Here is a recap of all your Baltimore Ravens free agency news from the first day.
The Ravens made an effort to re-sign Ellerbe but, they were never very close to a deal.
Here is a recap of all your Baltimore Ravens free agency news from the first day.
The Ravens made an effort to re-sign Ellerbe but, they were never very close to a deal.
Tags: Arthur Jones, Baltimore Ravens, Chris Canty, Cleveland Browns, Damien Berry, Dannell Ellerbe, Danny Amendola, David Reed, Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Free Agency, James Harrison, James Ihedigbo, Miami Dolphins, Morgan Cox, Paul Kruger, Ramon Harewood Comments Off
Super Bowl XLVII is being dubbed as the "Harbowl" because of brothers John and Jim Harbaugh being the head coaches of the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers respectively. While this is a good storyline, it won't exactly determine who will win this game. These two teams played last season on Thanksgiving night in Baltimore and the Ravens won 16-6. Both teams are similar to those teams from 2011 but, there are still many differences. In this game, the key will be winning the battle of the trenches.
1. Offensive Line
The biggest reason the Ravens are in the Super Bowl, in my opinion, is the offensive line. You can argue other things like the defense stepping up, Ray Lewis announcing his retirement, and Joe Flacco but, without the offensive line, Flacco wouldn't be playing as good as he has. Without Flacco, the Ravens wouldn't have made it this far so, the offensive line is a big deal.
Throughout the postseason, the offensive line has given up only four sacks in three games. In the regular season, they allowed thirty-eight sacks in sixteen games. This comes out to 2.38 sacks per game. Sacks isn't the whole story though, as the line was allowing constant pressure during some games which gave Flacco no chance to complete was pass. In fact, in the game against the Denver Broncos in week 15, the line allowed eighteen hurries, ten knockdowns, and three sacks (not counted as knockdowns) on forty pass attempts. In their matchup in the Divisional Playoffs, the Broncos only had one sack and never had much pressure.
The reason for this sudden change was a change in the line itself. Starting LG Jah Reid was injured for the Wild Card game against the Indianapolis Colts. This forced a complete reshuffling of the line. Normal LT Michael Oher went to RT, normal RT Kelechi Osemele went to LG, and backup Bryant McKinnie went to LT. McKinnie started at LT last season but was forced to the bench when the Ravens drafted Osemele. Before the next game, against the Broncos, the Ravens placed Reid on injured reserve which locked in this lineup for the rest of the playoffs.
On to Super Bowl XLVII, the line will face a tough matchup with the 49ers who finished the regular season 3rd in total yards allowed and 2nd in points per game. The biggest challenge will be for the left side of the offensive line. Left tackle McKinnie will go up against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Aldon Smith who has 19.5 sacks this season. Right guard Marshal Yanda will face All-Pro DE Justin Smith. One stat in favor of the Ravens is that neither has recorded a sack since week 14 against the Miami Dolphins. The reason for this is Justin Smith then missed some time with a triceps injury. This shows that without Justin Smith, Aldon Smith is an "average" pass rusher. Even in their two playoff games, Aldon Smith has no sacks and Justin Smith has been playing injured in those two games.
Since Yanda is an All-Pro guard, the Ravens will hope he can handle Justin Smith one-on-one. This then allows more attention to go to Aldon Smith with McKinnie probably getting some help from a tight end or a running back. If Yanda can handle Justin Smith, it frees up the whole offensive line. It means on run plays C Matt Birk and LG Kelechi Osemele could double team NT Isaac Sopoaga and lets FB Vonta Leach get to the second level and take out one of the 49ers All-Pro ILBs in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
The key for the Ravens offensive line is to stop Justin Smith. If they can do this with just Marshal Yanda then it will free up other lineman to block linebackers and the rest of the defensive line. Anytime you can get offensive lineman on linebackers in the run game, it is good. In the passing game, if the line can hold up, Flacco should play similar to how he has so far in the playoffs.
2. Joe Flacco
Speaking of Flacco, he has big responsibilities in the game. This is his chance to show the world that he is an elite quarterback like he said before the season. So far this postseason, he has been elite going 51-of-93 for 853 yards with 8 TDs, 0 INTs, and a QB rating of 114.7. His passing yards, touchdowns, interceptions, and QB rating are all the best for QBs in this postseason.
Beyond the stats, he has gone into Denver and beat MVP candidate Peyton Manning and went into New England and beat Tom Brady. Not only did he beat both, he outperformed them and now he finds himself in New Orleans for the Super Bowl while they watch from home.
The best part of Flacco's game this postseason has been the deep passing game. On passes to wide receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, Flacco is averaging 16.7 yards per completion. During the regular season, the 49ers were good at stopping the deep pass but, in the playoffs, they have regressed and quarterbacks are 10-of-15 for 264 yards with 3 TDs, 1 INT, and a QBR of 100. If you want to see a full chart for this click here.
Expect the Ravens to come out passing against the 49ers. Against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, they came out running and it didn't work. In the second half, they started to pass the ball and this second half performance won the game for them. Don't expect the Ravens to abandon the run game though as they will need it for play-action passes and the Ravens always seem to lose when they don't run the ball. As always, they will use Smith to take the top off the defense and then use Boldin and TE Dennis Pitta across the middle of the field.
3. Stopping the Run
When the 49ers played the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Playoffs, the Packers couldn't stop QB Colin Kaepernick or RB Frank Gore. In the NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons, the Falcons were able to stop Kaepernick from running but couldn't stop Gore. If the Ravens want to win, they will have to at least contain both of them.
Coming into this game, the Ravens defense is on fire. They have given up 14 points per game in the playoffs and have only allowed four touchdowns. Despite the Ravens not having played a good running teams in the playoffs, they have a few advantages over the Packers and the Falcons in stopping the 49ers run game.
The best defense to run for stopping the option, which the 49ers will run, is the 3-4, which the Packers use but not the Falcons. However, the Packers defense has consistently been awful over the last few years. The Ravens run the 3-4 defense and, they have the right personnel to stop the outside runs.
Rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw has been one of the best run defenders at his position all season long. Therefore, expect him to play a little bit more than usual on Sunday. When you think of Terrell Suggs, you think of a pass rusher, not a run defender. However, Suggs has become a good run defender over the last few years and it has become the most evident this year. Due to all of his injuries limiting his pass rushing ability, Suggs has become a better run defender. Paul Kruger also will play at OLB for the Ravens but he is mainly a pass rusher so he won't be talked about here.
The outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense are the most important players in stopping outside runs, which is mainly what Kaepernick does. Since the Ravens have a pair of good outside linebackers, the should be ok in this part of the run game. They also showed this in their week 14 matchup against the Washington Redskins. While the Ravens lost, they were able to limit QB Robert Griffin III to 34 yards on 7 rushes before he was hampered by a knee injury. Therefore, it is Gore that the Ravens will have to really worry about.
The outside linebackers will have to set the edge for runs and probably will be assigned to Kaepernick on the option plays. This means that the rest of the front seven will be responsible for stopping Gore. This is what the Falcons couldn't do and the Ravens could fall in the same boat. The nose tackle position has been very inconsistent for the Ravens this year with not very good production. This allows lineman to get blocks on the linebackers which can spring the running backs free. This is never good for a run defense as it allows constant runs of five yards or more.
