

The most disturbing statistic to come out of the game for the Ravens’ defense was their inability to get off the field on third down.  They allowed Cleveland to convert 7/11 3rd-down opportunities, and that 63% failure rate cannot continue moving forward.  That it came against the Browns was even worse, as they had managed only six 3rd down conversions TOTAL over their previous three games.

On offense, third down was a concern as well.  Third and very short continues to trouble this team.  Rice picked up a 3rd-and-1 in the first quarter, but was stuffed on the same down and distance in the third.  Le’Ron McClain was 2/2 on 2nd-and-1 conversions, so hopefully “Pain Train” can be a short-yardage asset moving forward.

On the bright side, the Ravens were penalized only once all day for five yards, and that was an intentional encroachment to give Harbaugh time to decide whether or not to challenge the Massaquoi touchdown pass.  Michael Oher didn’t even jump the snap once!  Congrats, Big Mike.  Keep up the good work.

Special teams had a rough day.  Not only did Billy Cundiff not manage a single touchback (his first such game of the season), leaving him three shy of a new NFL record, but long snapper Morgan Cox tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.  The Ravens will sign a new LS this week.

Annoyingly, it doesn’t look like the Cincinnati Bengals are ready to pack it in for the offseason.  The Bungles knocked off the San Diego Chargers yesterday, knocking them out of the playoff hunt.  The Ravens need to beat Cincy at home next week, while hoping that Cleveland’s tricks are more effective against Pittsburgh than they were against us.  Otherwise, it’s back on the road (looks like Kansas City or, ugh, Indianapolis) for round one of the playoffs.

Ravens 30 Saints 24 (The HEY, WE CAN STILL RUN THE BALL! Game)

December 20, 2010

Geaux Saints!

Geaux…the F home, that is.

The Ravens sent the defending Super Bowl Champs home losers yesterday, ending New Orleans’ six-game winning streak and starting a modest two-gamer of their own in the process.

It was old-school Baltimore Ravens football on the offensive side of the ball.  Cam Cameron fought every instinct he has and tossed his pass-happy playbook out the window – for this week anyway – and came into the game with the mindset that the team was going to run the ball like it was 2008 all over again.  They did exactly that, as the offensive line stepped up and created holes, Joe Flacco tied his career low for completions in a regular season game (10 – Week 14 2008 against Washington), and little Ray Rice exploded and ruled the day.

As the Ravens ran their first play on offense, the FOX announcer (not Billick, the other guy) stated that “the running game has been virtually non-existent” for B’More.  It was to be quite existent on this day, however.

Rice put up 153 yards on the ground against the Saints, a season high.  He also had 31 carries, another season high.  Perhaps more importantly, he averaged 4.9 yards per carry, his highest since Week 10 at Atlanta.  Rice had averaged under 4 yards per carry in four of the previous six games.  Mighty Mouse also added five receptions for 80 yards and his first receiving touchdown of the year, on a beautifully thrown ball from Joe Flacco on 3rd-and-10 from the New Orleans 17-yard line.

Rice, who has frustrated fantasy football owners all season long, rewarded those who kept believing in him in their league playoffs, likely sending many a fantasy owner to their championship games with his career high 233 yards.

While the game plan may not have made the Ravens’ wide receivers very happy, Anquan Boldin (1 catch, 2 yards), Derrick Mason (1 catch, 42 yards), and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (1 catch, 15 yards) should be commended for outstanding downfield blocking that made many of Rice’s long gains on runs and screen passes possible.

Willis McGahee got in on the action too, with 53 yards on only seven carries.  Le’Ron “Ankle Sprain” McClain opened up holes too, but also robbed Flacco out of what should have been his 3rd touchdown pass of the day with a hideous “windmill” catch attempt.

All told, this Ravens’ team that entered the game averaging just 104.9 yards on the ground per game pounded the Saints for nearly twice that.  B’More racked up 208 rushing yards, and averaged 5.3 yards per rushing play.  That efficiency translated into a 31:30-29:30 time of possession advantage for the game.  Not extremely significant, but when playing an explosive offense like the New Orleans Saints – especially when they are making the kind of amazing circus catches they seemed to be all afternoon Sunday – every second that the defense isn’t on the field counts.

And damn, did those Saints make some catches.  Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes on the day, and Jimmy Graham’s rather routine 1-yard catch in the third quarter was bookended by two amazing grabs.  The first, also by Graham, gave the Saints a short-lived 7-0 lead.  Brees’ final touchdown of the day came on a pass that was intended for Marques Colston, but was tipped and instead hauled down in the end zone by Lance Moore, who expertly tiptoed between the sideline and endline to tie the game at 24 early in the fourth quarter.

Despite leading 21-7 in the second, the Ravens again found themselves tied in the game’s final stanza.

