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Ravens Will Face Colts in Playoffs

December 31, 2012 in Observations

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This week the now 10-6 Baltimore Ravens lost to the 10-6 Cincinnati Bengals.  The Ravens rested many key players and others only played two series and then left.  Backups played in the last three quarters and some entered near the end of the first quarter.  The Bengals played their offensive starters in the first half and backups in the second.  On the defensive side, they kept most of their starters in throughout the game. With this loss, the Ravens will be the 4th seed in the playoffs and the Bengals will be the 6th seed. Each team didn't really have anything to gain, hence all the backups playing.  The Bengals will face the 3rd seed Houston Texans in Houston on Saturday at 4:30pm ET and the Ravens will host the 5th seed Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at 1pm ET.

Tyrod Taylor
Starting quarterback Joe Flacco only played in two series but, since he got the start, he tied the Ravens record for most consecutive starts with 80.  He is tied with current San Diego Charger LB Jarret Johnson.  On to Taylor, he showed some flashes of great potential against most of the Bengals defensive starters.  Most of the plays made by Taylor were with his feet.  He either ran the ball or was able to escape the pocket and find a receiver.  In the running game he had, by my count, 4 first downs, including a weaving 28 yards run.  His rushing touchdown came on a pass play.  Taylor ran a bootleg and to escape pressure, he ran the ball into the endzone on 2nd and goal from the 1 yardline.  Taylor finished with 9 rushes for 65 yards, some of which were by design on option and others were just him making plays.  In the passing game, Taylor finished 15-of-25 for 149 yards, 1 INT, with a QB rating of 60.2 and a QBR of 46.  Since the offensive line kept allowing pressure, Taylor didn't have time to sit back and be a pocket quarterback.  He did a good job of escaping multiple sacks.  Lastly, his interception clinched the game for the Bengals.  On a 3rd and 7 near their own endzone, Taylor had a pass batted down at the line by Carlos Dunlap.  Dunlap then caught the ball and ran it in for 6 points.  Overall, it was good to see what Taylor can do as he hasn't gotten an extended look in a regular season game because of Flacco's consecutive game streak.  It was an up and down game for Taylor but, he showed some good potential.

Tyrod Taylor

Ravens QB Tyrod Taylor tries to escape from Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap.

Running Backs
With Ray Rice only getting three rushing attempts, there was plenty of chances for backups Bernard Pierce and Anthony Allen.  Rice had 3 rushes for 5 yards and was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty for a late block which put the Ravens out of field goal range on their first drive.  In his defense, Rice had his back to the play and probably didn't know Flacco had thrown the ball.

Bernard Pierce had another good performance rushing 22 times for 89 yards against the 12th ranked rushing defense in the league which only allowed 107.2 yards per game (the Ravens totaled 206 yards).  Pierce ran for 3 first downs, by my count, including a 4th and 1 conversion on the opening drive.  Throughout the game he didn't go down on first contact and seemed to always get positive yards.  In the passing game, he caught 1 pass for 4 yards.  He also had a miscommunication with Taylor on a 3rd down pass route which would have led to a pick 6 if the defender hadn't dropped the ball.  He also dropped a swing pass and had bad blitz pickup on a TE screen which led to the ball being thrown away.  During the 3rd quarter, he limped off the field but was able to come back and finish the game.  Allen had more attempts and rushing yards yesterday, than his entire career.  He had 10 rushes for 41 yards and scored his first career touchdown.  His only first down came on a 20 yard run off the option which set the Ravens up on the 2 yardline.  On the next play, he scored a touchdown.

Allen also had 1 catch for 7 yards.  This was a great performance for any number 3 running back, especially when you consider he was on the originally assigned to the practice squad but then signed to the active roster just before the season opener.

Overall, the Ravens running backs played well against a very good Bengals defense.

David Reed
Once all the starters were out, Reed was in at WR for the rest of the game.  He had 3 catches for 44 yards on 4 targets.  Two of his catches went for first downs and, both of the first downs were important.  The first came with under 30 seconds left in the 1st half, helping the Ravens move the ball downfield for a possible field goal before halftime.  The other first down occurred on 2nd and 16 and went for a gain of 23 yards.  This season is the first time Reed has seen more than a few plays at receiver and he has 5 catches for 66 yards to show for it.

Ed Dickson
Dickson played TE great yesterday and had a statline similar to what starter Dennis Pitta has each game.  Not only did Dickson have 6 catches for 64 yards on 8 targets, he led the Ravens in catches, receiving yards, and targets.  Of his 6 catches, 4 went for first downs, which is another thing that Pitta does most of the time.  Tyrod Taylor looked very comfortable throwing to Dickson throughout the game, and the statline shows it.

Ed Dickson (left) Dennis Pitta (right)

Ravens TE Ed Dickson performed well in place of Dennis Pitta.

Offensive Line
The main stat to look at for offensive line is sacks.  The Ravens line failed this test by allowing 4 sacks for a loss of 37 yards.  However, the running blocking by the line was much better paving the way for 206 rushing yards.  Now for individual notes.

Starting on the left side, LT Michael Oher was part of 3 of these sacks.  On a 3rd and 10, he allowed a sack with LG Jah Reid.  He then left the game like most starters but, then returned when RT Kelechi Osemele left with an undisclosed injury.  At RT, he allowed a sack on a 3rd down and another sack with RG Bobbie Williams with under two minutes left in the game.  Lastly, Oher was blocking Dunlap when he tipped the ball and intercepted it for a touchdown.

Bryant McKinnie came in for Oher at LT, and he wasn't much better.  With the Ravens backed up inside their own 10, McKinnie had a false start. He also allowed a sack inside the 10 putting the ball on the 1 yardline.  Lastly, he should have allowed another sack but, Taylor was able to escape the pass rusher.

By comparison, LG Jah Reid had a much better game.  Sack wise, he split credit with Oher for one sack.

When Tyrod Taylor came in at QB, rookie Gino Gradkowski came in with him.  The only bad thing he did was get called for a holding.

Bobbie Williams started at RG in place of Marshal Yanda.  Williams was called for 3 penalties and allowed a sack.  On one drive, he had a false start on 1st down.  Then on 2nd down, he was called for an unnecessary roughness which set up a 3rd and 27 which killed the drive.  Later in the game on a 2nd and 2, he was called for a holding which took away a first down run by Taylor.

Last, is RT Kelechi Osemele.  He was only called for a false start.  When the backups came in, he stayed, but then left with an undisclosed injury and never returned.  This isn't expected to be serious and he should be fine for next week.

Ma'ake Kemoeatu
Usually, a NT, Kemoeatu started at DE because Haloti Ngata was inactive.  In Ngata's place, Kemoeatu had his best game of the season.  On a 3rd and 2 play, he had his first sack of the season for a loss of 1.  When the Bengals were near midfield, Kemoeatu helped stop a 3rd and 1 run for no gain.  Later on in the game he stopped a run play on first down for a loss of 3.  His other tackle came on a run play that resulted in a gain of 1.