A way to fix this is putting normal DE Haloti Ngata at NT but this all but eliminates him from rushing the passer which he is so good at. Therefore, the Ravens will have to stick with Ma'ake Kemoeatu and Terrence Cody at NT. Them, along with DEs Ngata, Arthur Jones, and Pernell McPhee will need to get push and take on blockers to disrupt the runs and allow the linebackers to run free and make tackles.
Expect the Ravens to have schemed up a decent way to stop this high powered run game of the 49ers. However, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman are great offensive minds which means they also will have schemed up something. This means it will come down to execution and who can make plays.
4. Pass Rush
Containing Kaepernick isn't the only thing the Ravens outside linebackers will have to do, they will also have to generate a pass rush when the 49ers pass it. It will be a tough challenge for the Ravens pass rushers as the 49ers line has only given up two sacks this postseason but, they did give up forty-one sacks in the regular season which ranks tied for 23rd best in the NFL.
The Ravens, on the other hand, recorded thirty-seven sacks in the regular season, tied for 15th best, and have six sacks in the postseason. In the game against the Patriots, they recorded no sacks but were able to have constant pressure. Rushing the passer isn't all about sacks, most of it is getting enough pressure to force the ball out of the quarterback's hands before he wants to throw it.
Playing the 49ers, the biggest problem with getting pressure is the threat of Kaepernick to scramble and pick up chunks of yards. Therefore, don't be surprised if the Ravens have either a linebacker in the middle of the field spy Kaepernick or just tell the edge pass rusher to contain on certain plays. This should limit the scrambling ability of Kaepernick on pass plays.
On to specific players, OLB Paul Kruger had been quite a tear since week ten against the Oakland Raiders. He had a total of ten sacks in nine games starting with that game. His streak finished after a 2.5 sack performance against the Colts in their Wild Card game. He has been shut out in the last two playoff games though. The Ravens will need Kruger to regain his late season form to get pressure on Kaepernick and disrupt the 49ers passing game.
On the other side of the line will the Terrell Suggs. Suggs has overcome a torn achilles and a torn biceps to be able to play this season. In the regular season, Suggs was only able to record two sacks in eight games. In the postseason, however, Suggs has two sacks, both against the Broncos. Suggs will need to be in top form as the 49ers have a great offensive line, plus he will have big responsibilities in the run game.
While Kruger and Suggs will rush from the outside, Haloti Ngata, Arthur Jones, and Pernell McPhee will rush Kaepernick from the inside. Of those three, McPhee has turned his game on recently. Against the Patriots he batted down two passes including one that resulted for an interception. In the previous game, he had a strip sack of Peyton Manning. McPhee had been limited by injuries all year but now, he seems to be back in form. Jones had 4.5 sacks in weeks 12-14 but has no others on the season. Ngata, has been a force inside when healthy and, he seems to be in good health right now.
As stated above, who ever wins in the trenches will win the game. So, it might not be as fun to watch as a high powered passing offense, like the Patriots, but the battle in the trenches will be great to watch as there will be some great matchups and, most importantly, it will determine the game.
Tags: Aldon Smith, Anquan Boldin, Arthur Jones, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Bryant McKinnie, Colin Kaepernick, Courtney Upshaw, Dennis Pitta, Denver Broncos, Frank Gore, Green Bay Packers, Greg Roman, Haloti Ngata, Indianapolis Colts, Issac Sopoaga, Jah Reid, Jim Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh, Justin Smith, Kelechi Osemele, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Marshal Yanda, Matt Birk, Michael Oher, NaVorro Bowman, New England Patriots, Offensive Line, Pass Rush, Patrick Willis, Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee, Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis, Robert Griffin III, Run Defense, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLVII, Terrell Suggs, Terrence Cody, Tom Brady, Torrey Smith, Vonta Leach, Washington Redskins Comments Off
January 22, 2013 in Observations
In a rematch of last years AFC Championship Game, the Baltimore Ravens outlasted the New England Patriots by a score of 28-13. At halftime the score was 13-7 to the Patriots. Once the second half started the Ravens had a new offensive scheme, pass the ball. This worked as it led to 21 second half points. The defense rose to the occasion and shut the Patriots out in the second half. In the first half, the Ravens were out played but, in the second half, the Ravens outplayed the Patriots. Before this game, the Patriots had won 71 games in a row under head coach Bill Belichick when leading at half, including a 67-0 record when the quarterback is Tom Brady. Now the Ravens will head to New Orleans to play in Super Bowl XLVII. They will have the San Francisco 49ers who are coached by the brother of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, Jim Harbaugh. The game will take place on February 3rd and kickoff is at 6:29 pm Eastern time.
The Red Zone
The Ravens play in the red zone, on offense and defense, is what won them this game. On offense, they made it to the red zone four times and, scored four touchdowns. This offensive efficiency can make an offense almost unstoppable, as long as they can actually get to the red zone. On defense, they allowed the Patriots to make it in to the red zone four times but, they only scored one touchdown. The Patriots also got to the Ravens 24 and 22-yard line but, the Ravens were able to force interceptions both times. This red zone defense describes this years Ravens defense. They are not the best in the league anymore however, once the other team makes it to the red zone, they dig in and stop the offense. It is very hard to lose a game when you have these two stats on your side.
For Flacco, it was almost like two different games. In the first half, he went 6-of-12 for 81 yards with 0 TDs or INTs. This isn't bad quarterbacking but, it also isn't how an elite one plays. In the second half though, he went 15-of-24 for 159 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs. For the game, he went 21-of-36 for 240 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs. His QBR was 80.2 and his QB rating was 106.2 compared to Tom Brady's QBR of 45.1 and QB rating of 62.3. Brady also threw 2 INTs. So, for the third time in as many games, Flacco has outplayed Tom Brady and, two of these games have been the AFC Championship.
As stated above, the Ravens offensive strategy in the second half changed. In the first half they had been doing a lot of run plays, especially on first down. The offense just looked really conservative in the first half. At halftime, there were some changes as the Ravens came out throwing in the second half. In fact, Flacco accounted for 70% of the Ravens offense in the second half. With this change, the offense started to move the ball. Soon they had taken a 14-13 lead and they never looked back after that.
On to more game specific things, Flacco never really got the deep ball going as his longest completion of the game went for 26 yards to Anquan Boldin. The lack of a deep passing game can be attributed to the weather as it was very windy on the field with the wind at around 20 mph if I remember correctly. All of Flacco's touchdown passes were good but the one that stood out to me was the first to Anquan Boldin. The first was a play action jump ball. After the fake, Flacco threw the ball up where only Boldin could get it. Flacco also had one rush attempt where he scrambled and picked up 14 yards and a first down.
Starting with his performance in the passing game, Rice had 3 catches for 22 yards on 4 targets. Of these three catches, two of them went for first downs. The most memorable was a 15 yard screen pass. The Patriots originally had the screen covered but, Rice got away and Flacco threw it. Rice broke three tackles on his way to the first down. Now to the run game. While Rice had 19 rushes, he only ran for 48 yards which is an average of 2.5 yards per carry. Three of these rushes went for first downs. One was a 5 yard run that put the ball on the Patriots 2-yard line after he ran for eight yards the play before. Another of his first downs was a short run on a 2nd and 2 which put the ball on the Patriots 3-yard line. The last of his first downs was a 3rd and 1 run with five minutes left in the game which helped run more time off the clock. Along with his 48 rush yards, Rice also had a rushing touchdown. He only went for two yards but, he broke two tackles on the way. The play called for Rice to run up the middle but, like most of the game, there wasn't running room in the middle. So, Rice bounced the run outside to the left and scored. The only negative from Rice is he had a false start on a 3rd an 8 from the Ravens own 29-yard line. This was early in the game so it can probably be accounted to nerves.