Unlike so many prior instances this year though, both the offense and defense stepped up to secure a slightly less heart attack-inducing victory.  Although the offense again failed to score a touchdown in the second half – the fifth straight game in which that has been the case – they put up three field goals, which ended up being more than enough.  They immediately responded to New Orleans tying the game, as the Ravens’ first offensive play after the N.O. touchdown was Ray Rice’s season-long 50-yard run (accented by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the Saints after the play).

Just as the offense was vintage, the defense too resembled a Ravens team of yore.  After pulling our hair out watching 3-man rush after 3-man rush in Houston, Ravens fans were treated to a much more pressure-heavy defense against New Orleans.  The Ravens sacked Drew Brees three times and harassed him all day, forcing the Saints into a season-worst 5/13 on third downs.  Without rookie running back Chris Ivory, the Saints were unable to run the ball at all, managing just 27 yards on 14 carries (1.9 average).

It was good to see linebacker Dannell Ellerbe finally get back on the field.  Ellerbe, active for just the second time since the bye week (another rumored member of the infamous John Harbaugh “doghouse”), had five tackles and a sack, and looked fresh and effective throughout.  Fellow linebacker Tavares Gooden played perhaps his best game as a Raven.  Although he didn’t make it to the stat sheet, Gooden was extremely effective as a blitzer, forcing Brees into several uncomfortable throws and scrambles.  Greg Mattison may be on to something using Gooden, who has great speed for a LB but not ideal size, as a pass rusher more often.

It looked like the Saints might be poised to break Baltimore’s heart, taking over down by 6 from their own 4-yard line with 2:51 to play.  Not only were the Texans’ two 90-plus yard drives still fresh in our minds, but the Saints had already marched 92 yards in under three minutes in the second quarter.

This time though, the defense produced a stop when it counted most.

The Saints would make it just 13 yards, to their own 17, when Haloti Ngata got a hand up and tipped Brees’ pass on 4th-and-8.  Cory Redding pulled it in for his first career interception (Ray Lewis wasn’t close enough to knock it away from him again, a la the Tampa game) to all but seal the deal.  A Billy Cundiff field goal with seven seconds left gave the Saints time for a desperation lateral-fest on the ensuing kickoff and nothing more.

Speaking of Cundiff, he managed just a single touchback on the afternoon, leaving him three short of tying Mitch Berger’s NFL record of 40 in a single season.

It was a great win for the Ravens, but I’m not as quick to call it a “signature” win or whatever other hyperbole many Ravens fans and analysts are using this week.  The win is only extremely meaningful if they can build off it.  With Pittsburgh losing to the New York Jets Sunday, the Ravens are still very much in the hunt for the AFC North title, providing the Steelers lose at least one of their last two.  If the Ravens go to Cleveland and lay a clunker in Week 16 though, then the Saints win quickly loses much of its luster.

The Houston win could have been the start of something.  Yesterday was a great way to build off that game.  Moving forward, with only games against losing teams – though they are division rivals – left, the Ravens can have great momentum going into the postseason, regardless of whether they end up as a wild card or division winner.

Ravens 34 Texans 28 OT (The JOSH SAVES THE COLLAPSE Game)

December 14, 2010

Former University of Maryland Terrapin Josh Wilson was the hero in Houston, saving the Ravens from what would have arguably been the worst collapse in an important game in the team’s fifteen year history.  The Ravens blew a 28-7 lead, and were up by 15 entering the game’s final period.  However, as has been their M.O. this season, no lead was safe…

Nice company to be in, huh?

Ugh…

Those two ESPN graphics looked to be prescient and incredibly accurate as the Texans scored a touchdown and a 2-point conversion with just 21 seconds remaining in regulation to force the extra period.  With the way the Ravens defense played over the final quarter, overtime looked to be just a formality in what was to be another Ravens’ collapse and Texans’ come-back win.

Luckily, Josh Wilson stepped up to preserve the win for the good guys.

Let’s dive into this one a bit…

No blowout

With 14:30 to go in the third quarter, this game looked to finally be the complete dominant game that Ravens fans have been waiting for all season.  The offense had already put up 21 points, and touchdowns on two of their final three possessions of the half.  The defense had held the Texans’ high-powered attack to just a single score, a touchdown on a hurry-up drive to end the second quarter.  And kick returner David Reed set the franchise record for longest kickoff return with his 103-yard touchdown to start the second half.  Life was good in Purple Paradise.

Slowly but surely though, the wheels came off.  Again.