Terrence Cody
While Cody didn't make it into the box score, he still had an impact on the game.  In the 3rd quarter, he was called for roughing the passer on 1st down which put the Bengals on the Ravens 37 yardline.  The Bengals would eventually score a field goal.  Later on, Cody had pressure on a 2nd and 10 play.  This pressure cause the quarterback to throw the ball away.  The Bengals were trying to run a screen on this play but never got the chance to.  Even more important was that the Bengals had the ball on the Ravens 15 yardline.  The Bengals couldn't do anything on 3rd down so they ended up kicking a field goal.

Ma'ake Kemoeatu (left) Terrence Cody (right)

Ravens DTs Ma'ake Kemoeatu and Terrence Cody both had good games.

Dannell Ellerbe
In what could possibly be the last game of the season for the Ravens without Ray Lewis, Ellerbe played great.  While he only had 6 tackles, he made the most of them.  On a 3rd and 3, Ellerbe stopped a run for a gain of 1.  Ellerbe continues to be a great blitzer.  On one play, he timed the snap count perfectly and went untouched to the quarterback.  However, he wasn't able to take the quarterback down.  With under 2 minutes left in the 1st half, Ellerbe blew up a screen.  He read it perfectly and ran past all the blockers, stopping the screen for a loss of 2 yards.  Lastly, he did get a sack later in the game when the snap was fumbled and the quarterback just stayed on the ground after recovering the fumble.

Paul Kruger
On the play where Ellerbe wasn't able to get a sack, Kruger was able to finish the play and push the scrambling quarterback out-of-bounds for the sack.  This sack resulted in a loss of only 1.  It put Kruger at 9 sacks for the year which is a career high.  He will be a free agent in to offseason so it will be interesting to see what kind of contract that he gets.  On a rare play where Kruger dropped into pass coverage, he was able to bat down a pass.  This occurred on a 3rd and 9 play inside the Ravens 20, forcing the Bengals to a field goal.

Cornerbacks
The Baltimore Ravens only allowed 15 completed passes on 26 attempts.  Of these 15 completed passes, only 7 of these were completed against CBs, based on my count.  On these 15 completed passes, the average yards gained were a dismal 5.5.  This means the secondary played very well, in fact the whole defense only allowed 189 yards, 142 of which were in the air.

Corey Graham started the game but played very little.  He only allowed 1 completed pass and this went for a first down.

Chris Johnson received extended playing time for the first time this season.  He allowed the most passes of all CBs for the Ravens yesterday, but still only gave up 3 passes.  Of these, he allowed 0 first downs but, he gave up a touchdown with 39 seconds left in the 1st half.

Chykie Brown played great for the second straight game.  He only allowed 1 pass to be completed against him.  On a 3rd and 9 play on the Bengals first drive, Brown broke up a pass.  He made a great play to reach his arm around the receiver to deflect the ball.

Jimmy Smith had the most playing time since his return from a sport hernia injury.  In the time, he allowed 2 passes to be completed.    None of these two were for first downs but, he was called for a 21 yard pass interference which went for a first down.  This occurred on a 3rd down and put the ball on the Ravens 15.  It also took away an interception as the ball was tipped by the Bengals receiver and Omar Brown was able to catch it. Lastly, Smith had a great pass breakup.  He was in single, man coverage on a deep pass near the endzone.  Smith was able to get his hands on the ball and almost intercepted it.  This is a positive game for Smith and he showed his potential.

Jimmy Smith

Ravens CB Jimmy Smith had a good game.

Anquan Boldin Questionable

December 29, 2012 in Injury Reports

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Ravens

Anquan Boldin

Ravens starting WR Anquan Boldin is questionable after leaving last week's game with a shoulder injury.

Questionable
WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder)
G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
DE Arthur Jones (thigh)
WR Tandon Doss (ankle)
DE Haloti Ngata (knee)
FB Vonta Leach (ankle)
LB Albert McClellan (shoulder)

Probable
LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle)
DE Pernell McPhee (thigh)
S Bernard Pollard (chest)
WR Jacoby Jones (ankle)
S Ed Reed (shoulder)
TE Dennis Pitta (knee)
CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen)
LB Terrell Suggs (biceps)

Bengals

Out
K Mike Nugent (calf)

Questionable
CB Jason Allen (hamstring)
CB Terence Newman (groin)

Probable
S Reggie Nelson (shoulder)
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (illness)
CB Adam Jones (hamstring)

Battle For Playoff Momentum

December 28, 2012 in What to Look For

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This week the 10-5 Baltimore Ravens travel to Cincinnati to face the 9-6 Bengals.  These two teams played in week one and Baltimore won a blow out 44-13.

1.  Playoff Scenarios
Both the Ravens and Bengals have already clinched playoff berths.  The Ravens have clinched the AFC North and the Bengals will be a wild card team.  While the Bengals are locked in as the 6th seed, the Ravens seeding is still up for grabs.  Currently, they are the 4th seed which will see them play the Indianapolis Colts next week.  For the Ravens to improve their playoff position, they need the New England Patriots to lose to the Miami Dolphins which seems unlikely.  Along with the Patriots losing, the Ravens will need to beat the Bengals.  If these scenario plays out, the Ravens will become the 3rd seed and play the Bengals for the third time this season next week.  Since it is unlikely the Ravens improve their seed and the Bengals can't improve their seed, this game becomes a battle for momentum heading into the playoffs.  The Bengals have won 6 of their last 7 and their only loss was on a field game as time expired.  The Ravens have lost 3 of their last 4 and but their win was utter domination of the defending Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants.  Based on their currents streaks, the Ravens seem to need this game more than the Bengals, especially when you factor in the possibility of becoming the 3rd seed.

2.  Containing A.J. Green
Originally, I named this stopping A.J. Green, but then I realized it is impossible to stop Green, you have to contain him.  Earlier in the year, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Green might be the best wide receiver in the NFL.  Green is currently in the top 10 for receptions, targets, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, receiving yards per game, and first downs on pass plays.  In the week one matchup, Green had 5 catches for 70 yards on 11 targets.  In order to contain Green, Ravens CB Cary Williams will need to be on top of his game.  Williams has been "consistently inconsistent" this season, allowing many big plays but making many pass breakups and interceptions as well.  The 6'1" Williams has the best size in the secondary to matchup with the 6'4" Green.  Jimmy Smith is 6'2" but he is still recovering from his sports hernia injury and hasn't looked the same since returning.  Expect the Bengals to try and go deep to Green multiple times to try and take advantage of the Ravens injured secondary.  This means S Ed Reed will need to come ready to play this week.

A.J. Green (18)

The Ravens led by star S Ed Reed (20), will need to contain Bengals WR A.J. Green (18).