While couldn't get much going on the ground, Pierce had much more success. On 9 carries he had 52 yards. Three of these carries went for first downs. One of them was a 2nd and 5 run for nine yards which put the ball on the Patriots 22-yard line and another was a 3rd and 2 draw that he was able to bounce outside for a gain of eleven, the longest rush by any running back in the game. Pierce also had 1 catch for 8 yards. This also went for a first down; it was a 2nd and 8 swing pass that just barely was enough for the first.
Unlike the Denver game, Smith wasn't able to catch a deep pass but, he still had an impact on the game. Most of his catches were in the intermediate range due to the wind. He had 4 catches for 69 yards on 9 targets. He had three of these go for first downs. The first was a 25 yard catch on play action on a 2nd and 6 which put the Ravens on the Patriots 15-yard line. The second was a 2nd and 14 conversion that went for 23 yards. Lastly, he had a 16 yard catch on a first down.
This was another record setting game for Boldin. With his two touchdown catches, Boldin became the Ravens all-time postseason receiving touchdown leader. He had 5 catches for 60 yards with 2 TDs on 8 targets. All of these catches came in the second half and only one wasn't a first down or touchdown. One of these first down catches was a 3rd and 9 for 26 yards and the other was on 2nd and 10 that put the ball on the Patriots 10-yard line. Boldin's first touchdown was on the first play of the fourth quarter. The other touchdown (the first was discussed with Flacco), was on a 2nd and 4 and was for 12 yards. Boldin lined up in the slot and ran a seam route, Flacco threw it up and Boldin caught it for another touchdown.
For the second game in a row, Pitta had 55 receiving yards. This week he did it on 5 catches with 7 targets. Three of these catches went for first downs, one for a touchdown, and the other was in the red zone. Starting with his first down catches, Pitta had a 3rd and 4 catch from deep in Ravens territory, a 2nd and 10 catch for a gain of over 20 yards, and a 2nd and 4 catch that put the ball on the Patriots 13-yard line. His touchdown was on 2nd and goal from the 5-yard line and was a quick pass. Lastly, his other catch occurred on the play before his touchdown. It was first and goal from the ten and he went over the middle. Pitta caught the ball and took a big hit but still was able to hold on to the ball. On the negative side, Pitta had a diving catch go right through his hands on a 3rd and 8.
Yet again, the offensive line performed great. They only gave up two sacks for a combined loss of five yards which is nothing in terms of sack yardage. The first sack was given up by LT Bryant McKinnie on a 3rd and 6 from inside the Ravens own 10-yard line. The other sack was more of a coverage sack and Flacco was starting to scramble so it wasn't really the fault of the offensive line. It only went for a loss of one so it was basically a failed run play. None of the offensive linemen were called for a penalty which is very impressive. In the run game, they got some movement but for the most past, there never were any big holes to run through. Of the offensive line can protect Flacco like this for one more game, they could be tough to beat in the Super Bowl.
Ngata may have only had four tackles but, for a defensive lineman in a 3-4 defense, that is good. One of these tackles was a run stop for no gain. The part of the game that Ngata was the best at yesterday was rushing the passer. Ngata finished with three of the Ravens seven QB hits (they didn't record a sack but seemed to have a fair amount of pressure). On a 4th and 4 play from the Ravens 19-yard line, Ngata had pressure with Terrell Suggs which caused Brady to throw the ball away. Once the Ravens made this stop, it seemed like the Ravens were going to win and make it to the Super Bowl. This play is an attribute to Ngata's speed as Brady had an open field in front of him but didn't run because he probably wouldn't have made it. Ngata also had pressure on another play which caused a throw away. The last play where Ngata caused a throw away was with two minutes left. Ngata had pressure which caused Brady to throw the ball away.
So how does a defensive lineman without a tackle make it here? Simple, deflect two passes (including one that leads to a touchdown) and say that you have discovered Tom Brady's flaw. First, McPhee batted away a pass in the fourth quarter that Dannell Ellerbe was able to intercept. After this interception, with seven minutes left in the game, it seemed like the game really was over as the Patriots never got the ball back until there were two minutes left. The other pass deflection came with under two minutes left in game. On to him discovering Brady's flaw, McPhee says "He throws all of his balls low." When asked about how Brady has been so successful despite this McPhee said "He just throws it fast and he always gets good pockets. But I tried to stay in front of him after watching film and knowing where he likes to go and how he likes to do it. So that was my best advantage, just get my hands up." This strategy clearly worked for McPhee as he had his two pass deflections at the line.
As usual, Lewis recorded double digit tackles with 14 but, according to Pro Football Focus, only two of those were defensive stops (runs for little or no gain). Lewis was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit which was the right call even though it was pretty obvious that he didn't mean to do it. Lastly, after the game, Lewis fell to the ground and started saying "Hallelujah."
Starting with pass coverage, Ellerbe gave up three catches for one first down. With about seven minutes left in the game, Ellerbe intercepted Brady off of McPhee's tip. This came the next play after Wes Welker caught a 56 yard pass. The last positive for Ellerbe was a pressure on Brady which caused a bad deep pass that ended up going out-of-bounds. Also on this play, Ellerbe was able to take down Brady. On the negative side Ellerbe was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty after slapping a Patriots offensive lineman when a play was over. Ellerbe was retaliating to a late block but, you can't do that in the NFL and he was flagged, even if his slap barely was anything.
While Suggs is though of as a pass rusher, he is actually quite a good run defender and this was on full display yesterday. Suggs had two run stops for no gain including one on a 2nd and 1. In the pass rush department he wasn't able to record a sack (like all of the Ravens) but, still had at least two pressures. The first was on the 4th and 4 with Haloti Ngata as already discussed. The other was with under two minutes left where he hit Brady as he threw causing an incompletion.
Walking off the field, Suggs was overheard saying "Tell them to have fun at the Pro Bowl. Arrogant f—ers" and "These are the most arrogant pricks in the world starting with Belichick on down." He also said "That's funny, ever since SpyGate they haven't been able to win" though I don't know if he said this one to reporters or if he was overheard like the other two. He did respond to reporters saying "All BS aside they are a hell of a ball club … They have the right to be arrogant." While he may believe this, there is no reason to say this but, on the positive side, he didn't come out and say it to the media, he was just overheard. Either way, the Ravens don't need publicity like this, especially after these two controversial things about the Patriots.
It seemed like Pollard was all over the field going full speed all night. He finished with 9 tackles, 1 pass deflection, and 1 forced fumble. In the run game, Pollard had a run stop for a gain of two yards. In pass coverage, he only gave up one pass. On a blitz he was able to bat down a pass at the line-of-scrimmage. This batted pass came on 1st and goal from the Ravens two-yard line. On a 3rd and 4 from the Ravens 19-yard line, he had great coverage and forced an incompletion. Pollard had a big hit on a receiver but was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit. However, he led with his shoulder on the play and his shoulder hit the receiver on his head so I am going to call this one a bad call.