Letting them back in it

In fact, Reed’s kick return touchdown may have been a bit of a blessing and a curse.  Instead of a two-score game, the Houston Texans suddenly found themselves trailing by a full three touchdowns.  With any minute hopes of postseason play – and likely, their coach’s job – fading before their eyes, they developed a “nothing to lose” mentality.  They were forced to throw the ball, and be aggressive.  And with weapons like Houston has – wide receiver Andre Johnson, running back Arian Foster, tight end Owen Daniels – they are very capable of putting up points in bunches, which is just what they did.

On the ensuing possession after the kick return, Houston faced 4th-and-3 at the Ravens’ 41.  In a 21-7 game, they probably punt there.  Trailing 28-7 though, they were forced to go for it.  They converted, and seven plays later a Neil Rackers field goal made the score 28-10.

Then came the wonderful Cam Cameron “playing from ahead” offense.

This was a great tweet from Tony Lombardi of Ravens 24×7 during the game:

The Ravens next offensive play was a Ray Rice run for no gain.  After that, a nine-yard sack of Joe Flacco.  Two plays, and the drive was effectively over, as they faced a 3rd-and-19 at their own 13-yard line.  A 12-yard pass to Rice would be the Ravens’ final play of the quarter until he ran for 4 yards on the period’s last play.

In the entire third quarter, the Ravens offense ran 4 plays (not including the punt) for 7 yards.

Still, they led 28-13, so things were looking alright.

Defense gassed

Although they were on the field for about 13 minutes in the third quarter, the Ravens’ defense gave up only two field goals.  However, all that time on the field would result in some cumulative fatigue.  As a result, those third quarter field goals turned into fourth quarter touchdowns for Houston.

The offense again sputtered, picking up just two first downs before giving the ball back to the Texans. Five minutes and fifteen plays later, the score was 28-20.

The Ravens’ defense was struggling, and obviously needed a break before being sent back out on the field.

Then things really got weird.

More odd clock management

Last year, Ravens fans were frustrated with the way John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco managed timeouts and the clock in the final minutes of halves and games.  The Ravens’ two-minute drill was terribly ineffective in 2009, and many of us felt that just from having played Madden for a few years,  we better understood how to manipulate the game clock to our advantage than the Ravens did.

Obviously, that’s ridiculous.  But so is the way Harbaugh used…and continues to use…timeouts.

For whatever reason, those situations have been more rare in 2010 – the Ravens haven’t had too many occasions where they’ve had to run a two-minute drill and put up points. The first Pittsburgh game comes to mind, but that’s about it.

However, the Ravens’ coaches’ questionable decision-making with regards to clock management have reared their ugly head in other areas.  Last week, it was Cam Cameron’s decision to pass the ball on 2nd-and-5 in the game’s final minutes, resulting in Troy Polamalu’s sack-fumble and a Steelers win.  Last night, a similar situation presented itself.

The Ravens led 28-20 with 2:58 remaining in the game, and faced a 3rd down and 2 at the Texans’ 44-yard line.  Houston had just burned their final timeout of the half.  A first down here would seal the game for the Ravens.  However, failing that, just keeping the clock running would be the next best thing – a 1-yard run would result in a 4th down, but the Ravens could have taken the clock down to about 2:10, and then either used a timeout or taken a 5-yard delay of game penalty, punted, and pinned the Texans deep with two minutes to drive the length of the field, and – at best – a single stop of the clock from the two-minute warning.

Ravens Nation was screaming – RUN THE BALL.

Did Cam run the ball? Of course not. Incomplete pass, clock stops, and now Houston takes possession with 2:42 to go.  They would go 95 yards and score with, again, 21 seconds left.  The Ravens could have taken 40 seconds off the clock by running on 3rd-and-2.  You do the math.

When asked after the game about the decision to pass, John Harbaugh responded with some nonsense about “not thinking about the clock there,” and that “we wanted the first down.”  Really coach, NOT thinking about the clock at all? Your biggest ally at that point in the game?  Yeah, that’s not asinine or anything.

And did the rules change? You can’t get a first down by running?

“It’s all Cam’s fault,” is still a popular mantra in Baltimore today, even with the Ravens’ win.

Taking them with you?

As odd as the decision to run the ball on 3rd-and-2 was, the coaches’ use of timeouts down the stretch was even stranger.  As mentioned, the defense was GASSED.  They had nothing left.

Greg Mattison is being criticized today for his 3-man rush late in the game today.  There is some merit to that, however, there are other circumstances to examine.  It’s widely understood that the most exhausting thing to do in football is rush the passer.  Matt Schaub threw 62 passes in the game, the great majority of which were in the second half.  The Ravens didn’t have anybody with enough energy to blitz.  This was never more painfully obvious than when, with 1:07 to go, Schaub scrambled for eight yards to the Ravens’ 35.  On the play, Jarret Johnson was giving chase, but Schaub – who runs something like a 5.5 40 – looked like Mike Vick running from the tired J.J.

