November 27, 2012 in Observations
Down by 10 points with only 8 minutes left in the game, the 9-2 Baltimore Ravens found a way to force overtime and then win 16-13 against the 4-7 San Diego Chargers.
Finally, Joe Flacco has a good game on the road this season. Even then, you can still argue that he only played good at the end of the game but, you want your quarterback to play good at this point in the game and Flacco did just this. In the first half the Ravens had a total of 110 total yards and in the second half they had 333 yards. Flacco was 8-of-16 for 59 yards in the first. The second half (plus OT) was much better as he went 22-of-35 for 296 yards and 1 TD. When the offense was doing good, they were running the hurry up offense. Even though this hasn't worked on the road the whole year, it worked yesterday because Qualcomm Stadium isn't very loud. In overtime, Flacco had a great throw to WR Torrey Smith for 31 yards on a 3rd and 10. This put the Ravens in field goal range and they just lined the ball up with the middle of the field and kicked after this play. If Flacco can play like he did in the second half, then the Ravens are serious Super Bowl contenders. If he plays like he did in the first half though, they could be in some trouble. On deep passes alone, Flacco overthrew his receivers 5 times. A few of these the receiver was wide open and probably would have scored. He almost threw an INT on one of these as Chargers S Eric Weddle dove and the pass hit him on the fingers. Flacco just didn't comfortable in the first half. In the second half he still had some mistakes like on a key 4th and inches inside the Chargers 20 yardline. Flacco audibled from the original call and the play was stopped for a big loss and more importantly, the Ravens lost a chance for at least 3 points. He was also very lucky that Weddle wasn't able to corral a pass before he fell out-of-bounds late in regulation. By the time the game was over, Flacco was 30-of-51 for 355 yards, with 1 TD, and had a QBR of 40.2 and QB rating of 86.6. These were season highs in completions and attempts and his 355 yards were the most he has thrown for this season on the road.
Rice had one of the best plays that I have seen in a while and quite possibly it was the play of the year. If you haven't seen it yet or just want to see it again, here it is. It was 4th and 29 for the Ravens with 1:59 left in the game and they were down by 3. All of the receivers went deep but none were open. Therefore, Flacco just dumped it off to Rice and hoped for the best, which happened. Flacco said“I didn’t just want to throw a Hail Mary, I wanted to give somebody a chance.” Rice caught it at the line-of-scrimmage and cut across the field to get the first down. On the play, Rice directly broke 4 tackles and there were 8 Chargers players near him. Still this wasn't enough to get the first down. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin came in and leveled S Eric Weddle and in the process
took out another defender. This gave Rice the room to dive for the first down which he made by about half a yard. Some people, like Chargers QB Philip Rivers don't think Rice made the first down but, most do. Rivers said "He did not get the first down. They just did not have a view to overturn it. He did not get it,” he said. “You can't help it. When you don't have a view to overturn it, you cannot overturn it." Former head of officials for the NFL, Mike Pereira, said "I think it probably was a first down." Either way it was great effort by Rice. Believe it or not, Rice contributed to the game in other ways. He ran for 97 yards on 22 carries and had 8 catches for 67 yards on 9 targets. However, he did drop an easy screen pass where he had two blockers and open field in front of him. Lastly, I am still wondering why Rice wasn't in at RB on the key 4th and inches play. It was an important play so you would expect the Ravens to have him in for the play.
The other half of the Ravens run game, in Pierce, had a good game also. He had 9 rushes for 34 yards and a long of 18 yards. On this 18 yard run he was just tripped up and if he wasn't, he would have been off to the races and probably would have scored. Another good run by him was on a 3rd and 1 where he took toss and got the first and ended it with an amazing hurdle. As talked about with Rice, Pierce was on the field for the 4th and inches and never really had a chance to convert it as the Chargers were in the backfield straight away.
Early in the game, Boldin had a rare drop on a curl route which would have give the Ravens a first down on 3rd and 10. He still was able to get first downs on both of his catches though. On the first one he wouldn't go down without a fight and he put his shoulder down and hit S Atari Bigby hard causing rookie CB Asa Jackson to go crazy on the sideline. The other first down was in OT on a 3rd and 10 from their own 10 for 23 yards. This wasn't the drive that led to the game winning field goal but it gave the Ravens some momentum and helped flip field position. As I said above, if it wasn't for his block on Weddle, Rice wouldn't have reached the first down marker. This block also gave Weddle a concussion. Lastly, Boldin had an uncharacteristic unnecessary roughness penalty where he blocked a Charger hard after the whistle.
Like Boldin, Jones had an uncharacteristic drop which hit him right in the hands on a 2nd and 10 which would have been enough for a first down. Late in the game, when it mattered most, he had his hands as he had 3 catches on the Ravens only TD drive. On the next drive he had 2 catches for 8 yards. He totaled 5 catches for 50 yards on 7 targets. On special teams, he injured his ankle on a kickoff return but was able to return. Due to this, Tandon Doss took over as punt returner twice. When it mattered most though, Jones was back there and returned a punt to the Ravens 40 yardline to set up their final drive in regulation.
