September 7, 2013 in Observations
By now, everyone knows that Peyton Manning threw seven touchdowns on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens new-look defense was supposed to be improved this year, but they definitely didn't look improved.
Looking at the final score of the game, you can tell that the defense struggled badly as the Ravens lost 49-27 and all 49 of these points were allowed by the defense. The 49 points allowed is a new franchise record, not something you want to be doing on opening day of the NFL season.
Another franchise record that was set last night for the Ravens was touchdown passes allowed in a game as Manning threw seven and the previous record was five. Going along with the passing touchdowns, last season, the Ravens allowed their seventh touchdown pass in week ten, against the Oakland Raiders. That is quite a difference.
The main weakness of the Ravens' defense this week was the secondary.
Starting with the only positive, cornerback Lardarius Webb made his return from a torn ACL and played great. For the 27th straight game, Webb didn't allow a touchdown in coverage. Playing outside and inside due to his coverage abilities and the struggles of the other cornerbacks, Webb ended up with one tackle and one pass deflection. The low tackle number is a good sign for cornerbacks as it usually means they didn't give up many catches, which was the case in this game. When Jacoby Jones left with a knee injury, Webb took over punt return duties. Since Jones is out 4-6 weeks, expect Webb to continue this duty.
After a great game with two interceptions against the Broncos in the playoffs last season, Corey Graham had a day to forget. He gave up touchdowns and was constantly beaten by Wes Welker from the slot and Demaryius Thomas on the outside. Graham's struggles from the slot against Welker led to Webb moving to the slot.
Jimmy Smith, who was expected to step up this season, gave up six catches for 114 yards according to Pro Football Focus. Of these 114 yards, 28 of them came on a touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell where Smith was beat on a deep pass. Another notable play in coverage from Smith was over pursuing a Thomas after a catch, turning a short gain into a 34-yard gain. This occurred two plays before he gave up his touchdown. On special teams, Smith was called for unnecessary roughness on a punt return in the third quarter.
At safety, new acquisition Michael Huff struggled throughout the night and you can partially attribute three touchdowns to him, both of Julius Thomas' and one of Demaryius Thomas'. Huff was eventually benched for rookie Matt Elam who came in and recorded one tackle. Overall, Huff just looked lost on the field.
James Ihedigbo, the other safety, recorded five tackles while playing every snap. His night wasn't very noteworthy though as Manning picked on others over him. Ihedigbo did miss a tackle on a touchdown for Demaryius Thomas.
Onto the linebackers now, Daryl Smith, as expected, was the play caller on defense, making audibles that were needed. He only had four tackles but contributed two pass deflections in coverage and almost intercepted a pass in the second quarter.
Next to Smith, Josh Bynes played most of the game, leading the Ravens with eight tackles. In run defense, he looked fine, which is expected. However, in pass coverage, Bynes looked lost and gave up multiple catches. Rookie Arthur Brown was expected to come in for passing downs but he instead, Bynes stayed in, leaving Brown with just five snaps all game. Brown was a good pass defender in college at Kansas State and in preseason he was a starter when the defense lined up in nickel. Given how Bynes played in pass coverage, it is surprising that Brown only got in for five snaps, especially when you consider that he played with the first team defense in nickel during the preseason.
While the secondary was torched all night long, the pass rush and run defense were both positives to take from the game.
Three Ravens were able to get consistent pressure on Manning: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Chris Canty. The Ravens rushed four players on a majority of plays and Suggs, Dumervil, and Canty were rushing most of the time.
Starting with Suggs, he finished with six tackles, one sack, and two more QB hits and hurries. He also played well in run defense, setting the edge well. Expected to have a big season, Suggs started the year off right. Given that he is now the new leader of the defense, Suggs will have to get this group back together after this poor performance.
Dumervil had extra motivation for this game as he played for the Broncos last season and the split between the two wasn't exactly amicable. This extra motivation led to two tackles, one sack, and three other hurries. On his sack, Dumervil dominated tight end Julius Thomas and by the time right tackle Orlando Franklin came over to help, it was to late. This sack, along with Sugg's, came when the Ravens were still in the game.
Canty's one sack came when the Ravens were down 35-17 and all the momentum was with the Broncos and the game looked over by then. Along with his sack, Canty had two tackle and two other QB hits. Coming over in free agency this offseason, Canty was expected to excel in the Ravens' 3-4 defense and he has started off well.
As I said in my game preview, stopping the pass and the new players were key for the Ravens. Well, they didn't exactly stop the pass and only two of the new players really played well. The Ravens also failed on special teams and the offensive line, which were my two other points, but that is a whole other discussion.
Anyways, the Ravens' defense needed to play well to win this game and they failed spectacularly. The secondary showed why they were considered to be the weak point of the defense, and having only four cornerbacks on the roster isn't helping the cause.
Despite the play of the defense, there are positives to build on (Webb, Suggs, Dumervil, Canty, and the run defense). Playing the Cleveland Browns next week, the defense will get a lesser test where they can hopefully come together and improve as a unit.