The defense had nothing left.  What the team did have left was timeouts.  Two of them, to be exact.  Twice in the final minute the Texans stopped the clock – once by running out of bounds and once with a spike.  Two opportunities for the Ravens to use a timeout and give their defense a breather while not “helping the Texans out” at all by stopping the clock.  They chose not to, for whatever reason.

I’m shocked that one of the players – especially an Ed Reed or Ray Lewis – didn’t look around at their exhausted teammates and say “f this, coach,” and take a timeout on their own accord.

Now, with 21 seconds remaining, the score is 28-26.  A stop on the two-point conversion try can still win the game.  With 21 seconds, any dreams of having time after the kickoff to move down the field and get into field goal range are out of the question.  These timeouts can do absolutely no good after this play. You can’t take them with you into overtime.

WHY NOT CALL A TIMEOUT AND REGROUP FOR THE 2-POINT TRY? YOU CAN STILL WIN THE GAME HERE!

This decision still boggles my mind.

The real hero


With all due respect to Wilson, perhaps the real hero of the game is Cory Redding.  Redding stood at midfield before the overtime period, and correctly guessed “tails” on the coin flip.  Had the Ravens lost the toss, I have no doubt that we would be talking about an 8-5 team today.  The utterly pooped Ravens’ defense was not going to go back out there and stop Houston, not without at least a small break.

Tails gave them that break.

With a chance to go win the game, the offense of course failed again.  They did at least pick up a first down and hold the ball for three minutes.  Apparently, that was all the defense needed.

In the two plays that they were on the field in OT, the Ravens got great pressure with four rushers on Schaub.  It was Haloti Ngata harassing him in his own end zone that caused the errant pass from Schaub that ended the game.

Thanks for the drops

This recap is getting a bit too lengthy, so I’ll cut it short and save some other observations (terrible O-line play, great special teams) for a later post.  However, any analysis of this game can’t ignore the fact that the Texans started the game unable to catch a cold.

Texans’ receivers dropped five or six passes in the first half, which went a huge way in allowing the Ravens to build the 21 point lead that, in the end, they needed every bit of.

Thanks for being terrible at catching, Texans.

Now the Ravens come back home to face the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints, who are finally getting healthy and seem to be hitting their stride as the season comes to a close.

Fun fun.

Goob's Instant Reaction – Ravens/Texans

December 14, 2010

Here’s Goob Theoharris with his instant reaction to the Ravens’ near-crushing defeat at the hands of the Houston Texans.  The Ravens blew a huge second half lead and needed an overtime pick six from Josh Wilson to escape Reliant Stadium with the win.  Here’s an irate Goob:

Note: Goob’s anger/inebriation caused him to take some liberties with NFL history here a bit.  When he talks about Drew Brees “sitting on the bench” (1:30, 3:32), he’s mistaken.  Brees, when he was with the San Diego Chargers and Cam Cameron was the offensive coordinator, was the starter for his final four seasons.  What Goob had meant to say was a point that has been brought up a lot recently in Baltimore; that is, that Brees as well as Philip Rivers really only flourished once Cam was gone from San Diego.  Please excuse him for making things up.  Thanks.


Steelers 13 Ravens 10 (The HALOTI BREAKS BEN'S NOSE, BEN BREAKS OUR HEARTS Game)

December 6, 2010

Crimson silver lining? Meh.

Once again, the Pittsburgh Steelers made plays in the fourth quarter to win the game.

And the Baltimore Ravens did not.

For all the hand-wringing, critiquing of Joe Flacco’s line-of-scrimmage presence, and bitching about Cam Cameron we could do, it all pretty much comes down to those two irrefutable facts.  Two facts that have come to characterize this rivalry over the last half-decade, especially when #7 is lined up under center for the bad guys.

This one hurts.

Hopefully, the Ravens will bounce back and win at least three of their remaining four games.  Dreams of a home playoff game are pretty much just that at this point.  But after last night’s performance, what confidence do you really have that this team is, or was ever, a legitimate Super Bowl contender?  We had waited and waited for them to finally put up the kind of offensive performance that we all hope they’re capable of.  Then, last night, when the time couldn’t have been better – the Pittsburgh Steelers were ripe for the picking – our great-on-paper offense managed a measly ten points.  TEN POINTS.

Ooooh, but it was the vaunted Steelers’ defense.

You know, the one that gave up 20 points to New Orleans. And 21 to the Bengals.  And THIRTY-NINE to the Patriots.  Yeah, that one.

And the Ravens managed but a touchdown and a field goal.  With more than a handful of chances in the third and fourth quarters to go out and win the damn game, the Ravens’ offense sputtered and faltered and looked completely inept.

How absolutely pathetic.

