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Defense and Special Teams Sparks Victory

September 23, 2013 in Observations

On a day where Ray Lewis and Ed Reed returned to M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens Defense led the way to a 30-9 victory over the Houston Texans. This victory puts the Ravens at 2-1 and drops the Texans to 2-1. With this win, the Ravens now have a 14 game win streak in home games during the month of September and they are 17-1 in their last 18 home games against non-divsional opponents.

With 15 penalties for 143 yards at halftime, this game had the most first half penalties in one game so far this season and by the end of the game the 24 accepted penalties are the most so far this season.

For the second straight week, the Ravens' defense allowed no touchdowns, just three field goals, all in the first half.

The Texans started out strong grabbing a 6-0 lead and this lead could have been 14-0 if not for strong red zone defense. With the Ravens' offense struggling in the first half (65 total yards), their defense and special teams took over with an interception returned for a touchdown by linebacker Daryl Smith and a punt return for a touchdown by Tandon Doss within a span of two minutes. After these two plays, the Ravens had new life and the Texans were never the same.

Also, the Ravens released S Brynden Trawick today after claiming S Jeromy Miles off of waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals.

Special Teams
Starting with the obvious, Doss returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown with one minute left in the first half. Occurring soon after Smith's interception, this punt return gave the Ravens all the momentum heading into halftime. On the return, Doss fielded the punt and ran up the near side of the field. He went untouched and for the last 45 yards, he was right along the sidelines. His momentum almost carried him out-of-bounds but he was able to fight that and stay in-bounds. Punter Shane Lechler's 58-yard punt outkicked his coverage on the play and Doss made him pay. This is Doss' first career punt return for a touchdown and is the 5th longest in Ravens history. Cut during the final roster cuts before the season, Doss was only re-signed after week one when starting returner Jacoby Jones went down with an injury.

Tandon Doss

Courtesy of ICON SMI

When you take away Doss" return, the Ravens' special teams didn't perform well, getting called for four of the Ravens 10 penalties. The first of which came on the Texans first drive. The Texans had lined up for a field goal on a fourth and four but, the Ravens had 12 men on the field so a penalty was called. This gave the Texans a first down and allowed them to continue their drive. Although the Texans ended up only scoring a field goal on this drive, the penalty greatly shortened the distance of this field goal.

On the ensuing kickoff from the Texans first field goal, the Ravens offense was set up at their own seven-yardline by a holding penalty. This was called on rookie John Simon.

On a Ravens punt, another rookie, Trawick was called for a penalty, this time a personal foul. This penalty gave the Texans the ball at the Ravens 29. With this field position, the Texans were already in field goal range and they ended up kicking one. This is probably the reason that he was released to day as the only reason he made the team was due to special teams contributions and he had a costly penalty and he was the one who ran into Jones week one, injuring him.

The last of these four special teams penalties can on a punt return. Courtney Upshaw was penalized for holding, setting the offense up at their own five.

Overall, when you take away Doss' touchdown, the Ravens' special teams was very poor basically giving the Texans free points and pinning their own offense inside their own 10.

Joe Flacco
For the entire first half, the Ravens offense struggled to move the ball, though they weren't helped by bad field position. Flacco is a big part of that as in the end, the responsibility of the offense will always fall to him.

Throwing for 171 yards, Flacco went 16-of-24 with no touchdowns or interceptions and a QB rating of 87.3. It wasn't a spectacular performance but it got the job done.

In the second half, the offense came out throwing more and was more aggressive with these passes. After not throwing deep at all in the first half, Flacco tried going deep multiple times on the opening drive of the first half and the offense found a rhythm, driving 80 yards in nine plays, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run from Bernard Pierce.

The best part of Flacco's day comes from his snap count. He was constantly confusing the Texans with it, forcing five offsides penalties, giving the Ravens much more manageable down and distances. One time, this hard count caused a false start by fullback Vonta Leach, but by then, the game was already won as there were just two minutes left in the game.

Torrey Smith
Catching five passes for 92 yards, Smith the Ravens in receiving yards for the third straight week. His nine targets on Sunday also led the team.