3.  Who Plays?
Despite each team not having much to play for, they will both play to win.  This is because both teams want momentum heading into the playoffs and, it is a divisional game.  With the way the AFC North is, no players would want to miss a divisional matchup.  Even though both teams said they will play to win, that doesn't mean a few players won't play, especially for the Ravens.  If I were the Ravens, I would hold out the key players who are questionable, DE Haloti Ngata, G Marshal Yanda, and WR Anquan Boldin.  Also, the Ravens the disadvantage of the Patriots playing at 4 pm.  If both games were played at the same time, the Ravens would be able to see the score and take out key players if the Patriots started to pull away.  On the Bengals side, head coach Marvin Lewis said "I don’t really have any beat-up guys.  So, the only thing that is at stake is you go out and play to win the game every time we go."  In fact, the Bengals only have 6 plays on the injury report, three are probable, one is out, and the other two are questionable.  Expect both teams to do what they said, and play to win.

4.  G Marshal Yanda vs. DT Geno Atkins
Here is a perfect example of an AFC North matchup.  While I did say Yanda was questionable, he is expected to play, just like last week.  Yanda has been the best lineman for the Ravens this year, allowing only 3 hits and 8 hurries on 516 pass blocking plays.  He is also one of two guards to allow 0 sacks so far this season.  In the run game, he has opened up holes all season long.  This week he will meet his match in Geno Atkins. Atkins has 12.5 sacks this year which ranks 5th in the NFL and leads all 4-3 DTs in sacks.  He isn't just a pass rusher either, he has been influential in stopping the run game for the Bengals this year.  In week one, Atkins got the best of the Ravens, recording 2 sacks.  If the Ravens want to be successful on offense this week, they will need to neutralize Atkins.

Marshal Yanda

Ravens G Marshal Yanda draws the tough assignment of stopping Bengals DT Geno Atkins.

Ravens Clinch Second Straight AFC North Title

December 24, 2012 in Observations

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The 10-5 Baltimore Ravens beat the 8-7 New York Giants 33-14 in a game that never seemed in doubt.  In fact the defense held the Giants to 186 total yards which is a season best for the defense.  This was the regular season home finale and the win makes 10 straight wins for the Ravens in these games, the NFL's longest active streak.  Another home win streak that continued was the Ravens record against NFC teams where the Ravens have won their last 13 including all 10 under head coach John Harbaugh.  Over the course of the season, the Ravens set a record for most points scored at home with 254, which averages out to 31.8 points per game.  Most importantly, the Ravens clinched the AFC North title with this win.  This marks their second straight title and their fourth all-time (2003 and 2006).  Next week the Ravens will head to Cincinnati to face the 9-6 Bengals.

Referees
Ever since the replacement referee fiasco ended, there hasn't been much to talk about concerning the referees in Ravens games, until now.  I think CBS's Jason La Canfora said it best with this "The officiating in this Ravens/Giants game has been laughable."  There were multiple bad calls in this game and some times when they got the call right, it was originally called wrong.  Lets start with the worst call, when they overturned a touchdown catch by Jacoby Jones.  Jones caught a pass and then turned and extended the ball across the goal line.  When he hit the ground, the ball came lose.  The explanation given was that Jones didn't perform "a second act."  As Fox does on most reviews, they brought in Mike Pereira, who is the former vice president of officiating.  He believed it was a touchdown catch and had this to say, "On this play, since Jones reached the ball out to break the plane before he hit the ground, he is deemed to perform an act common to the game — or as officials call it, a second act. This should have remained a touchdown and not have been overturned. There was clearly not indisputable evidence to overturn the ruling."  You can watch the play here and decide for yourself.  There was more than just this play though.

Both teams had phantom holding calls go against them.  The funniest call of the game came when Ravens LT Michael Oher was called for a false start.  This doesn't sound like much but if you watched the play, you could clearly see that three New York Giants jumped across the line and Oher was just reacting to them.  It was this play that prompted La Canfora's tweet.  A call that could have gone either way was when Ravens OLB Paul Kruger hit Giants QB Eli Manning and the ball came lose.  It was ruled an incomplete pass but it looked like a possible fumble.  Going against the Giants, was a pass interference on CB Corey Webster, who had a very rough day.  The pass looked uncatchable but the referees called pass interference anyways.  In a call that you don't see often, Ravens WR Torrey Smith was called for a blindside block when he hit the defender in the shoulder which is completely legal. This took away a first down pas to TE Ed Dickson.  Last, is the helmet-to-helemt hit on Ravens S Ed Reed.  Reed clearly led with his shoulder which hit Giants WR Victor Cruz.  At no point does Reed hit Cruz with helmet on the play. This play is very important to the Ravens as the NFL could suspend Reed for another "helmet-to-helmet" hit.  However, reports are saying Reed won't be suspended.

John Harbaugh

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh wasn't happy with some calls in the win against the Giants.

Joe Flacco
After recording an awful QBR of 0.4 last week, Flacco had a QBR of 94.4 which is his second best of the season.  In the game, he also set a career high, a team record, and tied a team record.  He set a career high in pass yards in a season.  He currently has 3,783 yards and his old record was 3,622 which came in 2010.  The team record that he set was for completions of more than 25 yards.  Flacco currently has 40 of these completions and will probably add to this next week.  Lastly, the team's record he tied is for most 300 yard passing games in one season.  Vinny Testaverde is who Flacco is now tied with.  They have 5 games with over 300 passing yards.  Testaverde achieved this in the Ravens inaugural season back in1996.  Odds are Flacco won't break the record next week as in his four career games at Cincinnati, he has averaged 190 yards per game.  In their game earlier in the season, he threw for 299 yards though.

One of the main reasons Flacco was successful yesterday was the Ravens running a hurry-up offense and he was moving around more.  What I mean is there were more rollouts called for Flacco.  The offense line has been inconsistent this year allowing lots of pressure.  These rollouts allow Flacco to get outside of the pocket which gives Flacco more time to find the open receiver.  Even more unexpected was an option play on 3rd and 1.  While Flacco never looked to run and pitched it back to Ray Rice right away, it adds variety to the offense and causes defenses to prepare for something other than a run up the middle in a short yardage situation.  In Flacco's rookie year, the Ravens ran a little bit of the option because despite being 6'6" he is a good runner.  Expect a lot more of the rollouts in the playoffs as it worked very well yesterday.  We can finally see the influence of Jim Caldwell after this game because of the rollouts and hurry-up offense.  The hurry-up was expected but the rollouts were a little unexpected.  If Caldwell can get Flacco to play like this he will keep his offensive coordinator job and probably will become a head coaching candidate.

In the game, Flacco showed some good awareness.  During the first drive, he was able to make the Giants call a timeout with his pace in the hurry-up offense.  On his touchdown pass to Torrey Smith, Flacco correctly read the Giants blitz and threw a quick slant to Smith.  It was man coverage on all the receivers and Smith was in the slot.  In situations like these, the slot receiver is the hot read and Flacco went right to him. Since it was man coverage, all Smith needed was step on the defender to be open, and he was.  Flacco also showed great touch on deep passes and overall, showed that when he has time to throw, he can be a dangerous quarterback.