Lastly is the play we all remember, his hit and forced fumble on Patriots RB Stevan Ridley. Pollard hit Ridley hard and they both lowered their heads on the play so it was a helmet-to-helmet hit but since it was a running back it isn't a penalty. Ridley was unconscious before he hit the ground and on his way down, the ball came out of his hands and was recovered by DT Arthur Jones. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said "That [Pollard's hit] was the turning point of the game. A tremendous hit, football at its finest." This play goes in line with Pollard's history with the Patriots. In 2008, it was Pollard that hit Brady when he tore his ACL. In 2009, it was Pollard that Welker was trying to avoid when he tore his ACL. In 2012, it was Pollard that injured Rob Gronkowski ankle which limited him in the Super Bowl.
Williams had a solid performance last night only giving up four completions and one first down. He also had a deflection on a 3rd and 2 that went right to Paul Kruger but, since the deflection took a weird bounce off of Williams, Kruger dropped it because he wasn't expecting the ball to come to him. Lastly, Williams intercepted Brady in the end zone with 1:06 left in the game. After this interception the Ravens just took a two knees and the game was over.
Like Williams, Graham gave up four completions, however, three of his went for first downs and the other was for the Patriots only touchdown of the game. The touchdown was on a 3rd and goal from the one. After the play, Graham and Chykie Brown were upset because they didn't communicate well after the Patriots motioned a receiver over. This led to Welker being open for the touchdown. Graham was also beaten on the first drive on a 3rd and 2 but Welker dropped the pass. On a pass that Welker didn't drop, Graham was beat deep for 56 yards. He bit badly on the double move leaving Welker wide open. Ending on a positive note, Graham had a run stop for a loss of one on a 3rd and 2 which forced a field goal by the Patriots.
This game was the first time in a while that Smith received substantial playing time. Brown started as the nickel corner and then Smith took it over. By the end of the game it seemed like they were being rotated. This could have been part of the game plan to put Graham on Welker instead of Brown doing that. This would mean that Graham would be in the slot. Since Smith is better on the outside than Brown, he would come in when in nickel. This is just a speculation so it will be interesting to see who is the nickel corner in the Super Bowl.
Tags: AFC Championship Game, Anquan Boldin, Arthur Jones, Baltimore Ravens, Bernard Pierce, Bernard Pollard, Bill Belichick, Bryant McKinnie, Cary Williams, Chykie Brown, Corey Graham, Dannell Ellerbe, Dennis Pitta, Haloti Ngata, Jacoby Jones, Jim Harbaugh, Jimmy Smith, Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh, New England Patriots, Offensive Line, Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Red Zone, Rob Gronkowski, San Francisco 49ers, Stevan Ridley, Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLVII, Terrell Suggs, Tom Brady, Torrey Smith, Wes Welker 4 Comments »
January 19, 2013 in What to Look For
In what is a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game, the Ravens will travel to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots. These two teams played in week three and the Ravens prevailed 31-30.
1. Quarterback Battle
A few years ago, when the Ravens and Patriots played, the main thing to watch was the Ravens defense going against Patriots QB Tom Brady. Now, with the way Ravens QB Joe Flacco has played, it is Joe Flacco vs Tom Brady. Over the last few games, Flacco has stepped up to help the Ravens win.
So far in the postseason, Flacco and Brady are the top two quarterbacks based on a few statistics. In QB rating, Flacco is first and Brady is second. Out of the quarterbacks who have started a playoff game this season, Flacco and Brady are the only two to throw for zero interceptions. When you look at passing yards per game, Brady is first and Flacco is second and the only other quarterback who is averaging over 300 yards per game is the Texans Matt Schaub. Lastly, Flacco has thrown for five TDs which is two more than anyone else as five people, including Brady, have three touchdowns.
Now to the game, it very well could come down to the last drive, just like the last two times they have played. In the regular season, Flacco led the Ravens down the field for a game winning field goal. In last years AFC Championship Game, Flacco led the Ravens on a late drive but, Lee Evans dropped the game winning touchdown pass and then Billy Cundiff missed a short field goal to send the game to overtime. In this sense, Flacco has the advantage but, you never know what Brady would have done if he had the ball on the last drive. Also in the last two games, Flacco has outplayed Brady. Flacco has gone 50-of-75 for 688 yards with 5 TDs, 2 INTs, and a QBR of 68.1. Brady went 50-of-77 for 574 yards with 1 TD, 2 INTs, and a QBR of 78.8.
This game will come down to which quarterback plays the best and, it could come to whether one of these two can lead their team to a game winning drive. Also, in the last two games against each other, Flacco and Brady each completed 22 passes and then 28 passes.
2. Passing Game
While I just talked about Flacco vs Brady, we still need to take a look at how Flacco can perform great this week. The Patriots ranked 29th in total passing yards and passing yards per game. In their only playoff game this year, the Patriots gave up 343 pass yards. In the postseason, most of Flacco's good performance has come from the deep passes. He has averaged 10.75 yards per attempt so far this postseason. Expect, the Ravens to try and use Torrey Smith to take the top off of the defense and then get the ball underneath to Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta. Smith had 127 yards on 6 catches with 2 TDs in the earlier matchup. Boldin had 4 catches for 48 yards and Pitta had 5 catches for 50 yards and 1 TD. Since the Patriots have proved they are susceptible to the passing game, expect the Ravens to attack that way early, and often.
While this may seem very broad, it is still an important topic. Despite Brady being an elite quarterback, the Ravens are 2-2 in their last four games against him. The main reason for this is the defense being able to contain Brady. Brady hasn't been as effective as usual do to the defensive scheme. Since the Ravens have played Tom Brady enough, they have been able to figure out something that works against Brady. Simplifying it, there are two ways to attack Brady. The first is to blitz him and the other is to sit back in coverage. In theory, blitzing works because Brady will have less time to throw but, if Brady identifies the blitz, he will change the play to get the ball out fast enough. Dropping back in coverage would work in theory because it would be harder to find an open receiver but, you are only sending three or four rushers after Brady which will usually not be enough to get significant pressure. This then gives Brady the time to find an open receiver because the secondary can't cover a receiver forever. Therefore, you have to pick your times to blitz and try and confuse Brady.
4. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed vs Tom Brady
Tying into confusing Brady is Lewis and Reed as it will be up to them to try and confuse Brady. Lewis is the defensive leader and it will mainly be his responsibility to get people to line up and confuse Brady. When Brady does audible, it will be up to Lewis to change the defensive alignment. For Reed, it is his job to switch the secondary assignments. Combined, Lewis and Reed have enough experience to be able to get the Ravens in a good defense to defend against Brady.
More specifically to Reed, he will be the main player stopping the Patriots from passing deep. Last week against the Broncos, Peyton Manning never even tested Reed in coverage which is very rare. Based off this picture, Brady is very aware of what Reed can do but, expect Brady to attack Reed with a few deep passes as Reed no longer has the range he used to have.
Tags: AFC Championship Game, Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens, Billy Cundiff, Defense, Dennis Pitta, Ed Reed, Houston Texans, Joe Flacco, Lee Evans, Matt Schaub, New England Patriots, Passing Game, Peyton Manning, Playoffs, Ray Lewis, Tom Brady, Torrey Smith 1 Comment »
January 13, 2013 in Observations
In the first double overtime game since the 2003 divisional playoffs, the 4th seed Baltimore Ravens beat the 1st seed Denver Broncos 38-35 in the 4th longest game in NFL history. The 35 points given up by the Ravens are the most in franchise playoff history. On the offensive side, the Ravens had an amazing 479 yards of offense. Coming into the game, almost nobody gave the Ravens a chance to win but, they came together as a team to win this one. The Ravens will play in the AFC Championship game on Sunday at 6:30 ET on the road against the winner of the Patriots Texans game today.