Two of his catches went for first downs, both on the same drive. First of which came on a third and 13 from the Ravens own 17-yardline. Smith ran a fly route and Flacco hit him for a gain of 48 yards — the longest play from scrimmage for the Ravens so far this season. Later in the drive, he caught a second and seven pass for a gain of 23 yards. However, the Texans challenged this play and it was overturned as Smith didn't have full possession of the ball as he rolled out-of-bounds after his leaping catch. The next play, Smith caught a short crossing route and gained 25 yards, most of it after the catch, setting the Ravens up at the Houston eight-yardline. Four plays later, the Ravens scored a touchdown.

Coming out of halftime, the Ravens made it a clear priority to target Smith more and this led to more success from the offense. He is the Ravens' top receiver so this only make sense.

Offensive Line
Another underwhelming performance by the Ravens' offense line. If you just look at the Texans' defensive stat line, it doesn't look bad as the Texans only had two sack and two other quarterback hits in 26 pass attempts. However, sacks and hits don't tell the whole story as the Texans seemed to get some sort of pressure on most pass attempts.

In the running game, Pierce had no holes to run through, so having a healthy Ray Rice would have made no difference. The offensive line couldn't move the Texans front seven out of the way and it showed. Pierce was constantly having to dodge defenders in the backfield. The Ravens ran 31 times for 75 yards, an average of 2.4 yards per carry. When you take away the 25-yard run that Pierce had when there actually was a hole, the Ravens averaged a putrid 0.6 yards per carry. Let that sink in.

Right tackle Michael Oher gave up a strip-sack on a third and 33 for a loss of two yards. On the first play of the second half, Oher was beaten by J.J. Watt for a sack which resulted in a loss of nine yards.

Right guard Marshal Yanda was able to recover the aforementioned fumble. Other than this, Yanda had a quiet day going back and fourth with Watt.

Center Gino Gradkowski had another quiet day as well. He isn't doing anything awful, but he also isn't doing anything great so far this year.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele was whistled for a holding penalty which set up a first and 20 for the Ravens.

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie had the worst day off all Ravens offensive linemen, being called for two penalties and giving up one sack. The first penalty came on a first and 10 where he was called for a facemask, taking away an 18-yard pass to Ed Dickson. However, this was a questionable call. A few plays later, on third and 18, McKinnie was called for the exact same penalty, only this time is was blatantly obvious. By himself, McKinnie was able to completely kill the Ravens third drive of the game.

Arthur Jones and Haloti Ngata
Since both of these two had extremely similar days, I'll talk about them together.

They had the exact same stat line in the box score: three tackles with one sack. Not only that, but they beat the same offensive linemen for their sack, left guard Wade Smith. Jones beat him on a first and 10 with a bull rush for a loss of seven yards. Ngata beat Smith with a swim move on a second and seven for a loss of nine.

The only difference between these two is that Jones got great penetration on a first and 10 run that blew the play up. Other than that, their play was very similar.

Terrell Suggs
Expected to have a bounce-back year after an injured riddled season led to just two sacks, Suggs is living up to expectations so far, recording sacks in all three games so far.

This week's sack came on a second and nine play where he beat right tackle Derek Newton with a perfect inside spin move causing a loss of eight yards. Making this sack even more impressive was the fact that the Newton was called for holding Suggs on the play. Just a play earlier, Suggs missed a sack as quarterback Matt Schaub was able to step up in the pocket and avoid Suggs.

For the day, Suggs recorded two tackles and his sack. One of these tackles was a run stop for a gain of one, so he made the most out of his plays that made it into the box score.

Daryl Smith
The big play that Smith made was his interception that he returned for a touchdown. This play changed the momentum of the game as it gave the Ravens the lead despite having done absolutely nothing on offense.

Despite having already played two games this season, this was the Ravens first interception of the season. On this interception, Smith jumped a short pass to Owen Daniels on a first and 10. He then went untouched for a 37-yard touchdown. This type of play comes from watching lots of film and reading the eyes of the quarterback. Smith knew that Schaub was going to throw it to Daniels so he was able to jump the route. This is his seventh career interception and his first career touchdown. Since 2003, the Ravens have 30 interceptions returned for touchdowns, the most in this time frame.

Other than his interception, Smith had another good day recording 10 tackles, 1 QB hit, and a pass deflection. He was able to get a run stop for a gain of one and also gave up one pass in coverage on a first down for a gain of nine.

James Ihedigbo
Expected to be replaced by rookie Matt Elam, Ihedigbo has quietly put in a great season so far, including an outstanding game against the Texans.