Bernard Pierce
You know the Ravens are having a good game if Rice doesn't lead the team in rush yards, and that was the case yesterday.  Pierce ran 14 times for 123 yards.  Two plays standout for Pierce from this game.  The first was an 18 yard run down the sideline for a first down.  The second was his 78 yard rush in the 4th quarter.  Pierce ran behind the right side of the offensive line.  The key block that sprung him was by FB Vonta Leach. This cleared the hole and allowed Pierce to get into the second level of the defense.  He then was able to accelerate away from the defenders but was caught at the one yardline.  This run was the longest run of the season for the Ravens.  It also gave Pierce his first career 100 yard rushing game.

Bernard Pierce

Ravens RB Bernard Pierce runs away from the Giants defenders.

Ray Rice
There is not going to be any complaining about Rice's touches this week.  He had 24 rushes for 107 yards and had 6 catches for 51 yards with a TD on 7 targets.  This means he had 30 touches for 158 yards which is an average of 5.27 yards per touch.  This is the kind of stat line that you want for your star running back.  With this 107 yard rushing game, Rice now has 17 career 100 yard rushing games.  On his touchdown catch, Rice started out of the backfield.  He then ran an angle route, starting to the outside and then cutting to the middle.  Flacco hit him in stride and Rice stayed on the line from the route to the endzone.  On the way, two people dived and missed, meaning Rice went untouched into the endzone.

Anquan Boldin
Boldin was automatic all game long.  He was targeted on 7 passes and caught all 7 of them for 93 yards.  Six of theses 7 catches went for first downs.  The two most impressive of these were a 39 yard catch on 3rd and 18 and a diving catch for a first down inside the Giants 20.  On this play he injured his shoulder and never returned.  Since the game was already won, there was no reason to put him in the game.  There have been no updates on his injury.  He was called for a holding penalty but it didn't look like much.  This penalty took away a 10 yard run by Pierce.

Dennis Pitta
Another solid game from Pitta, as he had 4 catches for 56 yards on 5 targets.  Of these 4 catches, 2 of them went for first downs including one great play.  It was a 3rd and 20 and Pitta ran deep.  Flacco was able to thread the needle between two defenders and Pitta made the diving catch. Catches like these have become common for Pitta this season.

Torrey Smith
Fun fact of the day: all 8 of Smith's touchdown catches this year have come in Ravens victories.  He caught 5 passes for 88 yards and 1 TD. However, he was targeted 11 times.  Of his 5 catches, 3 went for first downs and he was able to draw a pass interference call for another.  I talked about his touchdown catch above but, that wasn't his only good play of the day.  He made a leaping catch for a 43 yard gain which put the Ravens on the Giants 1 yardline.  He also had a leaping one handed catch on a back shoulder fade for 21 yards.  It wasn't all good as he had a drop on a play where he went for a one handed catch when he could have used both hands.  He was also called for a blindside block, as talked about above.

Torrey Smith

Ravens WR Torrey Smith celebrates his touchdown catch.

Offensive Line
Last week, the offensive line was absolutely atrocious.  This week, they were amazing.  They allowed 0 sacks and only 2 QB hits.  Last week, they allowed about 3 sacks and 10 hits.  Overall, the line gave Flacco plenty of time to throw the ball and opened good holes for the running backs.  Individually, the only player with a penalty called on them was LT Michael Oher, who had three, on the same drive.  The first was the false start talked about earlier.  The second was a holding call and the third was a chop block.  Oher now is second on the Ravens with 9 penalties this year, only Boldin has more.

Haloti Ngata
This has been an underwhelming season for Ngata but he played good against the Giants.  The statline reads 4 tackles and 1 sack.  The sack came on a first down play after the Giants seemed to be getting on the right page.  Ngata sacked Eli Manning for a loss of 15 and this stalled the drive for the Giants.  In the run game, Ngata was responsible for a few run stops and got good penetration on a few plays.

Brendon Ayanbadejo
Starting ILB Dannell Ellerbe returned this week so Ayanbadejo didn't play as much, but when he did, he made the most of it.  He finished with 4 tackles and 1 sack.  The sack was for a loss of 7 yards on a first down.  This stopped the Giants from accomplishing anything on their final drive before halftime.  On a 3rd down play, he was able to pressure Manning into throwing the ball away.  On the negative side he was called for an illegal block in the back on a punt return though.

Cornerbacks
The cornerbacks played great all game long for the Ravens.  They held Manning to 14 completions and not all of the completions were on cornerbacks.  Cary Williams gave up 2 passes for 1 first down.  The first down was a 43 yard pass which set up the Giants first touchdown.  He tipped 2 passes including one that Reed almost intercepted.  The only other corner that gave up more than one completion by my count was nickel back Chykie Brown.  He gave up 2 passes and they were for 1 first down and 1 touchdown.  He played nickel back over Jimmy Smith for a reason that is unknown.  In his place Brown played great as he had 4 pass deflections, a tackle for a loss, and drew an offensive pass interference.  The most important thing that the cornerbacks did was contain Giants WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.  Cruz had 3 catches for 21 yards on 5 targets and Nicks had 0 catches on 3 targets.

Safeties
Three safeties were able to impact the game for the Ravens.  Starting SS Bernard Pollard didn't play due to injury which let James Ihedigbo play in his place.  He had a pressure on Manning on a 3rd and 13 which caused a bad throw.  In pass coverage he gave up 1 catch for a first down. On special teams he was called for a holding while blocking on a punt.  Ihedigbo finished with 4 tackles. Star S Ed Reed finished with 3 tackles and 3 pass deflections but he almost intercepted 2 of those deflections.  The first one went right through his hands but Reed probably didn't expect the ball to get to him.  The other was much tougher as Williams tipped it up and Reed got his left hand on it.  Reed had too much momentum to be able to intercept the ball.  Lastly, backup Omar Brown had a sack on a 3rd and 10 where he was unblocked.  This went for a loss of 9 yards and Manning almost lost the ball on the play.  I was very high on Brown in the preseason and it is good to see him make an impact in a regular season game and get is first career sack.

Omar Brown

Ravens S Omar Brown recorded his first career sack.

Torrey Smith Questionable

December 22, 2012 in Injury Reports

Baltimore Homepage

Ravens

Out
LB Jameel McClain (neck)

Torrey Smith

Ravens starting WR Torrey Smith is questionable after suffering a concussion last week.