Derrick Mason said it best:

“It’s sad to say, but we’re just not a good offense at times,” Mason said. “We really aren’t. For whatever reason it is, I don’t know. But we’re not a good offense at times. I’m not pointing any fingers at anybody because I’m part of the equation, but we’re just not a good offense at times.”

“I might get crucified for this one, but with all these people we’ve got on offense?” Mason said. “We’re not a good offense at times. Just call it how you see it. Call a spade a spade. If we were a good offense, we’d move the ball up and down the field. Especially with the people we have and the quarterback and the personnel we have. But we’re just not a good offense at times. ,.. We look like the Bad News Bears at times. And I’m a part of it.”

Mason said said several times he wasn’t pointing fingers. And that he shared in whatever blame there was to go around. But it was time to stop making excuses, both for the players and the coaches.

“We’ve just got to come to a point where it’s stop all the [stuff] and play football,” Mason said. “Put some points on the board and not allow teams to come back in the second half, not put the pressure on our defense to have to stop somebody in the last second of the game. Just [put] some points on the board and move forward.”

Mason said it was obvious the offense has putting the defense in an unfair position lately with its second half struggles, and there was no point in denying it anymore.

“I’m tired of playing tough games,” Mason said. “Let’s just go blow somebody out. We’re capable of doing it and we just don’t do it. I don’t know what it is. Nobody says we shouldn’t be able to put up 30 points against a good team. We’re not a good offense at times. I know it gets frustrating for (the defense). It has to. I can see their faces coming off the sideline. They have to get frustrated. We can’t put out defense in that situation.”

And as far as the play that really decided the game – the forced fumble by Troy Polamalu – Terrell Suggs feels the exact same way about it that you, I, and every Ravens fan out there does.

Thank you Sizzle.  He saw it.  We saw it.  What the hell Flacco, Michael Oher, Matt Birk, and the rest of the Ravens’ offensive line were thinking, I’d love to know.

Just a terrible, terrible loss.

Again, all credit to Pittsburgh.  They made the plays in the fourth.  The Ravens did not.  Again.  Same old story.

Ravens 17 Buccaneers 10 (The TODD HEAP JUST OUTRAN PEOPLE!? Game)

November 30, 2010

If I told you that Todd Heap caught a 65-yard touchdown pass, what would you immediately imagine?

Most likely a 2003 vintage Brian Billick “jump ball” type play where Heap simply out leaps about four defenders in the end zone and comes down with the score, right?

Certainly, you wouldn’t picture Heap catching a 25-yard pass and then turning on his “jets” and outrunning an entire secondary for the next 40 yards to paydirt.  Well, that’s exactly what happened in the second quarter on Sunday.  The Bucs forgot to cover Heap, Joe Flacco’s eyes lit up, and he hit “The Stormin’ Mormon” at about the Bucs’ 40 yard line.  From there, instead of what we’re used to seeing from (goes down in a ) HEEEEEEEEEEEAP, Todd made a beeline for the goalline and the longest play of his career put the Ravens up for good.

It was 10-3 at that point, and the Ravens would never look back.  Joe Flacco would find Derrick Mason from 10 yards out on the very next possession, and the 17-3 halftime lead was all B’More would need on this day.

Mason’s touchdown came at the end of half during which he was targeted a ridiculous 14 times by Flacco.  The obvious reaction to this from fans and media alike is that Mason’s tantrum during the fourth quarter of last week’s Carolina game (when he reportedly grabbed Joe’s facemask before teammates separated the two) paid immediate dividends.  John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ official stance was, and will be, simply that the Bucs’ were doubling Anquan Boldin, leaving Mason singled up on his side of the field.

On the surface, this explanation makes some sense.  The FOX broadcast team repeatedly pointed out how Bucs’ CB Aqib Talib was giving Mason a very large cushion, one that the cagey veteran was all too happy to exploit on comeback route after sideline route after hook route in front of Talib, who is extremely talented, but only in his third professional season.

The extent of Talib’s talent was on full display earlier in the second quarter. He jumped in front of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, had Joe Flacco’s pass bounce off his chest initially, then proceeded to cradle the ball between his calves while falling to the ground before pulling it to his chest for the interception and returning it to the Ravens’ 36-yard line.  It was Flacco’s first interception at M&T Bank Stadium since the heartbreaking pick he threw at the end of the Indianapolis game in Week 11 of 2009.

That’s right, it had been over a full calendar year since Joe Flacco threw an interception at home.  Keep hating, haters.

Anyway, back to Mason.  While the company line seems to check out on the surface, one has to wonder if Mason’s demanding of the ball directly impacted the team’s – and more importantly Joe’s – plans going into the game.