James Ihedigbo

Courtesy of ICON SMI

Recording nine tackles, with two for a loss, and 2 pass deflections, Ihedigbo had a great statistical day, stats never tell the whole story. In run defense, Ihedigbo had three run stops for short gains. The first came on first and goal on the Texans first drive where he made the tackle for a loss of two. The other two stops were for gains of two and one. In the Ravens' defense, the strong safety needs to be a good run defender and Ihedigbo was exactly that yesterday.

In pass coverage, he was equally as good. I have him down as giving up zero catches on the day. On a running back screen play, he burst through the Texans blockers and was able to stop the play for a loss of two yards. The following play, Doss returns his punt for a touchdown.

The first of his two impressive plays in pass coverage came on third and goal on the Texans first drive. Ihedigbo had tight coverage on his man and was able to break the pass up, forcing the Texans to kick a field goal.

The other play came on a fourth and two with about five minutes left in the game. The Texans ran a screen to running back Arian Foster (lined up as a wide receiver) and Ihedigbo had him in man coverage as the only defender on that side of the field. He was able to disrupt that pass forcing an incompletion. Right away, he diagnosed that is was a screen and he was with Foster step-for-step.

Overall, Ihedigbo had two stops on goal-to-go situations on the Texans first drive and stopped the Texans last important offensive play. Add that tow three other impressive plays and you have yourself a great game.

Matt Elam
Making his second start of his career, Elam had another solid but unspectacular day. After Michael Huff's week one performance, the Ravens won't be complaining about solid but unspectacular for awhile.

Elam made five tackles and had one pass deflection. In coverage he allowed two passes to be caught, both going for first downs. The first was a first and 10 pass that went for 12 yards and the second was a second and four pass that went for four yards. On a third a four play inside the Ravens' 30-yardline, Elam had tight coverage which forced a bad pass, leading to an incompletion. For most of the game, Elam was playing in a deep zone, making sure the Ravens weren't beat deep.

In a game where the Texans passed 35 times with 25 competitions, the cornerbacks allowed most of these.

Number one cornerback Lardarius Webb allowed six catches with four of them going for first downs. Of the ones that went for first downs, three of these were on second down and one was on third down. He did allow a third down catch to Andre Johnson for a loss of one as Johnson bobbled the ball on the play. Webb had seven tackles with one pass deflection.

Starting ahead of Corey Graham for the second straight game, Jimmy Smith allowed seven catches with four of them going for first downs. The Texans seemed to target him on first downs as he allowed six of his catches then with the other coming on third down. He was whistled for illegal contact when he was beaten by rookie DeAndre Hopkins on a double move. Smith also had a good pass breakup on a play late in the game. Smith had six tackles and one pass deflection.

Graham only allowed one catch but the Texans didn't target him much at all. The one catch that he did allow was on third and four where he gave up five yards. Graham had a total of three tackles on the day.

The Return of Ed Reed: Ravens vs Texans

September 21, 2013 in What to Look For

Last week the Baltimore Ravens took on a division rival in the Cleveland Browns and they were able to come out on top with a 14-6 victory as the defense carried the team. This week the 1-1 Ravens have a tougher test as they host the 2-0 Houston Texans who have their own Super Bowl aspirations. At halftime, the Ravens will induct linebacker Ray Lewis into their Ring of Honor. The last time that these two teams played, the Texans dismantled the Ravens with a 43-13 victory in Houston.

1.  Ed Reed
Due to their Super Bowl aspirations, the Texans went out and signed former Ravens free safety Ed Reed in free agency to a three-year deal worth $15 million. While Reed wanted to stay in Baltimore, the Ravens weren't willing to match the offer so Reed left.

In his last season with the Ravens, Reed recorded 58 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 1 touchdown while playing in all 16 games. In the postseason, he had 15 tackles and one interception. This interception came in Super Bowl XLVII which the Ravens ended up winning, giving Reed his first Super Bowl championship in his 11th season. Making the victory even sweeter was the game was played in New Orleans, just a short distance from where he grew up.

Now he is with the Texans, Reed will be making his first appearance in Baltimore since leaving in free agency. He hasn't played in the first two games of the season for Houston due to offseason hip surgery. Even though he is listed as questionable, Reed is expected to make his season debut for two reasons. First, he was very close to playing last week and second, it is his return to Baltimore and it is highly unlikely that he would want to miss playing in this one.

