Week Six Observations
The Baltimore Ravens squeaked out a win against the Dallas Cowboys this weekend by winning 31-29. However, it would be more appropriate to say that the Cowboys lost the game more than the Ravens won it.
This will only be a quick note as I hope to write up something bigger on the injuries later in the week. Starting ILB Ray Lewis tore his triceps and is out for the year. Starting CB Lardarius Webb tore his ACL and is also out for the year. Starting DE Haloti Ngata has a minor MCL sprain and should be good to go for the Houston game this week.
The last two weeks for the Ravens run defense has been pathetic and there is no nicer way to put it. If you want to apply statistics to it then you can say this is the first time in franchise history that the Ravens have given up back to back 200 yard rush games and they also gave up a franchise record 227 rush yards on Sunday. If you want the players opinions on this then here you go. Star DE Haloti Ngata said “It’s disgusting, we need to fix it right away.” Starting S Bernard Pollard also had this to say, “We’re not happy with how we played on the defensive side of the ball. We’re not. We put ourselves in this position two weeks in a row. For a team to come out two weeks in a row and give up 200 yards rushing, that’s a pride thing right there. You got to take that personally. Our name is on that. Our name is on this defense.”
The defense this week suffered from a bad case of arm tackling and not wrapping up. For example, starting S Ed Reed tried going for a big hit on two separate occasions and both times missed. This led to at least 10 more yards when you add the two plays together. It wasn’t just a specific player either, the whole team was doing it. Rarely, did a Cowboys running back get taken down on first contact.
Another problem was cutbacks. The Cowboys runners would cutback on runs and sometimes there wouldn’t be anyone there. The far side OLB is supposed to stay and keep contain on these plays. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. The OLB who I noticed keeping contain the well was Courtney Upshaw.
Overall, the run defense needs to be fixed fast as the Ravens face probably the best running team in the NFL, in the Houston Texans, next week. This job is made tougher by the loss of LB Ray Lewis and CB Lardarius Webb, who was very good in run support. Also the push on the defensive line could suffer, if that is possible, with DE Haloti Ngata possibly being hindered by a knee injury.
As usual Rice had over 100 total yards with 63 rushing yards on 16 rushes with 2 TDs and 1 catch for 43 yards. With the offensive being very inconsistent this season, Rice has been the only the player they can lean on each game. The only negative thing about Rice from this game was on one play when he was in pass protection he got pushed to the ground by a blitzing defender and this pressure caused QB Joe Flacco to throw an incompletion.
The first notable thing Boldin did against the Cowboys was commit a false start on the drive before the first half ended. The false start was critical because it occurred on a 3rd and 9. However, on the next three plays he caught passes of 20, 14, and 20 yards helping set up the Ravens score before halftime. He also had two first down catches on the Ravens final drive in the 4th quarter which also led to a touchdown.
Early in the game Pitta made a great diving catch on an out route. The defender dove right in front of him but Pitta was able to keep his focus and make the play. In total 4 catches for 33 yards and he played very well in traffic through out the whole game. If his starting spot wasn’t secure already, he got even more job security as backup Ed Dickson dropped an easy touchdown pass early in the game.
Jones tied an NFL record with his 108 yard kickoff return for a TD in the 3rd quarter. He had 2 other returns for 51 yards. On offense he caught two passes for 15 yards. These two passes were for first downs though so they were important. Both of these passes were on the Ravens first drive of the game so he was a none factor after this drive.
Coming into Sunday people were expecting Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware to have a great game as he faced a suspect Ravens line. Last week, Oher gave up 2 sacks to the Chiefs. This week he didn’t give up any sacks despite playing against a better opponent. Ware did record one sack but that was on a stunt play when G Bobbie Williams fell down giving Ware a free path to Flacco. Oher did get called for 1 false start, but having 1 false start is better than giving up 1 sack so the Ravens will be happy with Oher this week as he heads for another tough matchup against the Texans.
You don’t hear Brown’s named called very often as he has only contributed on special teams this year. With that, he made a nice open field tackle on a punt against the Cowboys. Due to the injury of CB Lardarius Webb, Brown received some playing time on defense and made the most of it. He had great coverage on Cowboys star WR Dez Bryant on a fade route in the end zone. His coverage forced the ball to be thrown out of bounds. He also had good coverage on WR Kevin Ogletree on a deep ball but Brown was called for pass interference. The call was correct, but Brown didn’t need to interfere with Ogletree because he already had good coverage.
It was an up and down game for Williams, who now will have a bigger role in the secondary with Webb’s injury. Based on my count, Williams gave up 6 completions and 2 of them were TDs by Dez Bryant. On the plus side though he had another INT which makes it 3 games in a row with one now. He also was pretty good at tackling never letting his guy get away. He would get carried a few yards but he never let go of the ball carrier. On almost every play he had tight coverage including the 2 point conversion which Bryant dropped.
Smith will start in place of Webb next week and he looks like he is up for the task. He only gave up 3 completions the entire game and he played most snaps on defense. He blew up a screen on one play for about a 5 yard loss. He was also excellent in run defense which Webb is very good at. Late in the game he had a great pass breakup on a 3rd and 5 on a deep ball. If the ball was caught the Cowboys would have been inside the Ravens 5 yard line. On the negative side, Smith was called for 3 penalties. One was a weird encroachment call which set up a 3rd and 2 for the Cowboys. The second was a pass interference and the last was a holding call. Overall, Smith looks like a good, physical corner with man coverage skills and is now primed to have a breakout season.
Upshaw really stood out to me this week and in a good way. As the weakside OLB on run plays to the outside he was able to chase the play down and stop it for a short gain not once, not twice, but four times. This is very impressive and he is showing the skills to be an excellent run stuffer on the outside. He also had 2 QB hits and a key QB pressure late in the game on the Cowboys second to last drive. On the negative side though he lost contain on a sweep on 3rd and 2 allowing the back to run outside of him for the first down. When you add it all up, Upshaw had a great game and deserves to keep his starting spot when Terrell Suggs comes back.