The fact is, Cam Cameron is still trying to figure out how to get the ball in the hands of all of the Ravens’ offensive weapons.  Mason wants the rock.  Housh wants the rock.  We saw what a finally healthy Todd Heap can still provide.  And we’ve yet to even mention the team’s big offseason signing, Anquan Boldin.  Boldin was the forgotten man in the first half, but then the very first play of the second was a quick pass to him – so you wonder if #81 may have had some words for his quarterback and/or offensive coordinator during the intermission.

The most frustrating thing for we fans is that, despite all of those aforementioned weapons, the offense continues to bog down time after time.  They only managed two offensive touchdowns in Carolina, and matched that number yesterday.  In fact, the Ravens managed points in only the second quarter Sunday, going scoreless in the first, third, and final periods.  Let’s not take anything away from Tampa’s defense, who were coming off a shutout on the road in San Francisco, but many had hoped that this would be the “epiphany” game that Ravens fans have been waiting for – and had really hoped to see materialize prior to the Pittsburgh contest.

Well, it obviously wasn’t.

In the first quarter, the Ravens squandered some great field position, going scoreless despite starting their second drive on the Tampa 47-yard line.  After starting on the Bucs’ 41, they managed only a 45-yard Billy Cundiff field goal.  On Mason’s touchdown – the team’s second and final of the day – the team would have again been forced to settle for a field goal were it not for an extremely questionable pass interference call that set them up with 1st-and-goal from the 10.

In the second half, they had a 76-yard touchdown on a screen pass to Ray Rice nullified by an illegal block penalty (also highly questionable) on Boldin.  Other than that, they never – NOT ONCE IN THE ENTIRE SECOND HALF – moved the ball even as far as Tampa territory until their final possession, when they were simply trying to run out the clock.  There was absolutely no sense of urgency, and certainly no indications that they were trying to put the game away with another score or two.  The final seven-point margin of victory was the result.

And so, this is the point where we put on our purple glasses, cross our fingers, and hope that the Ravens’ offense is simply “playing possum” going into the critical match up with the Steelers, at which point Cam will UNLEASH THE FURY!

Right?

Ugh…

Anyway, let’s talk defense for a minute.  As worried as we were about LeGarrette Blount running roughshod over the Ravens, they held him largely in check.  The big rookie managed only 55 yards on 13 carries, with a long of 16.  And as nervous as big Josh Freeman had us, the Ravens did a great job of rattling the second-year quarterback, flushing him out of the pocket and making him throw on the run all night long.  Fortunately, he was off the mark far more often than not.  Although they were unable to register a sack, the constant pressure was very encouraging.  This week, they face old nemesis Ben Roethlisberger, who isn’t as fleet-of-foot as Freeman, but who is much more accurate throwing on the move.  They’ll have to do a better job of getting him on the ground than they did with the Bucs’ QB.

On the whole though, it was a strong showing from the defense.  Despite another poor tackling effort (something it appears we’re just going to have to live – and cringe – along with in 2010), the Ravens, for all intents and purposes, held the Bucs to just three points until “junk time.”  Even those three points were set up by the Talib interception, which gave them a short field to work with.

Unfortunately, the win did not come at no cost to the team.  Starters Le’Ron McClain, Dawan Landry, and Michael Oher all left the game with injuries.  Landry sustained a concussion on a vicious hit on Tampa running back Cadillac Williams.  As long as he can pass his concussion tests later in the week, he’ll be good to go Sunday.  Though it looked to be much worse initially, Oher’s injury is being reported – to this point – as simply a sprained knee.  McClain’s injury may be the most serious.  “Pain Train” was blocking on the kick return after the Tampa field goal in the second quarter, when his ankle was rolled up on.  On the play, David Reed brought the ball out from 6 yards deep in the end zone; if he just does as he is most likely taught there – down it for a touchback – McClain’s injury never happens.  Annoying, but that’s the game, and the injury did occur.  With any luck, it’s a run-of-the-mill ankle sprain, and Le’Ron will be back very soon.  With no luck, we’ll be referring to #33 as not “Pain Train” but as Le’Ron “High Ankle Sprain” McClain for who knows how many more weeks.

Let’s hope for a speedy recovery for all three, as a loss of key players couldn’t come at a worse time.

Once again, a Ravens win came with very few style points.  The substance though, of 8-3, cannot be understated.  If they manage another win next Sunday exactly like this one, I’ll be absolutely ecstatic, won’t you?

Ravens 37 Panthers 13 (The DEFENSE AND SPECIAL TEAMS FINALLY SHOW UP Game)

November 23, 2010

Despite leading by just a single touchdown two plays into the fourth quarter, the Ravens dominated the Carolina Panthers over the final ten minutes of play, and two defensive touchdowns gave B’More a comfortable 24 point victory.