Doubtful
S Bernard Pollard (chest)

Questionable
WR Torrey Smith (head)
RB Bernard Pierce (head)
WR Tandon Doss (ankle)
G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle)
LB Albert McClellan (thigh)
FB Vonta Leach (ankle)

Probable
TE Ed Dickson (knee)
DE Pernell McPhee (thigh)
WR Deonte Thompson (thigh)
CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen)
LB Terrell Suggs (bicep)
S Ed Reed (shoulder)
WR LaQuan Williams (thigh)
S James Ihedigbo (neck)
DE Arthur Jones (shoulder)

Giants

Questionable
G Chris Snee (hip)
RB Ahmad Bradshaw (knee)
S Tyler Sash (hamstring)
DE Justin Tuck (shoulder)
TE Travis Beckum (knee)
C David Bass (hip)
S Kenny Phillips (knee)

Probable
WR Hakeem Nicks (knee)
WR Rueben Randle (back)
DT Chris Canty (neck)
CB Prince Amukamara (hamstring)

Second Manning Brother in Two Weeks

December 21, 2012 in What to Look For

Baltimore Homepage

This week the 9-5 Baltimore Ravens face the other Manning brother in Eil, who leads the 8-6 New York Giants into Baltimore.  On a side note the Ravens will wear their black alternate jersey's for this game.

1.  Playing Motivated
This is a key game for both the Ravens and the Giants.  The Ravens have lost their last three games and are in danger of dropping all the way to a wildcard.  The Giants have lost four of their last six games including an embarrassing 34-0 loss to the Atlanta Falcons last week.  While the Ravens clinched a playoff berth last week, they still need a win to clinch the division.  If the Giants lose out, they will not be able to defend their Super Bowl title.  Due to these factors, both teams should come out and play hard, making for a playoff caliber game in a game where there are massive playoff ramifications.

2.  Which Teams Show Up?
As stated above, both teams are coming into this game on bad streaks.  Both have been very inconsistent this season also.  The Ravens have beaten the New England Patriots 31-30 but, have lost to the Denver Broncos 34-17 and the Houston Texans 43-13.  Even stranger is that the Patriots have beaten these two by a combined score of 38.  Similarly, the Giants beat the New Orleans Saints 52-27 and the Saints beat the Falcons 31-27.  The Giants also have beaten the second and third best teams in the NFC (Green Bay and San Francisco) by a total of 51 yet they lose to a team only marginally better by 34 and even worse, they get shutout despite putting up 26 points on the vaunted 49ers defense.  I wouldn't expect both teams to be on top form but, I don't expect them to be their worst and they should play near the same level on Sunday.

Ray Lewis (52)

Ravens LB Ray Lewis recovers a fumble.

3.  Offensive Line
While the Giants only rank tied for 16th in the NFL with 32 sacks, (coincidently they are tied with the Ravens), they still have three top pass rushers.  All three of them play defensive end and could potentially give Ravens offensive tackles Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele fits.  Lets start with Jason Pierre-Paul.  The 23 year old is having a down year with only 6.5 sacks.  This is good for 34th in the NFL.  He may only have 6.5 sacks but, he still a threat to get a sack on every pass play.  Veteran Osi Umenyiora has 6 sacks for the season.  He doesn't play as many snaps as Pierre-Paul as he is more of a situational pass rusher for the Giants.  Last is Justin Tuck who is in the midst of his worst season in which he has played in all games.  He only has 3 sacks for the season and it is unsure if he plays against the Ravens as he hasn't practiced yet this week.  While the Giants pass rushers are having a down year, they are still a real threat, especially against a weak Ravens offensive line.

4.  Pass Rush
The Giants have allowed the least amount of sacks this season with 16.  The next best team is the Houston Texans and they have allowed 20. This means the Ravens pass rush will have an even harder job this week.  In order to disrupt the Giants good passing game, the Ravens need to get good pressure on QB Eli Manning.  This way e can't get the ball to WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.  Since the Ravens secondary is banged up, this will be even more important.  The main players to watch for the Ravens are OLBs Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger.  Also look for DEs Arthur Jones and Haloti Ngata.  If Jones and Ngata can get pressure on the inside, it will force Manning to move around in the pocket which makes it easier for Suggs and Kruger.  If Suggs and Kruger can get outside pressure, it will force Manning up in the pocket towards Ngata and Jones.  The main advantage that the Ravens have is Manning isn't a mobile quarterback.  The main disadvantage the Ravens will have is Suggs's bicep.  Last week, Suggs played but you could tell he was hurt as he would hold his right arm and he wasn't in for some plays.  On the positive side, he has been a full participant in practice all week and wasn't even on the injury report for Wednesday.  This matchup between the Ravens pass rush and the Giants offensive line will determine whether the Ravens will be able to stop the Giants offense.

Haloti Ngata

Ravens DE Haloti Ngata rushes the passer.

Ravens Clinch Playoff Berth Despite Loss

December 18, 2012 in Observations

Baltimore Homepage

The 9-5 Baltimore Ravens lost their third straight game to the 11-3 Denver Broncos by a score of 34-17.  This loss marked the most lopsided home loss for the Ravens under head coach John Harbaugh and is their first 3 game losing streak since October of 2009.  It also makes 9 straight games that QB Peyton Manning has beaten the Ravens (including playoffs).  However, they were able to clinch a playoff berth since the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Dallas Cowboys.

Joe Flacco
Flacco made history yesterday against the Broncos but not in the right way.  His QBR from the game was 0.4, the only performance that has been worse this season was his week 7 game against the Houston Texans.  He also became the first QB to have two games in a season with a QBR under 1 since Jets QB Mark Sanchez, who did this in 2009.  Since this is Flacco's contract year, he needs to be playing his best game, not a record setting bad performance.  If you want a big, new contract, then you don't need your name to come up with Mark Sanchez's in terms of stats.  There were two plays that were absolutely atrocious.  The first came on the Ravens first drive.  It was a 3rd and 1 and Flacco ran a QB sneak.  He had the first down but, on his way to the ground he fumbled the ball and the Broncos recovered.  This not only allowed the Broncos to set the tone defensively, but Flacco gave Peyton Manning the ball at midfield.  Even if the Ravens had all their defensive players healthy, it wouldn't be good, let alone when 4 of your top 5 tackles are out and your top CB is out.  The second play occurred when the Ravens were inside the Broncos 5 yardline.  Flacco tried to throw a quick out route to WR Anquan Boldin but Broncos CB Chris Harris jumped the route and returned the ball for a touchdown.  This happened with 15 seconds left in the half and the Ravens were about to go into half with the momentum after a good drive.  They had the possibility to go in down 10-7 but instead went to half down 17-0.  A 14 point swing is never good, but it is even worse when you are about to go into halftime and your team will get the ball to start the second half.  The only real credit that Flacco deserves for this game is he was able to chase down Harris on his return.  Flacco dove and tripped Harris up but, Harris was able to dive into the endzone.  For a playoff team, this is not what you need your QB's best play to be.

Joe Flacco

Ravens QB Joe Flacco on the field after giving up a pick 6. It basically sums up the Ravens day.