If the Ravens lost this game, most of the blame would have gone to the punt and kickoff coverage units. On the first punt of the game, they allowed Broncos returner Trindon Holliday to go 90 yards for a touchdown. On the return, there was one Ravens player on the far side of the field (from a TV perspective), other that P Sam Koch. Holliday just took the punt down the far side of the field and scored. Brendon Ayanbadejo missed a tackle and Holliday was gone. Giving up a punt return for a touchdown is one thing but, having about nine players on the wring side of the field is another. Some of them should be their for contain but not nine of them.
They weren't done after allowing that punt return either. To start second half, the Ravens kicked off. Holliday took the ball out of his endzone and ran it 104 yards for a touchdown. On this play, Holliday just found a hole and made the most of it. He touched but, there wasn't a good tackle attempt on the return. With these two plays, Holliday had the longest punt and kick return touchdowns in NFL postseason history. After these two plays, Holliday never really had a good opportunity to return a punt or kick because the Ravens did the right thing and kicked away from him.
I just want to make a quick note about the referees. Throughout the game there were questionable calls that went against both teams. They also took a long time to make some decisions and what to call.
In the regular season matchup against the Broncos, Flacco had a QBR of 0.4. This week, Flacco led a late comeback to tie the game in regulation and then played good in overtime. With this win, he now has five playoff road wins and will play in his 3rd AFC Championship game in only five seasons. Starting with the stats, he went 18-of-34 for 331 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 1 fumble, a QBR of 65.3, and a QB rating of 116.2. Throughout the game, Flacco's snap count was good as he was able to get the Broncos to jump offsides at least three times. He was also aware enough to snap the ball when the Broncos had twelve men on the field. Part of the Ravens gameplan was to throw the ball downfield and Flacco was able to do this. He was able to accomplish this by averaging 18.4 yards per completion. Early in the game he had a perfect deep pass to Torrey Smith for a 59 yard touchdown. A little bit later, Flacco overthrew Smith who had a few steps on his man again. This also would have been a touchdown. In overtime, he had a great pass to Dennis Pitta on 3rd and 13 for a first down. On the negative side, he fumbled a snap at midfield and the Broncos were able to recover it. With four minutes left in OT, he had an interception dropped near midfield.
The play that impressed me the most was the 70 yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation. Not only did this tie the game up, Flacco did a great job on this play. It was a 3rd and 3 and as soon as the ball was snapped, Flacco was under pressure from the outside. Due to this pressure, Flacco stepped up in the pocket and threw it about 55 yards in the air. This was a great play because Flacco rarely steps up into the pocket and makes a pass. This is the sign of an elite quarterback. If you watch Peyton Manning, you will notice that he steps up in the pocket most of the time when he feels pressure. This is a great thing to be able to do as a quarterback.
Overall, Flacco's performance is the sign of an elite quarterback. He was able to led his team on a game tying drive with about one minute left, on the road, against the number two defense in the NFL, in the playoffs. He was also able to outperform one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Peyton Manning, who finished with 2 interceptions and 1 fumble.
After fumbling twice last week, Rice turned in a great performance. On 30 carries, Rice was able to gain 131 yards and 1 touchdown. It seemed like most of his carries came in the second half and overtime. At one point in overtime, almost every first down play was a run to Rice. Of his 30 rushes, 3 of them went for first downs (by my count). The first of these was the Ravens first 3rd down conversion in the game. The second of these was a 32 yard run that put the Ravens inside the Broncos 5-yard line. On the ensuing 3rd and goal, Rice was able to run for the touchdown from one yard out. This touchdown gave Rice his five career postseason touchdowns which is a Ravens team record.
Boldin continues to be a first down machine for the Ravens offense. He had 6 catches for 71 yards on 11 targets. Of his 6 catches, 5 went for first downs. One of these first downs was on the final drive in the 1st half. Another first down was on the first drive of overtime. Every time the Ravens needed a first down, Flacco would look for Boldin.
While Boldin is a first down machine, Smith is the big play receiver. He had 3 catches for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns on 6 targets. Each of his catches was for a touchdown or a first down. The first touchdown was for 59 yards on 2nd and 2. Smith went deep and just ran right past Broncos star CB Champ Bailey. This touchdown was needed because the Broncos had just returned a punt for a touchdown. This touchdown is the 2nd longest passing play in Ravens postseason history. The second touchdown was with 36 seconds left in the 1st half. Smith went deep on Bailey again and again scored on him. Flacco threw the ball a little behind to try and give Smith a better opportunity. Smith was able to stop his momentum and catch the ball while Bailey couldn't. With his second touchdown, Smith became the first Ravens player to have two receiving touchdowns in a playoff game. In overtime, Smith was able to draw a pass interference on a 3rd and 5 play on the Ravens first drive. This drive didn't result in points but it helped in the field position battle. Throughout the game, Smith was beating one of the best cornerbacks in the game, Champ Bailey, on the deep passes.
Before his 70 yard touchdown catch, Jones wasn't having a good game. On a kickoff, he wasn't able to catch it properly and after he got the ball, he was only able to get the ball to about the 6-yard line. Even worse than this, was his drop on 3rd and 5 with 3 minutes left. Flacco put the pass right in hands and Jones dropped it. After the Ravens couldn't convert the 4th down play, it looked like the game was over. However, Jones more than made up for his drop with his 70 yard touchdown catch with 31 seconds left. Before this play happened, the Broncos had a 97.2% chance of winning according to ESPN Stats and Information. On the play, Jones was able to run past the cornerback and the safety took a bad angle and run under the pass. Once Jones caught it he had a free run to the endzone. Other than that play, he had 1 catch for 7 yards on 4 targets.
In the first meeting between these two teams, backup TE Ed Dickson was injured and didn't play. This meant the Ravens couldn't run many two TE sets. These week he was healthy and the Ravens ran many two TE sets. Dickson had 3 catches for 29 yards on 4 targets. Two of these catches went for first downs. Starter Dennis Pitta had 3 catches for 55 yards on 5 targets. He had three first downs including one on the final drive in the 1st half and a 3rd and 13 from their own 3-yard line in overtime.
There aren't enough good things that I can say about the offensive line after that game. The biggest key on offense was the offensive line. The line stood up to the challenge and gave Flacco lots of time to throw all game long. They allowed 1 sack but that was a coverage sack as Flacco just couldn't find anyone to pass to. In the running game, they opened up holes all game long. While the longest run was only 32 yards, there were lots of runs for about 5 yards. The line was only called for one penalty and that was a false start on LG Kelechi Osemele. The other guard, Marshal Yanda, was very impressive because of two plays. The first was Rice's touchdown run. Yanda pulled and took out his guy, pushing him down into the endzone. This block allowed Rice to score. The other play was the last play of the first OT. Rice ran the ball and was being held up but, Yanda came over and pushed the pile for about 2 yards which was enough to get the first down and, more importantly, put the Ravens in field goal range to win the game.