The defensive touchdowns were the Ravens’ first two of the 2010 season, an oddity for a unit that has historically had no problem finding the end zone. The first came on an Ed Reed interception (his fourth in four games this year), but it was Dawan Landry who ultimately crossed the goalline, after receiving what may well have been the prettiest lateral of Reed’s lateral-happy career. It looked almost like an offensive option play, the way Reed hit Landry in perfect stride. For all the headaches he induces with those flips of the ball, when it works to perfection like it did yesterday, we hardly have any room to complain.

The second defensive score, on the Panthers’ very next play from scrimmage, was by the other Hall of Famer, Ray Lewis. It was Ray’s first touchdown since 2007 against Cleveland, and his 30th career interception. That puts Ray-Ray into the 30 sack/30 interception “club.” I say “club” in quotes because the only other member is former Patriot Rodney Harrison. Thats right, Lewis and Harrison are the ONLY NFL players to ever amass 30 interceptions and 30 sacks in a career. Watching Lewis get to waltz into the end zone one more time was a great sight for Ravens fans, who know that the sun is (slowly) setting on #52’s time on the field.

While the defense provided the points to finally put the game away, special teams nearly provided the nail in the coffin much earlier in the contest. Rookie David Reed took the opening kickoff of the second half 84 yards to the Carolina 18-yard line. Although he didn’t score on the play, Reed’s return was easily the Ravens’ best of the year, and it looks like the speedy first year player out of Utah has finally brought some stability to the kick return position.

Had the Ravens’ offense been able to capitalize on the great field position, the game would have been effectively over. A touchdown at that point would have put the Ravens up 24-3, and with Brian St. Pierre floundering under center for the Panthers, that would have been all she wrote. Unfortunately, we saw those same old red zone woes rear their ugly head, as Joe Flacco and Co. managed just 3 yards on 3 plays before settling for a 33-yard Billy Cundiff field goal.

It seems like the Ravens’ offense is just completely determined to sleep-walk through at least some portion of games these days. Last week a big deal was made about how they always start so slow in games played outside of M&T Bank Stadium. Well, that problem was solved quickly yesterday, as Flacco hooked up with T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a 56-yard touchdown on the team’s second offensive snap. After one quarter, the Ravens led 10-0, and looked to be moving the ball at will against Carolina’s defense. They racked up 258 yards of offense in the first half, and led 17-3.

Then they went into the locker room at halftime and…

took naps?

got deep tissue massages?

hung out in the sauna for 8 minutes?

Whatever the cause, they came out extremely lethargic after the break, looking nothing like the team that had dominated the first half. Taking possession with 9:40 left in the game, the Ravens had amassed just 63 total yards of offense in the second half.

What was most disappointing to me was their complete inability/refusal to run the ball.

Listen, I’m as big a Joe Flacco fan as you’re going to find. Two and a half years into his tenure, I am as “Wacko for Flacco as ever.” But holding a lead in the second half on the road is the time to pound the football, unleash the offensive linemen, and get “downhill” on your opponent.

Not in the mind of Cam Cameron, I suppose.

In the third quarter, the Ravens ran 17 plays – 12 passes and 5 runs.

That’s playcalling. That’s on the coaching staff.

Those 5 runs went for a total of 18 yards (3.6 ypc).

That’s execution. The blame there goes on the offensive line and running backs.

It’s obvious that this team just doesn’t have the make up or mentality to totally stomp on inferior teams – at least not on offense. While frustrating, that’s not necessarily a fatal flaw. What it is though, is a call for the coaching staff to realize it, and stop trying to keep throwing the ball all over the field when the team is leading. Especially as we get into the colder weather here in December, it would be nice to be reassured that the Ravens have the ability to “take the air out of the ball” when they get up, and use their running game to effectively hold onto leads.

Another sign that the Ravens may not have been 100% into the game mentally was the severe case of “fumbleitis” they experienced throughout the day. It started when Flacco and Rice botched a hand off at the Panthers’ 11-yard line midway through the second quarter (Flacco stated that it was his fault; the play was supposed to be a reverse, not a handoff to Rice). It then continued with normally very sure-handed guys like Anquan Boldin and Todd Heap. On the day, the Ravens put the ball on the ground a total of four times, and lost two of those. With three of their next four games against teams with winning records, those types of things could be detrimental to the Ravens’ chances.

Although they provided the knockout punches, it was hardly a dominant effort overall from the Ravens defense. Third string running back Mike Goodson ran 22 times for 120 yards, including a long of 45 (in fairness, 22 of those came in junk time when John Fox should have had his team taking a knee). It appeared the Ravens had gotten their run defense straightened out after back-to-back strong performances against Miami (to a degree) and Atlanta (vintage Ravens run-stuffing), but the gaping holes were there again yesterday. Against a team whose starting quarterback was literally a stay-at-home dad two weeks ago, and who can do next to nothing (88-yard touchdown passes notwithstanding), there is no excuse for a team to run wild like that. I have some ideas for things the team can try to plug up those holes, and I’ll write about that later in the week. For now though, suffice to say that Tampa Bay running backs LeGarrette Blount and Cadillac Williams will be licking their chops looking at film this week.