Ray Rice
While some people may say that new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell called an awful game because Rice only carried the ball 12 times, consider this.  On those 12 carries, Rice only averaged 3.2 yards and when you factor in his 3 catches for 3 yards, he averaged 2.7 yards per touch.  You can't blame Caldwell for trying something else.  In my opinion there was nothing wrong with Caldwell's play calling.  There was, however, a massive problem with execution of these plays.  The offensive line couldn't block anyone and Flacco was, well Joe Flacco this season.  One of Rice's catches did go for a first down but that was his only real impact on the game because the Broncos were able to contain him very well, so credit them.

Bernard Pierce
The Broncos were able to contain Pierce as well as Rice but, Pierce was able to do a little more damage with his few touches.  He had 5 rushes for 20 yards with a long of 14.  This 14 yard run was the Ravens first, first down of the game.  This may not sound like much but, when you consider that it came with 8 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, then it matters.  As I said earlier, there was a massive execution problem and this is why it took so long to get a first down.  Even then, on the next play, Pierce had a similar run but it was taken away by a holding penalty.  Pierce left the game with a concussion and never returned.

Dennis Pitta
If there was one positive on offense, then it was Pitta.  Even he had his faults though, as he uncharacteristically dropped 2 passes including 1 that would have been a first.  The other would have been 16 yards short of a first with defenders around him so it wouldn't have mattered.  To give him credit both were semi-difficult catches but, he got both hands on the ball each time.  On one play he had a diving catch but came up 1 yard short on this 3rd and 10.  Of his 7 catches, only 1 went for a first down but, he had 1 touchdowns.  The first touchdown was a diving catch on a seam route on a 2nd and 25.  The other was a 5 yard out route which was wide open.  The impressive part of this play was that Pitta broke 3 tackles, including one with a spin move, while running down the sideline for the touchdown.  By far, this was the play of the day for the Ravens. In the end, he finished with 7 catches for 125 yards with 2 TDs, on 10 targets.

Dennis Pitta

Ravens TE Dennis Pitta runs after catching a pass.

Jacoby Jones
His impact was felt more in the return game than on offense.  He returned 4 kickoffs for 112 yards and had a long of 50 yards.  This set the Ravens up with good field position multiple times.  His main offensive play was a 43 yard leaping catch which put the Ravens in Broncos territory on the first play after the 2 minute warning in the first half.  Flacco would throw his interception a few plays later but Jones gave the offense hope. In the late 3rd quarter, he left with an injury but came back after missing 2 plays.

Tandon Doss
Due to a concussion to Torrey Smith, Doss was able to get lots of playing time.  Doss had 2 catches for 28 yards on 4 targets.  Both of these catches went for first downs and he was overthrown on a comeback route where he was open which would have been another first down.  Lastly, he had one punt return and made the most of it as he returned it for 40 yards which led to Pitta's first touchdown catch.  Over the last few games, Doss has been going back for returns near the Ravens endzone.  This is probably because the Ravens trust him to catch it more than Jones. The Ravens have previously done this with S Ed Reed and CB Lardarius Webb.

Offensive Line
Your offense starts in the trenches and, if they don't play well, the offense as a whole won't play well.  On almost every pass play, they gave up pressure.  At the end of the 3rd quarter, the had given up 15 QB hurries, 8 knockdowns on 33 pass plays.  Based on my count, they finished with 18 hurries, 10 knockdowns, 3 sacks (not counted as knockdowns), and 1 roughing the passer for a hit to the head.  These stats are completely unacceptable.  If you want Flacco to succeed, then he needs to be protected as he needs to worry about finding the open receiver, not thinking about where the pass rushers will be breaking through this time.  In the running game, the line wasn't much better.  They couldn't get any holes for Rice and Pierce.  They were either getting no push, or they were missing blocks.  Individually, C Matt Birk had 1 holding call and it took back a 15 yard run by Pierce which stalled the drive.  Left guard Jah Reid gave up 1 sack.  Veteran RG Bobbie Williams played for the injured Marshal Yanda and allowed 1 sack and had a holding in Denver territory which stalled that drive.  Overall, their play was downright awful and needs to improve by next week.

Ravens offensive line

The Ravens offensive line was very disappointing yesterday.

Albert McClellan
If Pitta was the bright spot on offense, then McClellan was the bright spot on defense and special teams.  When he was in punt coverage, he had a hard hit which forced a fumble but the returner was down first.  On the Ravens first kickoff in the 2nd half, he forced fumble but, like last week, the ball went out-of-bounds before anyone could recover it.  On defense, he had one of the Ravens two sacks of Manning.  McClellan's sack came on 1st down and went for a loss of 10 yards.  This stopped the Broncos drive after they had gotten multiple first downs already.  He finished with 6 tackles and was playing through a hamstring injury.

Josh Bynes
Making his first start, Bynes played how I expected him to.  He led all defensive players with 13 tackles and has had a QB hit and a pass deflection.  Most of his tackles came more than 5 yards downfield though.  This was predictable as he barely has any experience at the NFL level.  On Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno's TD run, Bynes got blocked to the ground.  His best play came on the Broncos first drive of the game. The Broncos had a 3rd and 11 and Manning threw an underneath pass to a RB.  Bynes was able to stay with the receiver and stopped him 4 yards short of the first down.  If he doesn't make the tackle, the Broncos would have gotten the first down and more.  Overall, Bynes showed some potential but also showed why he started the season on the practice squad.

Ed Reed
In what was supposed to be a big matchup, Reed was burned by Manning multiple times.  I don't have the number of how many times he was beat but it was enough to know that Manning wasn't afraid to go after him like a lot of quarterbacks are.  On Eric Decker's 51 yard TD catch, Reed came up like he was expecting an out route.  After the play he was visibly upset and threw his helmet.  It is unknown if he was upset at himself or at CB Cary Williams who was covering on the play and seemed to give up.  Reed also didn't have a good game in run support as Moreno hurdled him despite Reed being almost vertical.  Reed later had this to say about that play, “I was not expecting him to jump, honestly.  I couldn’t react because I was just dealing with a lot of sickness early in the game.  I just wasn’t all the way into it, honestly.  I was dealing with flu symptoms and everything. I just kind of watched him jump over me. I wasn’t expecting that at all.”

Cary Williams
Like most of the Ravens, Williams had an underwhelming performance.  He allowed 6 catches and 3 of these were for first downs and 1 was for a touchdown.  As stated above, on the touchdown, he seemed to give up once the ball was in the air.  This is not acceptable, especially when you are in your contract year and trying to prove that you are worth a lot of money.  He did have 2 nice pass breakups including one in the endzone. Williams was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty for a late hit.  This was also unacceptable as the receiver was way out-of-bounds.  In run defense, Williams was able to make a tackle for a loss though.

Cary Williams (purple)

Ravens CB Cary Williams (purple) is beat by Broncos WR Eric Decker for a touchdown.

