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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.

Referees
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.

All Ravens Probable

January 11, 2013 in Injury Reports

Ravens

*Note*  Earlier today the Ravens placed G Jah Reid on injured reserve and activated CB Asa Jackson.

Jah Reid

Earlier today the Ravens placed G Jah Reid on injured reserve.

Probable
WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder)
WR Tandon Doss (ankle)
LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle)
LB Adrian Hamilton (illness)
FB Vonta Leach (knee and ankle)
LB Ray Lewis (triceps)
LB Albert McClellan (shoulder)
DE Pernell McPhee (thigh)
DT Haloti Ngata (knee)
RB Bernard Pierce (knee)
S Bernard Pollard (chest)
S Ed Reed (shoulder)
WR David Reed (thigh)
CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen)
WR Torrey Smith (back)
LB Terrell Suggs (biceps and achilles)
G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

Broncos

Out
CB Tracy Porter (concussion)

Probable
WR Trindon Holliday (ankle)
OT Ryan Clady (shoulder)
S Jim Leonhard (thigh)
OT Orlando Franklin (knee)
S Mike Adams (knee)
G Chris Kuper (ankle)
WR Matt Willis (knee)

Ravens Advance To Face Broncos

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.

Joe Flacco
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.

Ray Rice
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.

Ray Rice

Ravens RB Ray Rice fumbles the ball.

Bernard Pierce
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.

Torrey Smith
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.

Anquan Boldin
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."

Anquan Boldin

Ravens WR Anquan Boldin goes up for a pass that he will catch for a touchdown.

Tight Ends
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.

Offensive Line
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.

Paul Kruger
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.

Ray Lewis
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.

Ray Lewis

Ravens LB Ray Lewis does his pre-game dance for the last time.

Dannell Ellerbe
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.

Cary Williams
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.

Corey Graham
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.

Ray Lewis (52) Jacoby Jones (12) Torrey Smith (82)

Ravens LB Ray Lewis does his dance for one last time after the game while teammates Jacoby Jones (12) and Torrey Smith (82) look on.

Chykie Brown
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.

Ed Reed
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.

Bernard Pollard
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.

Ray Lewis

Ravens LB Ray Lewis takes a victory lap to thank the fans after the game.

Ray Lewis's Final Home Game

January 5, 2013 in What to Look For

The 4th seed Baltimore Ravens will host the 5th seed Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at 1pm ET in a Wild Card matchup.  Adding to what was already a great game, Ravens LB Ray Lewis announced on Wednesday that he will retire at the end of the season.  His retirement means this will probably be his final home game.

1.  Ray Lewis
If you think Ray Lewis plays with a lot of emotion in regular games, imagine what it will be like on Sunday.  M&T Bank Stadium has always been a tough place to play with loud fans.  Now with this being Lewis's final home game, the place will be rocking all day long.  Lewis has been on the injured reserve/designated to return list since week 6 with a triceps injury.  The plan was for Lewis to get healthy for the playoffs and, that is exactly what happened.  In game, it is uncertain if Lewis will play all the time, or if he will just play situationally.  I know Lewis will want to play all the time, and he probably will get to do that.  One thing that is certain about his in game impact is the whole Ravens teams will be fired up to try and win this game for Ray.  The fans will be just the same, especially when Lewis will do his pre-game introduction for the last time.

2.  Chuck Pagano
Before Lewis announced his retirement, Pagano was the main storyline for this game.  Last year, Pagano was the Ravens defensive coordinator. In the offseason he was hired to be the Colts head coach.  Four games into the season, he was diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia. This will be his first time returning to Baltimore since he left for the Colts.  Pagano was loved by the players and he still is.  If he didn't have to play the Ravens, you know the team would be rooting for him to win.

The emotion of the Ravens will be matched by the Colts, whose whole season has been an emotional roller coaster.  Nobody expected the Colts to make the playoffs after they went 2-14 last season.  However, they have played for Pagano all season long under the motto of Chuckstrong. Most Colts player shaved their heads to show support of Pagano.  Even two cheerleaders shaved their head during their game against the Bills. Some Ravens players showed their support by shaving their heads as well.  This game will be pitting emotion against emotion.

Lastly, since Pagano was the Ravens defensive coordinator last year, he knows the Ravens very well.  New defensive coordinator Dean Pees has changed the defense a little but, too much change wouldn't have worked.  Its not just Pagano that will know the Ravens well either.  Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians worked with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2004-2011 and also was with the Cleveland Browns from 2001-2003. He has faced the Ravens many times so he knows what to expect.  He also knows what to expect from Dean Pees as Pees was the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots from 2006-2009 and faced Arians.  The coaching battle in this game is going to be a key factor in who wins.

Ray Lewis

This will be Ravens star LB Ray Lewis's last home game unless, the Ravens face the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship game, which is unlikely.

3.  Ray Rice
This matchup favors Rice heavily.  The Colts currently rank 29th in rush defense allowing 137.5 yards per game.  If the offensive line can control the Colts defensive front, Rice will get into the second level and run for 10 yards consistently.  In week 16 against the Chiefs, the Colts allowed 352 rushing yards.  Of these 352 yards, 226 of them went to Chiefs starter, Jamaal Charles.  This is good news for Rice and his backup Bernard Pierce.

The bad news for Rice is that he has been in a playoff slump.  In his last five playoff games, Rice hasn't rushed for more than 70 yards.  He has also averaged 3.3 yards per carry in these games.  Over his last five games (not counting Cincinnati because he barely played), Rice has averaged 88 yards per game and his career average for yards per carry is 4.5.  Lastly, over Rice's last four playoff games, he has had less than 100 total yards.  Due to the Colts bad run defense, Rice should be able to snap these two streaks.

4.  Ed Reed
As we know, this will probably be Ray Lewis's last home game.  However, it could be Reed's last home game as well.  Reed is a free agent at the end of the season and he hasn't had contract negotiations since 2011.  CBS Sport's Jason La Canfora has speculated that this could be Reed's last home game.  The reason for all this speculation is Reed has debated retirement over the last few offseasons.  Some people believe that since Lewis will retire, Reed will join him.

On to the game impact for Reed, he will be facing a rookie QB who has thrown for 18 INTs in Andrew Luck.  Over his career, Reed has feasted on rookie QBs.  When you combine this with the fact that Reed has had some great playoff games, he could be primed for a big game.  The last game that Reed recorded an interception in was week 13 against the Steelers.  Luck has played well in his rookie year but, turnovers have been a problem.  The Ravens Defense is very good at forcing turnovers so Luck will have to limit them if he wants to led the Colts to the next round. Expect Reed to intercept one of Luck's passes on Sunday.

Ray Lewis (left) and Ed Reed (right)

We know that Ravens LB Ray Lewis will retire at the end of the season but, will S Ed Reed join him?

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Smith

Ravens CB Jimmy Smith had a good game.

Ravens Clinch Playoff Berth Despite Loss

December 18, 2012 in Observations

Baltimore Homepage

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

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

Joe Flacco

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

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

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

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

Dennis Pitta

Ravens TE Dennis Pitta runs after catching a pass.

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

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

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

Ravens offensive line

The Ravens offensive line was very disappointing yesterday.

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

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

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

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

Cary Williams (purple)

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