McPhee's name was only called once yesterday but it was for a great play. On a 3rd and 11, McPhee, as well as a few others, was able to get pressure on Peyton Manning. McPhee was able to hit the ball out of Manning's hand. The Ravens recovered this fumble at the Broncos 37-yard line. McPhee finished with 2 tackles but, this play was huge for the Ravens as they hadn't been getting any pressure on Manning. In fact, in the 1st half, the Ravens didn't get any pressure on 22 passes but, in the 2nd half, they had 10 pressures on 24 passes.
Let's continue with the Ravens who had sacks. Suggs had the Ravens other two sacks. The first was a complicated sack of Manning. On the play, Manning fumbled and it looked like the Ravens recovered. However, it looked like Manning's knee was down on the replays that were shown. This didn't even end up mattering because both Suggs and Cary Williams were called for illegal use of hands to the face. The call on Suggs was ticky tack and there never was a replay to show what Williams did. Despite all this, Suggs still got credit for a sack and a forced fumble. This was the first time that Suggs ever sacked Manning. The second sack came on a 3rd and 4 on the Broncos drive after Rice scored his touchdown. Suggs pushed his lineman back right into Manning. In pass coverage, Suggs gave up one completion. Suggs was able to finish with 10 tackles and his two sacks were the first for him since week 12 against the Chargers.
While Kruger didn't get a sack yesterday, he still had pressure and recorded 2 QB hits. One of these was on the Broncos first offensive play in overtime and the other was on the play were Manning threw his last interception, which set up the Ravens to win the game. This second pressure was very important. Kruger forced Manning to scramble out of the pocket and Manning then tried to throw across his body but, it was intercepted. On McPhee's sack, Kruger had some pressure and was able to recover the fumble. In the run game, Kruger had a run stop for a loss of one. In the passing game, he gave up one completion and was able to blow up a WR screen. He forced Manning to just throw the ball into the ground on this play because Kruger was right in the way.
Like the last few weeks, this was another solid game for Ellerbe. He allowed 4 catches for 1 touchdown. The touchdown came when he had to lineup at cornerback because of the Broncos formation. Therefore, you can't exactly blame Ellerbe for this as he never has to play out there. He was able to breakup a 2nd and 5 slant route which would have been a first down. In run defense, Ellerbe stopped a 2nd and 1 run play for no gain with 2 minutes left in overtime. Earlier in the game, he was called for a facemask on a play where his hand just grazed the helmet of the ball carrier. Ellerbe finished with 9 tackles and 1 pass defense.
When you look at the box score, one stat that sticks out is the 17 tackles that Lewis had. This is an amazing total, especially for a 37 year old linebacker. Lewis is giving it his all to make it back to the Super Bowl for one last time. When in pass coverage, Lewis gave up 3 completions for 1 first down. He was also called for a pass interference call. However, the pass interference probably was better than what would have happened if the receiver caught the ball as there was an open field behind Lewis. Lewis made one great play in run defense. He broke through the line and stopped the running back for a loss of 3 yards after Courtney Upshaw slowed him down a little. Most importantly, Lewis was able to get the defense to stop the Broncos and not let them run the clock out at the end of the 4th quarter. Even though they gave up a first down almost right away, they didn't give up another and gave the offense about one minute to score.
If you had to pick a defensive MVP for this game, it would be Graham. This is because of his two interception. First though, lets talk about the other things he did. He allowed 3 completions for 1 touchdown. The touchdown was just a great pass by Manning and there really wasn't much that Graham could have done. Graham blitzed a few times and on one of them, he was able force Manning to throw the ball away. Now on to the interception. The first came on a 3rd and 7 and was Manning's second pass of the game. Chykie Brown had good coverage on the play and was able to deflect the ball right to Graham who then went untouched for a 39 yard touchdown. This gave the Ravens a 14-7 lead only 5 minutes into the game. His interception for a touchdown is the fifth in Ravens playoff history. The second interception was just as important as the first. There was 51 seconds left in the first overtime. Kruger's pressure forced Manning out of the pocket and Graham was able to step in front of Manning's pass. Since there was no return, the ball was at the Broncos 45-yard line. With the second interception, Graham became the 6th player to have a two interception game in the past five postseasons. Interestingly, he becomes the 3rd Raven to do this in the same span along with Ed Reed and Lardarius Webb.
All four of the passes that Williams allowed went for first downs. He also had two penalties that gave first downs to the Broncos. The first was an illegal hand to the face and the other was a holding call. The holding was on a 3rd and 3 and negated a good pass breakup by himself. A positive for Williams was a nice hit that broke up a pass.
As said above, Brown had great coverage on Graham's interception return for a touchdown. In pass coverage, Brown allowed 2 catches for 1 first down. The only other thing of note was that he was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit when his helmet hit the receiver in the facemask.
All throughout the game, Reed's name wasn't called much. However, that was actually a good thing for the Ravens, and not because Reed isn't good. The reason is that Manning wasn't passing it downfield very much. Almost all of the Broncos passes were either in the short or intermediate range. Manning obviously didn't want to test Reed in such an important game. Other than this, Reed was late coming over on Knowshon Moreno's touchdown run and missed an tackle on Demaryius Thomas's touchdown catch.
Now Tucker has his first game winning kick in the playoffs. He kicked a 47 yard field goal in the second overtime to win the game for the Ravens. This was the 4th longest overtime field goal in playoff history and was the longest kicked by a rookie. Tucker said that in warmups, he made a 67 yard field goal. During the break between the first and second overtime, Tucker went out to take a few practice kicks because the Ravens were close to getting a field goal. I have never seen this happen before and according Mike Pereira, there is no penalty for this but, referees are told to not allow this to happen. These practice kicks were important to Tucker because they helped him gauge the wind in the stadium. After the game, when asked about the game, Tucker said "Nobody wavered, we were all confident in each other." The decision to keep Tucker over veteran Billy Cundiff looks even better now. Nobody knows what Cundiff would have done in the same situation but, his miss in the AFC Championship game last year would have had to be in the back of his head.
Tags: AFC Championship Game, Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens, Billy Cundiff, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Cary Williams, Champ Bailey, Chykie Brown, comeback, Corey Graham, Courtney Upshaw, Dannell Ellerbe, Dennis Pitta, Denver Broncos, divisional playoffs, Ed Dickson, Ed Reed, ESPN, Game winning drive, Houston Texans, Jacoby Jones, Joe Flacco, Justin Tucker, Kelechi Osemele, Lardarius Webb, Marshal Yanda, New England Patriots, Offensive Line, Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee, Peyton Manning, Playoffs, postseason, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Referees, Sam Koch, San Diego Chargers, special teams, team record, Terrell Suggs, Torrey Smith, Trindon Holliday 3 Comments »
January 7, 2013 in Observations
In a very emotional Wild Card matchup, the 4th seed Baltimore Ravens defeated the 5th seed Indianapolis Colts by a score of 24-9 in what was Ravens star LB Ray Lewis's last home game. Lewis will retire at the end of the season. With this win the Ravens final record at home when Lewis plays is an amazing 81-36-1. That works out to be a winning percentage of .686, to put this in perspective that is an 11-5 record if it was for one season. On the offensive side, the Ravens set a single-game playoff team record for total yards with 441. This win marks the 5th straight year that the Ravens have made it to the divisional playoff round. Next week the Ravens will travel to Denver to face the 1st seed Broncos on Saturday at 4:30 pm ET.