Bernard Pollard Questionable

December 15, 2012 in Injury Reports

Baltimore Homepage

Ravens

Bernard Pollard

Ravens S Bernard Pollard is questionable with a chest injury and hasn't practiced all week.

Out
LB Jameel McClain (neck)

Doubtful
TE Ed Dickson (knee)

Questionable
S Bernard Pollard (chest)
DE Arthur Jones (shoulder)
OLB Terrell Suggs (bicep)
DE Pernell McPhee (thigh)
FB Vonta Leach (ankle)
G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen)
LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle)

Probable
WR LaQuan Williams (thigh)
WR Jacoby Jones (ankle)
CB Chykie Brown (knee)
RB Bernard Pierce (back)
WR Deonte Thompson (thigh)
S Ed Reed (shoulder)
RB Ray Rice (hip)

Broncos

Questionable
G Chris Kuper (ankle)
LB Wesley Woodyard (ankle)

Probable
WR Matt Willis (knee)
WR Trindon Holliday (knee)
WR Demaryius Thomas (shoulder)

Remember to check out our SPORTS Trivia Nights in Baltimore at Plug Ugly's on Monday nights @ 7 p.m.! See you this Mon

The Return of Ray Lewis?

December 14, 2012 in What to Look For

Baltimore Homepage

The 9-4 Baltimore Ravens head home to face their longtime enemy, Peyton Manning, who is now with the 10-3 Denver Broncos.

1.  Injuries
Over the first few games, the Ravens had very few players on the injury report, and when they were, they were probable.  Now, the entire team, especially the defense, has been ravaged by injuries.  On the offensive side, All-Pro G Marshal Yanda is questionable with a sprained ankle.  If he can't go, then veteran Bobbie Williams is expected to take his place.  Another All-Pro, FB Vonta Leach is questionable with an ankle injury. Backup TE Ed Dickson is doubtful again this week with a knee injury.  The defensive side is much worse.  The top three ILBs either out of questionable.  Star ILB Ray Lewis will be talked about later on, but Dannell Ellerbe is questionable after missing the last two games and Jameel McClain has already been ruled out.  If none of these three can play, the Ravens will be left with a player who started the season on the practice squad, Josh Bynes, a 36 year old career special teamer, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and an OLB in Albert McClellan.  Interestingly, none of these three were drafted, but then again, Ellerbe and McClain are also undrafted.  Reigning defensive player of the year, Terrell Suggs, is questionable, again, after missing last week with a torn bicep.  Starting S Bernard Pollard is questionable with a rib injury and hasn't been able to practice all week. Backup James Ihedigbo will take over if Pollard can't play.  Ihedigbo was cut by the Patriots after training camp this year.  Lastly, CB Jimmy Smith is questionable with a sports hernia that he had surgery for after the November 4th game against the Browns.  Overall, that is more starters who are out or questionable, 7, than the entire Broncos injury report, 5.

2.  Joe Flacco
There are two reasons to watch Flacco on Sunday.  The first is to see how he plays under new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.  Caldwell has said he won't change much at all.  He also has a better relationship with Flacco than Cam Cameron did.  The second reason to watch Flacco is to see how he plays against Peyton Manning.  With how banged up the Ravens defense is, Flacco will have to bring his "A" game to give the Ravens a chance against the Broncos.  Over the last 7 games, Flacco only has two games with more than 200 passing yards.  To complicate matters more, the Broncos rank 7th in the NFL in pass yards per game allowing only 216 per game.  They also rank 11th in the NFL is opposing QB rating, with 80.5.  I can see Flacco having a big game against the Broncos now that he has Caldwell as his offensive coordinator.  However, I can also see him struggling against this tough Broncos defense.

Joe Flacco

Ravens QB Joe Flacco will need a big game for the Ravens to win.

3.  Offensive Tackles
Another thing that the Broncos defense excels at, is rushing the passer.  They rank tied for 2nd in the NFL with 39 sacks.  A whopping 16 of these come from OLB Von Miller.  That is 41% of their sacks.  The Ravens have allowed 31 sacks this year, which ties them for 18th best in the NFL.  To complicate matters even more, the Ravens offensive tackles have struggled recently.  Rookie RT Kelechi Osemele has given up 1 sack over the last 2 games.  Michael Oher, the LT, has been part of 3 turnovers in the last 2 games.  In the Steelers game, he gave up a strip sack which led to the Steelers tying the game.  He also allowed pressure on an INT that game.  In the Redskins game, he also gave up a strip sack which gave the Redskins the ball around midfield.  They will both have their hands full with Miller.  Miller switches sides a lot so there is no way to say who he will be facing for most of the game.  All we know is that if Miller isn't blocked, the Ravens will have a long day.

Ray Lewis

Ravens star ILB Ray Lewis might return for this week's game against the Broncos.

4.  Ray Lewis
As of right now, nobody knows if Lewis play.  For him to be able to, he must be activated from the IR/Designated the Return List.  Due to this, he isn't listed on the injury report but, if he was, he would be listed as questionable.  Normally, I would say the Ravens shouldn't let him play as they will need him healthy for the playoffs. However, the Ravens have lost their 2 games and have looked awful recently.  The return of Ray could give the team a boost.  Another thing is the depth the Ravens have at ILB.  As stated above, the two player who have started at ILB with Lewis gone, are out and questionable.  Lastly, the Ravens won't want a very inexperienced Josh Bynes to be the person matching up against Peyton Manning in audibles.  This would be a complete mismatch.  While Lewis hasn't beaten Manning much, he has always been able to keep up with Manning's audibles and knows exactly what defense to go to based off of Manning's calls.  In the end, nobody knows if Lewis will play, but he is exactly what the Ravens need right now.

Ravens Blow Late Lead

December 11, 2012 in Observations

The 9-4 Baltimore Ravens lost 31-28 in OT to the 7-6 Washington Redskins on a 34 yard field goal by Kai Forbath.  For the second time in two weeks, the Ravens blew a late lead.  This time it was an 8 point lead with 4:47 left in the game.

Coaching
While the offensive play calling was good this game, there were two situations where I disagree with what the Ravens coaching staff decided. The first was after the Ravens scored their last touchdown with 4:47 left in the game, they kicked the extra point.  This put the Ravens up by 8 points. The Redskins had to go down and score a touchdown and score a two-point conversion to tie the game.  If the Ravens went for a two-point conversion and made it, they would have been up by 9 points which is a two possession game.  Even if they didn't get the two-point conversion, the worst that would happen would be overtime as the Redskins would kick the extra point if they scored.  The other two situations were at the end of each half.  At the end of the first half, the Ravens had the ball with about 45 seconds left.  While the ball was on their own 13 yardline, they only needed about 40 yards to get into range for a 63 yard field goal.  With 45 seconds left, this should be very feasible but instead the Ravens ran it twice and threw 2 short passes and gained a total of 18 yards on 4 plays.  At the end of regulation the Ravens had the ball at their own 20 with about 30 seconds left.  They just took a knee and went into overtime.  This is more understandable as the offense hadn't done good over the last few drives.  These two decisions are rumored to be one of the reasons for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's firing.