It is unknown how much Reed will be able to contribute to the Texans if he returns. Over the last few seasons, it has been clear that his skills are declining but quarterbacks were still hesitant to throw to his side of the field last year. In the run game, he offers very little as his tackling has become quite bad due to various injuries he has suffered during his career.

Assuming that Reed plays, expect the Ravens to test him early to see how he looks. If he performs well, then the Ravens will be throwing away from him all game long. Expect Reed to be playing deep on the side of Torrey Smith to help guard against the big plays that Smith can produce.

2.  Pass Rush
Through two games, the Ravens have a team total of eight sacks which ranked tied for second entering this week. The Texans are tied for eighth best in the league giving up only four sacks so far.

Terrell Suggs

Courtesy of ICON SMI

However, the Texans offensive line suffered a massive blow today when left tackle Duane Brown was ruled out due to a toe injury suffered last week. This loss is very important as Brown is the Texans best offensive lineman and he would have been going up against Ravens star outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had his way with Joe Thomas — another elite left tackle — last week. In place of Brown will be Ryan Harris.

Of these eight sacks for the Ravens, Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have two apiece, Daryl Smith has 1.5, Chris Canty and Arthur Jones each have one, and Arthur Brown has half a sack.

Canty and Brown are doubtful this week with a groin and chest injury respectively. The loss of Canty will effect the Ravens more because Canty is a starter a defensive end and is a high quality pass rusher from this position. Brown is a rookie inside linebacker who hasn't been seeing the field very much. The other four will be fine for the game.

If the Ravens want to disrupt the Texans offense, then they need to get pressure on quarterback Matt Schaub, forcing him to throw before he is ready to. This will help the secondary who have to cover receivers Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins this week.

Expect the Ravens to attack Harris on the Texans' offensive line as he is a backup who will have his hands full with Suggs individually. So far this season, the Texans have kept tight ends or running backs to help pass block. If they continue to do this against the Ravens, their offensive tackles will have problems with Suggs and Dumervil due to their pass rushing ability. Expect both Suggs and Dumervil to have a sack of Schaub on Sunday.

3.  J.J. Watt
Describing how good Watt is in one word is easy: dominant. Describing how he is dominant takes quite a bit more than that.

The 2012 Defensive Player of the Year had 81 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 16 pass deflections last year playing as a defensive end in the Texans 3-4 defensive scheme. All of this came in just his second season in the NFL and at the age of 23.

The pressure that Watt produces was unheard of from a 3-4 defensive end bore he accomplished it. Not only that, his 16 pass deflections was tied for the ninth most in the NFL. No other defensive linemen reached double digits or finished in the top 60. Elite rushing the passer, Watt doesn't slack off against the run as he is one of the best at his position in run defense as well.

Against the Ravens last year, Watt recorded two tackles, two pass deflections, and one quarterback hit. One of these pass deflections led to an interceptions returned for a touchdown as cornerback Jonathan Joseph was able to catch the tipped pass. In this matchup, he mainly went up against right tackle Kelechi Osemele.

Now, Osemele is the starting left guard so he will see Antonio Smith, not Watt. The responsibility of trying to slow Watt down falls to right guard Marshal Yanda and right tackle Michael Oher. Yanda is considered to be one of the best guards in the league and Oher is an average right tackle whose value to the Ravens offensive line is underrated. When he left the Ravens' week one game against the Denver Broncos, the line was never the same.

Expect the Ravens to try and double team Watt on every run play that they do to his side. The better idea would be to just run away from Watt though. In the passing game, double teams will still be used to try and neutralize Watt. With Yanda, the Ravens have an advantage over many teams trying to stop Watt. There really isn't a way to take Watt completely out of a game. You just have to be able to slow him down to where his impact is minimal.

4.  Running Game
Another position impacted by injuries is the Ravens backfield. Starting running back Ray Rice is doubtful with a hip injury sustained last week. If he doesn't play, his streak of 43 consecutive starts — the longest active streak for running backs — will come to an end.

Assuming that Rice doesn't play, second-year player Bernard Pierce will start at running back. Normally, having a backup running back start will significantly change a team's offensive gameplan but, Pierce is no ordinary backup. In his 18 career games, he has ran the ball 136 times for 611 yards, an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Pierce is a powerful runner who could start for many other teams.