This was an atypical game for Torrey Smith but he still put up great numbers. Smith is known around the league as a deep threat but yesterday, it was his underneath game that was key. According to ESPN Stats and Information, "Torrey Smith did most of his damage on short passes, catching a career-high six passes for 113 yards on throws 10 yards or fewer downfield. Smith had a career-high 82 yards after the catch, with 79 coming on those short passes. Smith entered the day with 42.9 percent of his targets coming on short throws, while seven of his 13 targets [yesterday] came on short throws (53.8 percent).” It was also Smith's 4 career 100 yard receiving game. Another impressive stat is Smith's 6 first downs on his 7 catches. I am pretty sure this is a season and even career high but I'm not 100% sure on that. The play that sparked the Ravens offense in the second half came from Smith on a 54 yard catch and run. It was a shallow crossing run and Smith caught it 4 yards downfield and ran the rest. This was the Ravens longest offensive play of the season. In OT Smith played great, drawing a pass interference call of 11 yards on the second drive and had the catch that set up the field goal. In the middle of the game, Smith missed a few plays with a thigh bruise, but based on is play later, he is fine.
As usual, Pitta produces good stats and ended up with the Ravens only TD. This TD was the Ravens first offensive TD since the week 10 Raiders game. To put that in perspective, it was about 23 possessions and 139 minutes which equals just over 9 quarters or 2 games and 1 quarter. He had 6 catches for 42 yards on 9 targets. Of these 6 catches, half of them were for first downs. On the final OT drive, Pitta had a key catch on a 3rd and 4.
By giving up 5 sacks for a loss of 39 yards I am going to say this was the worst performance by the line this year. They will have to get their act together fast as they face the Steelers potent pass rush this week. Starting from the right side, RT Kelechi Osemele probably had his worst game of his short career. The only good point I have for him was he had a good block on Rice's 16 yard run on the Ravens first drive. Osemele gave up 2 sacks for a loss of about 11 yards. The first sack was on a first down and the second was with less than 1 minute left in the first half. Both times he was beat to the outside. On the 4th and inches play, Osemele was completely beat off the line. Marshal Yanda, the RG, was able to draw an offsides call by moving after a Chargers lineman jumped. On the flip side, Yanda was called for a hold on a screen play with just over 2 minutes left in the game which gave the Ravens a 2nd and 20. This was one of the reasons the Ravens had a 4th and 29. The penalty call was close but the it was the right call despite Yanda being upset. The hold wasn't necessary to the play so Yanda only has himself to blame. Center Matt Birk had another uneventful game. Left guard Jah Reid, was called for a false start. Finally, LT Michael Oher also missed his block on the 4th and inches run. Just as bad, Oher gave up a sack at the 2 minute warning giving the Ravens a 4th and 29. Two more general observations are there was a sack on 3rd and 10 where Chargers DE Corey Liuget split Reid and Birk. The last sack came from an untouched blitzer. All of the linemen were blocking someone so there just wasn't enough people in to block.
Jones easily had his best career game yesterday as he recorded his first 2 career sacks. The first came on a 2nd and 6. Terrell Suggs lined up outside of him and stunted in while Jones went to the outside. This allowed Jones to get to Rivers. The second sack came on a 3rd and 5. He just straight up blew up the guard on the play. He was one-on-one because the Chargers were more worried about Suggs on the outside and other rushers on the other side. His impact wasn't just on the passing game either. On one run play, Jones blew up a double team by the tackle and guard and stopped a run for a loss of 1 yard. If Jones can keep playing this way, the defensive line will be in much better shape.
On a 3rd and 7, Ellerbe blitzed up the middle and got the sack with a big hit on Rivers. He also stuffed a 3rd and 1 run inside the Ravens 30 yardline. However, the Chargers went for it on 4th down and got it. He was beat once in pass coverage by TE Antonio Gates but this was while he was limping because of an ankle injury. This injury eventually took him out of the game and he was replaced by Brendon Ayenbedejo who played great in pass coverage. Despite the injury he finished with 6 tackles.
This game was literally filled up the stat chart as on ESPN he filled up every column except the TD one. On a 3rd and 2, Suggs batted down a pass. His sack came on a 2nd and 10 inside the Ravens 25. This pushed a field goal attempt back 7 yards but it was still made. The sack did kill the Chargers momentum on that drive. In the run game, Suggs stopped a toss play despite a double team. He got pressure and was able to force the RB to keep going outside allowing the rest of the defense to catchup with the play.
With his sack on the Chargers first third down on their first drive, Kruger now has a sack in his 3rd straight game and has a total of 4 sacks in those games. On his sack he pushed the blocker right back into the backfield. He also got good pressure on Ellerbe's sack.
Cary only gave up 4 catches in man coverage but, 3 of them were for first downs and the other was the Chargers only TD. However, he made up for all of this with a great pass breakup on a 3rd and 4 on the Chargers first OT drive.
I only counted 2 passes completed on Graham. This is always good and Graham also blized a few times and had good pressure on Ellerbe's sack. He almost had a pick 6 but the receiver just got a finger on the ball to deflect it. On a 2nd and 7 with 3:30 left in the game, Graham had a great pass breakup on a pass that would have been a first down. On the next play the Chargers didn't get the first down and had to punt.
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