Defense
Just a few general things about the defense before we go player-by-player.  Overall the tackling was atrocious.  You can definitely give some credit to the Redskins ballcarries but you also have to blame the Ravens as there rarely was a play where the Redskins went down on first contact.  Most of the 15 completed passes against the Ravens came when they were in zone defense.  More specifically, they came in-between the linebackers and the safeties.  This is always a weakness in zone defenses but linebackers can usually get deep enough before a receiver gets there.  The Redskins were able to exploit this with play-action passes.  These plays completely confused the linebackers sometimes creating big holes in the middle of the defense.  Even when it wasn't play-action, the linebackers were looking for run more than pass and they were taking a few steps towards the line-of-scrimmage.  This needs to be fixed for next week as Broncos QB Peyton Manning excels at play-action passes.

Cary Williams (29)

Ravens CB Cary Williams (29) tries to tackle Redskins WR Pierre Garcon (88).

Joe Flacco
It was almost like Flacco played two different games against the Redskins.  The first half was almost perfect for Flacco as he threw for 3 touchdowns and each pass was great.  On the first, Anquan Boldin ran an out-and-up.  Flacco pump faked the out and then threw a perfect pass to Boldin in the endzone.  The next one was also to Boldin but was an even better play.  After looking at the Redskins defensive alignment, Flacco audibled to a different play.  On the play, Flacco looked left and pump faked to WR Torrey Smith on a slant.  He then looked right and threw a great pass to Boldin for the touchdown.  The last touchdown pass was an out route to TE Dennis Pitta in the endzone where Flacco placed the ball where only Pitta could get it.  Against the blitz, Flacco really struggled.  Both of his turnovers came against the blitz and he seemed to not recognize some of the blitzes.  His fumble wasn't really his fault but the interception was his fault.  The Redskins had 6 rushers and the Ravens only had 5 blockers.  He either has to bring a blocker into the backfield or get rid of the ball right away.  He finished 16-of-21 for 182 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT.  His QB rating was 121.4 and QBR was 54.2.

Running Backs
Both Ray Rice and backup Bernard Pierce had outstanding games.  Rice had 121 yards on 20 rushes with a TD.  He also had his longest run this season, 46 yards.  Rice was able to average 6.1 yards per carry and Pierce had 6.8 on 8 carries for 53 yards.  Due to this success in the run game, Flacco only attempted 2 passes in the whole 3rd quarter.  This was also the quarter where Flacco had his two turnovers so the Ravens didn't get any points.  Both Rice and Pierce had an impact in the passing game.  Rice had 3 catches for 15 yards on 4 targets and Pierce had 2 catches for 11 yards on 2 targets.

Dennis Pitta
As I have said before, an easy way to tell if the Ravens offense is doing good is look at Pitta's stat line.  He finished with 5 catches for 46 yards and 1 TD on 6 targets.  What is most revealing to me is he had no first down catches.  Pitta is usually a first down machine.  His touchdown was on a 3rd and 10 though so you can give him a small break.

Anquan Boldin
Despite the Ravens only completing 16 passes, Boldin had a great game.  He caught the ball every time he was targeted and had 3 catches for 78 yards and 2 TDs.  Both of his TD catches were described above and his first one put him over 10,000 career receiving yards.  His other catch was on a 3rd and 4.  He caught it 8 yards downfield and then carried CB DeAngelo Hall for 20 more yards and was finally tackled at the 7 yardline. On the next play, Ray Rice scored on a 7 yard run.  So he scored 2 TDs and set up another.  The only negative for Boldin was he got called for a holdin penalty which negated a 4 yard run.

Anquan Boldin (81) and Jacoby Jones (12)

Ravens WR Anquan Boldin (81) celebrates one of his two touchdowns with WR Jacoby Jones.

Offensive Line
One Rice's long run, the offensive line dominated the Redskins defenders.  They blocked down and pushed the Redskins defensive line way away from the play.  On the touchdown pass to Pitta, Flacco had all day to find a receiver.  They also had great blocks on Rice's TD run.  Now for player specific notes.  Jah Reid had another false start.  Kelechi Osemele had a false start on a 1st and 10 inside the Ravens own 20 which really set back the drive.  Michael Oher had the worst game of all lineman.  He allowed a QB hit on Flacco inside the Redskins 20.  If he had given Flacco an extra second he would have hit WR Jacoby Jones for a TD.  Oher also gave up the strip sack of Flacco which occurred around midfield which is huge in field position terms.

Arthur Jones
Jones continued a trend of making his impact plays in bunches.  Two of his three impact plays came back-to-back and all 3 came at key situations.  After a good Sam Koch punt was downed at the Redskins 14, Jones went to work.  On first down, he stopped a run for a loss of 3 yards.  The next play he came in and sacked Redskins QB Robert Griffin III.  This was the first time that Griffin was visibly injured.  He stayed down for a moment but then got back up.  These two plays helped the Ravens get the ball back at the Washington 47.  However, the offense went 3 and out.  The last impact play made by Jones was a half sack with Paul Kruger.  This sack came on the Redskins final drive in regulation. On 1st and 10 from the Washington 36, Jones and Kruger sacked Griffin for a loss of 9.  This was the play before Griffin had to come out injured. With this performance, Jones now has 4.5 sacks in the last 3 games.

Paul Kruger
Just like Jones, Kruger extended his his sack streak to 5 games and now has 6.5 sacks in that period.  Kruger's sack came on a 1st down. Griffin was slowed down by DE Haloti Ngata on the play and Kruger was able to finish him off for a loss of 8.  This sack stalled the Redskins drive There were also other QB pressures from Kruger throughout the game.  As stated above, his sack that was split with Jones came on the last drive of regulation.  He also was in the right place at the right time as he recovered a fumble for a gain of 9 yards.  This put the Ravens at the Redskins 14 yardline and then three plays later, Dennis Pitta scored his touchdown.

Ed Reed
Unlike normally, Reed could be credited for 2 touchdowns against him.  He also made no impact plays.  The first touchdown came when the Ravens were in zone coverage.  Reed seemed to know the ball was going to WR Joshua Morgan as he followed him all the way across the endzone but wasn't able to stop the pass.  The second touchdown could be credited to either Reed or CB Chris Johnson.  It looked like they were in zone again on this play.  The receiver on the play, Pierre Garcon, ran a corner route and split the zone.  Reed was over the top and Johnson was underneath.  The throw was just over Johnson's outstretched arms and Reed couldn't close the distance in time.  Reed will need to be on his game next week against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos as the last time the Ravens won against Manning was in December of 2001.

Ed Reed

Ravens star S Ed Reed had an underwhelming game against the Redskins.