The only area where is significant difference will be seen is in the passing game as Pierce is nowhere near the receiver that Rice is. Therefore, expect him to stay in and block on a majority of passing plays for the Ravens, especially as Pierce is an above-average pass protecter.

Currently, the Ravens rank 23rd in the league with 78.5 rushing yards per game and the Texans rank 17th in run defense allowing 99.5 yards per game.

The key to running against the Texans is to get blockers on Watt and inside linebacker Brian Cushing. If you are able to block these two players, running on the Texans will be much easier.

Ravens vs Texans Injury Report

September 21, 2013 in Injury Reports


C Ryan Jensen (Foot)
WR Jacoby Jones (Knee)

Ray Rice

Courtesy of ICON SMI

LB Arthur Brown (Chest)
DE Chris Canty (Thigh)
RB Ray Rice (Hip)
WR Deonte Thompson (Foot)
DT Brandon Williams (Toe)

CB Chykie Brown (Knee)


OT Duane Brown (Toe)

TE Garrett Graham
S Ed Reed (Hip)

LB Brian Cushing (Knee)
TE Owen Daniels (Not Injury Related)
RB Arian Foster (Calf)
WR Andre Johnson (Concussion)
CB Jonathan Joseph (Not Injury Related)
LB Joe Mays (Quadricep)
CB Brice McCain (Knee)
C Chris Myers (Back)
OT Derek Newton (Knee)
WR Devier Posey (Achilles)
LB Darryl Sharpton (Hip)
G Wade Smith (Knee)
RB Ben Tate (Shoulder)

Joe Flacco vs Tom Brady

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.

Joe Flacco

Ravens QB Joe Flacco will need to outplay Patriots QB Tom Brady for the Ravens to win this week.

3.  Defense
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.

Ed Reed

Patriots QB Tom Brady has great respect for Ravens S Ed Reed.

Ravens Stun Broncos in Double OT

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.

Coverage Units
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.

Joe Flacco
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.

Joe Flacco

Ravens QB Joe Flacco celebrates his game tying touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones.

Ray Rice
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.

Anquan Boldin
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.

Torrey Smith
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.

Jacoby Jones
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.

Jacoby Jones

Ravens WR Jacoby Jones catches his game tying touchdown.

Tight Ends
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.

Offensive Line
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.

Pernell McPhee
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.

Terrell Suggs
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.

Terrell Suggs

Ravens LB Terrell Suggs celebrates one of his two sacks against the Broncos with teammate DE Pernell McPhee.

Paul Kruger
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.

Dannell Ellerbe
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.

Ray Lewis
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.

Corey Graham
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.

Corey Graham

Ravens CB Corey Graham intercepts a pass and this sets the Ravens up at the Broncos 45-yard line with 51 seconds left in the first overtime.

Cary Williams
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.

Chykie Brown
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.

Ed Reed
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.

Justin Tucker
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.

Justin Tucker

Ravens K Justin Tucker celebrates his game winning 47 yard field goal.

Do The Ravens Really Have A Chance?

January 10, 2013 in What to Look For

After beating the Indianapolis Colts last week, the Ravens will travel to Denver to face the 1st seeded Broncos.  These two teams faced back in week 15 and the Broncos won a blowout in Baltimore.

1.  Do The Ravens Have a Chance?
Ever since the Ravens beat the Colts, everyone has been saying they will lose to the Broncos.  ESPN got into the action early, posting this main headline.  If you don't want to click the link, the headline reads "Thanks for the Memories" … and has a subhead saying, "…because Sunday was your final NFL win, Ray Lewis. Your career will end in Denver."  Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla got into the act next saying "If this Rust Belt town needed a bib to catch all the sentimental tears shed at the last home game of iconic linebacker Ray Lewis, how is Baltimore going to handle the emotional breakdown when the Broncos force him into retirement as a loser?" and "Like Lewis, their very passionate but washed-up warrior, the Ravens now seem better at striking a pose than striking fear in the hearts of a foe."  These are just two of many examples of what most of the media is saying.