With the way the defense was playing today, Flacco did exactly what he had to do to win this game. The defense may have allowed 419 yards but, they only allowed 9 points which made Flacco's job way easier. All he had to do was not lose the game and, he did better than that. Completing 12-of-23 passes, Flacco threw for 282 yards, 2 TDs, a QBR of 89.5, and a QB rating of 125.6. His 52 completion percentage may not look good but, he was able to throw for 282 yards on his 12 completion which is an average of 23.5 yards per completion. Flacco did have an interception dropped early in the game but this was his worst play. On his touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta, Flacco did a good job of escaping the pressure and finding Pitta. Throughout the game, Flacco was able to throw the deep ball well and was lofting it in very well, especially to Anquan Boldin.
This was a very uncharacteristic game for Ray Rice. In the regular season, Rice only had one fumble and that was against the Steelers in week 11. Against the Colts, Rice fumbled not once, but twice. Both of these fumbles occurred inside Indianapolis territory, once at the 15 and the other at the 40. Thankfully for the Ravens, and Rice, neither of the fumbles led to points for the Colts. These fumbles led to backup Bernard Pierce being used more in the game than the gameplan probably called for. Rice finished with 15 carries and Pierce had 13. On Rice's 15 carries, he went for 70 yards. In the passing game, Rice only had one catch on 4 targets but, it was a very important catch. It was a screen pass that went for 47 yards and put the Ravens at the Colts 2-yard line with under 1 minute left in the 1st half. On the next play, FB Vonta Leach ran in for the touchdown. Overall, Rice will need to hold on to the ball if the Ravens want to make it far in the playoffs.
Pierce was the beneficiary of Rice's fumbles. These fumbles allowed Pierce to be in the game and, as usual, he made the most of it. He ran for 103 yards on 13 carries with a long of 43 yards. Of his 13 carries, 4 of them went for first downs. One of these was a nice 18 yard run that put the Ravens inside the Colts 10-yard line. His other great run was the 43 yarder. It was a 3rd and 1 run to the right side. he received a few good blocks and was off to the races. With his play, Pierce keeps showing that he could be a starting running back in the NFL.
If you go by the box score, Smith didn't have much of an impact on the game but, in fact, he did have an impact. The box score says he had 2 catches for 31 yards on 4 targets which is pretty uneventful. One of these catches was for a first down and, it was a leaping catch for 22 yards. I still find it hard to see how he was able to jump high enough to catchup the ball. Smith was able to get another first down by drawing a pass interference at the Colts 15-yard line. Thats not all, Smith also had some good block, which is rare for a wide receiver. On Rice's screen pass, Smith was blocking way downfield and had his guy engaged all the time until Rice passed him. This downfield block allowed Rice to get to the 2-yard line. The other good block by Smith came on Pitta's touchdown catch. At around the 5-yard line, Smith blocked his man which allowed Pitta to get into the endzone.
One word to describe Boldin's performance: record-setting. Ok that may be cheating but, he still had a great game. Before the game, Boldin felt he was going to have a great game. He went up to Flacco and said he felt like 200 yards today. How big of a day did Boldin have? Well, he set the Ravens single-game receiving playoff record with 145 yards. This 100 yard game is only the 3rd time a Ravens receiver has gone over 100 yards in the playoff. The last Ravens receiver to do this? Anquan Boldin. All of his 145 yards came in the 2nd half of the game despite having 2 targets in the 1st half. These 145 yards in the 2nd half are the most in the playoffs since Jerry Rice had 157 in Super Bowl XXIII. Boldin had 5 catches for those 145 yards which is an average of 29 yards per catch. Of these 5 catches, 4 went for first downs, and the other went for a touchdown. One catch was on a 3rd and 19. Boldin went deep and caught a 50 yard pass. He ran an out and up on another play for 46 yard where Flacco placed the ball perfectly over Boldin's shoulder. Boldin's touchdown catch was for 19 yards. It was a jump ball and the cornerback had his hand on the ball but, Boldin still corralled the ball.
After the game, Boldin said "I just wanted to go out and give everything,” Boldin said. “I think everyone in this locker room wanted to make sure this wasn’t our last game. I think we all have a goal in mind and we’re focused in on that goal. The only way we’re going to get there is if we go out there and give our all on the field." He also said "I was real motivated [today],” Boldin said. “I’ve said it before, I came to Baltimore to win a championship. That’s my goal."
While both tight ends for the Ravens may have combined for 3 catches, all of these catches were important. Lets start with the starter, Dennis Pitta. He had 2 catches for 27 yards. One of his catches was a 7 yard first down. The other was a 20 yard crossing route that went for a touchdown. Ed Dickson only had 1 catch for 24 yards. This catch was the Ravens first, first down of the game and got the Ravens rolling on offense.
Overall, the offensive line played well, especially when you consider the Ravens never used this line during the regular season. Due to starting LG Jah Reid being out, the line go shuffled up. Normal RT Kelechi Osemele went to LG, normal LT Michael Oher went to RT, and Bryant McKinnie came in at LT. The line only allowed 1 sack for a loss 13 yards. On this play, the pass rusher was never blocked on a play action pass.
On Pierce's 18 yard run, both C Matt Birk and RG Marshal Yanda had great blocks. Yanda pushed his man 10 yards downfield and Birk probably blocked his man 7 yards downfield. Yanda also had a great block on Pierce's 43 yard run. Pierce ran behind him and Yanda blocked his man down (to his left). Along with Oher's great block to the outside, this springed Pierce for the big gain.
Speaking of Oher, that play was probably his best of the game, as the rest goes downfield. He twice allowed pressure which caused Flacco to throw the ball away. Penalty wise, he was only called for one. It was a 2nd and 10 on the Colts 15-yard line and Oher was called for a false start.
McKinnie had a great game. He played good enough to question what the line will look like next week. Obviously is Reid can't play, it will stay like this. If Reid can play, it will be interesting to see if the coaches go with this line because it played so good or if they go with the normal line.
One word to describe Kruger's performance: domination. Recently, Kruger has been on fire and the playoffs did nothing to stop that. With his 2.5 sacks yesterday, Kruger now has 10 sacks in his last 9 games after only getting 1.5 in his first 7 games. These 2.5 sacks don't give enough credit to Kruger for how he played. There were two other instances when Kruger failed to bring down Andrew Luck for a sack. After the first time this happened, Kruger made up for it later in the drive with his first sack. It was a 3rd and 5 on Ravens territory on the drive after Rice's first fumble. Kruger was able to knock the ball out of Luck's hands. Pernell McPhee was then able to recover the fumble. His next sack was his half sack were he split it with Corey Graham for a loss of 6. Finally, his last sack was on a 3rd and 10 where he just ran right past the offensive lineman. This was for a loss of 8. If this isn't enough, Kruger had pressure on almost every pass play, and finished with an amazing 5 QB hits, exactly half of the Ravens total for the game. On one of the few plays that Kruger dropped into pass coverage, he was able to knock down a pass. The only negative note for Kruger was an offsides penalty on a 2nd and 10. The Ravens will let this slip though due to his amazing performance, whats even more impressive is both of his solo sacks came on 3rd down.