The Ravens are now 7-3 – their best record through 10 games in the John Harbaugh era – and have four of their final six games at M&T Bank Stadium, along with two very winnable road games. While Ravens fans seem to be eternal pessimists, the fact of the matter is that everything this team set out to do is still well within their grasp.

Play Like a Raven – Week 10

November 17, 2010

PlayLikeaRayRice

Ray Rice had about as quiet a 100-yard performance as one can ever have on Thursday night. The Ravens offense was again shut out for the first 30 minutes of a road game, and was largely ineffective until very late in the game, but this was not Rice’s fault. Rice had 59 yards on 12 carries (4.9 average) and added another 43 yards on just 3 receptions. This gave him 102 total yards from scrimmage on just 15 touches (6.8 average).

Rice came out very strong, picking up 11 and 13 yards on the Ravens’ first two offensive snaps. It looked to be a very good sign for the B’More offense…but we all know what happened next. Inexplicably, Rice would get just two more touches the entire first half – runs of 5 and -2 yards.

In addition, Rice’s 24-yard screen pass reception on the Ravens’ final drive was both a blessing and a curse. While it did set them up at the Falcons’ 11-yard line with just over a minute remaining in a game that they trailed 20-14…it also set them up at the 11-yard line with over a minute remaining. To that point, the Ravens had shaved nearly two minutes off the clock in the process of moving the ball from their own 28-yard line in 5 plays. Looking back, a more methodical approach was probably necessary, so as to avoid leaving Matt Ryan so much time to answer Todd Heap’s 11-yard touchdown reception.

Not that any of the blame for the loss goes on Ray Rice’s shoulders. Just saying…

Played Like a Raven – Terrell Suggs

T-Sizzle was a man Thursday night. Suggs had two sacks, four hits, and three pressures on Matt Ryan. It was the 11th multi-sack game of Suggs’ career – and the first that the Ravens have lost.

Suggs gets a lot of heat around Baltimore for not putting up the big sack numbers that many tend to associate with the defensive end/linebacker position, especially a guy who is as well paid as Sizzle. However, Suggs is having an outstanding season, and were it not for #55, opposing quarterbacks probably really could have a cup of coffee and a doughnut each and every time they dropped back.

Suggs was flagged for a facemask penalty, a call that was pivotal in Atlanta’s second touchdown of the night – but we’ve already been over what complete BS that was.

Hopefully Suggs can build off his performance from Thursday night, though. As great as it is to have a well-rounded linebacker such as the one he has become, it is becoming more and more obvious that the pass defense really could be the undoing of this team, and some additional contributions from #55 in the pressuring-the-passer area could help immensely.

Honorable Mention – Anquan Boldin

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Michael Oher

Holy crap, “Big Mike,” WTF was that?

On a night where Oher finally met the man who portrayed him in the film “The Blind Side,” Quinton Aaron, for the first time, it looked as if Aaron had actually replaced the second year tackle on the field for much of the night. You half expected Sandra Bullock to run out on the field to slap some sense into him.

While the entire offensive line was pretty horrendous, Oher is going to get the lion’s share of the blame here. He was absolutely awful, getting completely abused and confused by Falcons’ defensive end John Abraham again and again.

The guys over at Pro Football Focus (quickly becoming one of my favorite websites) agree with me, and state that it was Oher’s worst game of the season.

We go from great to god awful and the noticeably bad performance of Michael Oher (-6.1). His run blocking wasn’t great and he couldn’t handle whoever the Falcons put at right end, constantly beaten when guys would delay their attack or move inside him. He gave up a sack, two hits and four pressures — his worst day of the season.

Matt Ryan came out of Thursday night looking like the clear better quarterback of he and Joe Flacco, but a great deal of that impression was due to the play of the QB’s respective offensive lines. Ryan had all day to throw, while Joe was running for his life time and time again.

Let’s hope that Oher and the rest of the line were simply hit with the perfect storm – done in by a multitude of factors ranging from lingering fatigue from the Miami game just four days earlier, to unfamiliarity with the surface at the Georgia Dome, to whatever else you want to throw in to make yourself feel better. The line needs to shape up, and quick. This week, they face a Carolina Panthers defense that is 26th in the league with just 13 sacks, which could be just what the Doctor ordered.

Dishonorable Mentions – Rest of offensive line, Lardarius Webb


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