Ravens CB Cary Williams offered his opinion on this by saying "You see it everywhere.  Every time you turn on the [darn] TV you see somebody talking about the Broncos and the Patriots in the AFC championship game.  It’s great [sarcastic]."  He added "That’s fine [being an underdog]. We appreciate it. We love that.  People are counting us out.  We like that. We love being the underdog.  You get to go out there and prove people wrong"

The only person I could find who would pick the Ravens is FOX Sports's Peter Schrager.  He said "Yes, I like the Ravens to upset the Broncos in Denver on Saturday afternoon. And it’s not even because I am blown away by Baltimore. Truthfully, I’m just not sold on Denver."  He also said The Ravens are no doubt battle tested. Denver? They’ve been in cruise control since October,” he wrote. “If Saturday’s game is close in the second half, are we certain the Broncos will respond under pressure? I know Baltimore’s been through those wars this year."

Now, for my opinion on this matter.  All of the teams left in the playoffs deserve to be here and, despite what everyone is saying, both the Ravens and the Texans have chances to upset the Broncos and Patriots, respectively.  Oddsmakers don't believe in the Ravens making them a 9.5 point underdog.  I get why everyone is saying the Broncos will cruise to victory but, in all honesty, they aren't looking deep enough.  When these two teams played, yes, the Broncos demolished the Ravens.  However, the Ravens had almost half of their starters on the injury report and many didn't play.  The Ravens are now healthy enough to put up a fight.  Next is the Ray Lewis factor.  I know this doesn't sound like much but, if you give any football team enough bulletin board material they will play way better than expected, especially if Ray Lewis is their leader.  The last reason is the offensive line but we will look closer at this a little later.  I am not saying that the Ravens will win this game but, they will play the Broncos a lot closer than most people think and, in a close game, anything can happen.

2.  Peyton Manning vs Ray Lewis
This isn't a performance matchup, this is an audible matchup.  Manning will change the play at the line all the time based on what he sees in the defense.  Back in week 15, the Ravens had Josh Bynes starting at ILB who started the season injured and then on the practice squad.  Now, the Ravens have Ray Lewis back who can go audible-to-audible with Manning.  Lewis is definitely the player he used to be but, his mind is still just as good, if not better from all his experience.  Manning has won an astounding nine straight times so it will be interesting to see how Manning does against the Ravens when they have Ray Lewis.  This will also be the last time these two will face each other due to the retirement of Lewis.

Peyton Manning (left) and Ray Lewis (right)

Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis will face each other for the last time.

3.  Offensive Line
Last week the Ravens offensive line finally looked good as a unit.  They only allowed one sack and that was on a naked bootleg.  Its not just sacks either, the line didn't allow much pressure.  Last time the Ravens played the Broncos, the Broncos defensive line had a field day getting pressure on almost every play.  Quarterback Joe Flacco never had a chance to throw the ball as he was running for his life.  In the running game, the line had no push all day long against the Broncos.  Against the Colts last week, the line opened up some big holes allowing the backs to run for 170 yards.  If the Ravens offensive line can play like it did last week then they should give Flacco enough time to find the open receiver downfield.  Even if they play like last week, it might not be enough as the Broncos defensive line is better than the Colts' line.  The most important player to contain is LB Von Miller who has 18.5 sacks this year.

4.  Pass Rush
The best way to disrupt Manning is to get pressure on him.  I think everyone knows he isn't a mobile quarterback at all.  If you can get pressure on him, it will force him to make faster decisions and will eventually lead to him making a mistake and throwing the ball to the wrong spot. Manning has been blessed with a great offensive line this year which has only given up 21 sacks, good for 2nd best in the NFL.  The bad news for Manning is the only team that has allowed less sacks is the New York Giants and, the Ravens were able to get 3 sacks on Manning's younger brother, Eli.  Also going for the Ravens, is Paul Kruger.  Kruger now has 10 sacks in his last 9 games.  He is also coming off a 2.5 sack game against the Colts.  Also in this game, Kruger had an amazing 5 QB hits.  If the Ravens can't get pressure on Peyton Manning, they will have a very tough time winning.

Paul Kruger

Ravens OLB Paul Kruger will need to have another great game to try and neutralize Broncos QB Peyton Manning.


Ravens Will Face Colts in Playoffs

December 31, 2012 in Observations

Baltimore Homepage

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

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

Tyrod Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ed Dickson (left) Dennis Pitta (right)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Smith

Ravens CB Jimmy Smith had a good game.

Second Manning Brother in Two Weeks

December 21, 2012 in What to Look For

Baltimore Homepage

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

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

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

Ray Lewis (52)

Ravens LB Ray Lewis recovers a fumble.

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

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

Haloti Ngata

Ravens DE Haloti Ngata rushes the passer.