I think it was fitting for the Ravens to not give up a touchdown in Lewis's final home game. He will be remembered for being a great defensive player and for leading one of the greatest defenses ever. Therefore, giving up no touchdowns is the perfect end. It is also fitting that Lewis led the team with 13 tackles. He played all 87 snaps and had one great play that made everyone remember what made him great. On the snap, Lewis knifed through the offensive line an stopped the running back for a loss of 1. This is exactly the type of play Lewis would make all the time a few years ago. In pass coverage, Lewis allowed four first downs on four passes. He was also helped out by a dropped pass. One play that he will never live down was his dropped interception. Haloti Ngata tipped the ball at the line-of-scrimmage and it went right to Lewis. Somehow, the ball hit Lewis right in the hands but he wasn't able to catch it. After the game, he blamed his arm brace for the drop. But, this game wasn't about his performance. It was about his last game in Baltimore. To give out one last memory, Lewis went in on the final kneel down of the game. This marked the first offensive play he has ever taken part of. Even better, after the snap, Lewis did his introduction dance for one last time in the middle of the field. You can see his final introduction here and the dance at the end of the game here.
Over the course of the season, Ellerbe has shown he is a great blitzer, and nothing changed yesterday. On a 3rd and 7, Ellerbe flushed Luck out of the pocket on a blitz. Luck had to try and run for the first down and he was stopped well short. The next example of this was on a 2nd and 10. His pressure forced Luck to try and throw the ball away. Since the ball didn't make it back to the line-of-scrimmage, Luck was flagged for intentional grounding. This caused a loss of down, loss of 16 yards, and took 10 seconds off the clock because there was only 22 seconds left in the half. Lastly, Ellerbe blitzed on a run play and tackled the running back for a loss of 2 yards.
Williams only gave up 3 catches yesterday but, 2 of them were for first downs. The first was a 3rd and 4 which put the Colts near midfield. The other first down completion was much more important. It was the play after Ellerbe forced the intentional grounding. The penalty put the Colts out of field goal range. As they were just on the edge of field goal range before, they needed to get about 25 yards to get a field goal. This is exactly what Williams allowed setting up a 52 yard field goal which Adam Vinatieri made. On the positive side, Williams had an interception on a 4th and 1 very late in the game. Corey Graham tipped the pass and Williams was there to catch it. However, on the return, Williams was chased down by Luck which has to be embarrassing.
As stated above, Graham tipped a pass on a 4th and 1 inside the Ravens 20-yard line with time running down. Other than this, Graham also had a half sack with Kruger for a loss of 6 yards. Graham allowed 3 passes for 1 first down. The one first down was for about 20 yards with 30 seconds left in the 1st half.
The two most memorable plays for Brown were penalties, never a good sign. He was called for an illegal contact on a 2nd and 10. The other penalty was on a punt return. He was called for a hold which lost the Ravens 16 yards. On defense, he gave up 1 pass for 1 first down.
Even Ed Reed got into the pass rushing. He blitzed on a 3rd and 9 and tipped a pass on the Colts first drive. Just like his good friend Lewis, Reed dropped an interception. Luck was under pressure and just trying to throw the ball away but he never saw Reed. Reed jumped in front of the receiver. He did everything right, except catch the ball, which is kind of important. He just straight up dropped it. It was a diving catch but, the Ed Reed of a few years ago makes the play.
Just like Brown, Pollard was called for two penalties but, these two are a little more controversial. The first was a "blow to the head of a receiver." On this play, you can clearly see that Pollard led with his shoulder. Its not like his shoulder hit the receiver either. His shoulder hit the receiver in the arm and chest. The only part of Pollard to touch the receiver's head was his facemask and the facemask barely grazed the helmet of the receiver. This is just another example of the bad helmet-to-helmet calls throughout the NFL right now. On the next play, Pollard was called for a taunting penalty after the play against the Colts bench. After the game, Pollard said a Colts assistant cursed at him and then a player shoved him. While the Colts shouldn't have done this, Pollard shouldn't have reacted. After each of these two plays, the stadium united with more "bulls***." Unfortunately, I couldn't find the video this time. Other than penalties, Pollard broke up two key passes. The first was a 3rd an 2 play where the Colts receiver already had the first down but was hit right away by Pollard. The receiver dropped the ball and it was ruled that he never had full possession of it. The other play stopped another first down. Pollard also finished with 4 tackles.
Tags: adam vinatieri, Andrew Luck, Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens, Bernard Pierce, Bernard Pollard, Bryant McKinnie, Cary Williams, Chykie Brown, Corey Graham, Dannell Ellerbe, Dennis Pitta, Denver Broncos, divisional playoffs, Ed Dickson, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Indianapolis Colts, Jah Reid, Joe Flacco, Kelechi Osemele, Marshal Yanda, Matt Birk, Michael Oher, Paul Kruger, Playoffs, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Retirement, Torrey Smith, Vonta Leach, Wild Card, Wild Card matchup, Wild Card Round Comments Off
December 31, 2012 in Observations
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tags: Anthony Allen, Baltimore Ravens, Bernard Pierce, Bobbie Williams, Bryant McKinnie, Carlos Dunlap, Chris Johnson, Chykie Brown, Cincinnati Bengals, Corey Graham, Dannell Ellerbe, David Reed, Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Gino Gradkowski, Haloti Ngata, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jah Reid, Jarret Johnson, Jimmy Smith, Joe Flacco, Kelechi Osemele, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher, Omar Brown, Paul Kruger, Playoff, Playoffs, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Terrence Cody, Tyrod Taylor, Week 17 Comments Off
December 29, 2012 in Injury Reports
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)
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)
K Mike Nugent (calf)
CB Jason Allen (hamstring)
CB Terence Newman (groin)
S Reggie Nelson (shoulder)
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (illness)
CB Adam Jones (hamstring)
Tags: Adam Jones, Albert McClellan, Anquan Boldin, Arthur Jones, Baltimore Ravens, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bernard Pollard, Cincinnati Bengals, Dannell Ellerbe, Dennis Pitta, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Injury Report, Jacoby Jones, Jason Allen, Jimmy Smith, Marshal Yanda, Mike Nugent, Pernell McPhee, Reggie Nelson, Tandon Doss, Terence Newman, Terrell Suggs, Vonta Leach, Week 17 Comments Off
December 24, 2012 in Observations
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tags: AFC North, Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens, Bernard Pierce, Brendon Ayenbadejo, Cary Williams, Chykie Brown, Corey Webster, Dennis Pitta, Division Champions, Ed Dickson, Ed Reed, Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks, Haloti Ngata, Jacoby Jones, James Ihedigbo, Jason La Canfora, Jim Caldwell, Jimmy Smith, Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh, Michael Oher, Mike Pereira, New York Giants, Offensive Line, Omar Brown, Paul Kruger, Ray Rice, Referees, Torrey Smith, Victor Cruz, Vinny Testaverde, Vonta Leach, Week 16 4 Comments »
December 18, 2012 in Observations
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Tags: Albert McClellan, Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens, Bernard Pierce, Bobbie Williams, Cary Williams, Chris Harris, Dennis Pitta, Denver Broncos, Ed Reed, Eric Decker, Jacoby Jones, Jah Reid, Jim Caldwell, Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh, Josh Bynes, Knowshon Moreno, Lardarius Webb, Mark Sanchez, Marshal Yanda, Matt Birk, Peyton Manning, Playoff Berth, Playoffs, Ray Rice, Tandon Doss, Torrey Smith, Week 15 2 Comments »