Ravens Game Day Analysis, Fact & Opinion
It was not pretty, in fact, any other team, other than the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Oakland Raiders– and the Ravens are likely staring at 0-2– but it was the Cleveland Browns and because of that, the Super Bowl Champs are 1-1 after an unimpressive 14-6 victory today at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens offense had just 296 total yards on 71 plays. Not exactly, the type of performance that provides one with hope of a repeat. Considering how “angry” the team said they were after losing badly in Week 1 to the Denver Broncos, it was a bit underwhelming. Nevertheless, a win is a win and at this point 1-1 is certainly better than 0-2., especially when you consider that since 1990 only 12 teams that started 0-2 rebounded to make the playoffs.
Here are five facts and instant analysis opinions from today’s contest.
Facts: According to Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh, Ravens RB Ray Rice suffered a hip flexor. “Ray had a hip flexor strain, and right now is not scheduled for an MRI, but we’ll see how that goes overnight,” Harbaugh said after the 14-6 victory. Rice suffered the injury on a run early in the fourth quarter; he fell to the turf while trying to make a cut up field. He was not touched by a defender on the play. “He might have gone down to protect himself too,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just have to see. We’re confident and optimistic right now, but we’ll have to see tomorrow how it responds.” Rice did not return, but did walk back onto the field and watched the end of the game from the sidelines.
Opinion: The Ravens will miss Ray Rice but its clear the rushing attack, along with the rest of the offense is out of whack. Once again, this offense has no identity and no rhythm. Rice had 13 carries for 36 yards, which is a mere 2.8 yards per carry, Bernard Pierce was not much better. Although the offense seemed to flow a tad better with Pierce in the game. The second year back carried 19 times for 57-yards and one touchdown but as a unit, they are struggling. They finished with 32 carries for 93 yards. That equals less than three yards per carry and while you cannot fault the amount of attempts, the timing of the carries does not seem to be in harmony with how the Ravens want to run their offense—I think.
They utilized Rice on three of the first 11 plays, which led to a 50-yard field goal miss by Justin Tucker. However, after Rice gained 11 yards and then three more two plays later, the Ravens never went back to him. He would get just two more carries the rest of the half, as the Ravens turned to Pierce.
With Rice likely out at least two weeks and possibly four, it is not likely the Ravens are going to find an identity or rhythm without him. While Pierce will step up and likely fill in nicely, the Ravens offense works best with Rice in a groove. There is no ebb and flow to the offense and the reason is that the rushing attack is sorely lacking. Through two games, the tandem of Rice and Pierce have combined for 53 carries and just 151-yards, or 2.8 yards per carry. That simply is not going to get it done.
Fact: Joe Flacco stopped a three game Week 2 losing streak today. However, he was less than spectacular in doing so. Before the loss in Denver in Week 1, Flacco was 5-0 averaging 241 passing yards with eight touchdowns and just two interceptions in the opener. His passer rating was a 93.5, which is seven points better than his career rating of 86.3. Week 2 has been an entirely different story for Flacco. Entering today during the losing streak, Flacco has thrown three TD’s and seven interceptions while averaging just 194 passing yards per game. He was not much better today but he did not turn the ball over. Flacco was 22-33 for 211 yards and one touchdown. He targeted nine different receivers with Torrey Smith getting 13 of those targets, catching seven of them for 85 yards. His relationship with WR Marlon Brown is developing quite nicely, as Brown caught the lone Flacco TD toss. This was the second straight game the former Georgia product and Flacco have hooked up for six points. Flacco and the Ravens offense also converted 50 percent (8-16) of third down attempts—And as I said, he did not turn the ball over. I cannot stress that enough when eight points was the margin of victory.
Opinion: I forgive whatever performance Joe Flacco turned in today. The Ravens got a win and Flacco was there, which is an accomplishment considering his wife Dana, gave birth to their second baby just an hour prior to the start of the game. Flacco got the news about the couple’s second child during warm-ups. She gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, the couple’s second child. Their first son Stephen was born on Flag Day 2012, as Flacco and the Ravens were in the middle of OTA’s. With that said, we’ve hardly seen $120 million worth of arm or decision making from Flacco. While he may not be a big part of the problem, he must find a way to step up and be a bigger part of the solution. It may be a long week for the new father, as the Ravens prepare to welcome in the Houston Texans next week, who thumped Flacco and his mates by 30 last year in the Lone Star state.
Fact: The Ravens entered Week 2 as the last ranked defense in the NFL; they will not be there next week after today’s performance vs. a pathetic Cleveland offense. The Ravens sacked Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden five times and hit him a dozen more times. The first notable change from the debacle in Denver was Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam getting his first NFL start today, replacing veteran Michael Huff at free safety and 2011 first-round draft pick Jimmy Smith moving ahead of Corey Graham. Huff has struggled from the start to adapt to the Ravens defense, as he and Graham struggled mightily in Denver. Graham could not contain Wes Welker and Huff missed assignments, as well as tackles during the Ravens embarrassing loss to the Broncos. Huff also failed to contain Broncos tight end Julius Thomas as he caught a pair of touchdowns. The Ravens’ lineup changes didn’t look good to start, as Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron caught a 53-yard pass with Elam unable to bring him down in the open field. The long reception set up a 21-yard field goal by former Ravens Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff.
The second biggest noticeable difference was how the Ravens improved their defensive rotation. The Ravens seemed to be able to get fresh legs in and out of the lineup. The Browns ran 62 plays totaling just 259-yards of total offense. They held Cleveland to 4-of-15 on third down and held Trent Richardson to just 58-yards on 18 carries. With 11 total tackles, linebacker Daryl Smith was the defensive player of the game. He also registered 1.5 sacks, as well as one tackle for a loss and defended two passes.
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil also registered sacks in their second consecutive game and Arthur Jones got his first of the season.
Opinion: While this is an obvious improvement over Week 1, let us not jump up and start booking hotel rooms in New York just yet. This was the Browns but it was a start.
Fact: Justin Tucker missed two field goals today after missing just three all of last season. What made this even more notable is the much maligned and well-traveled former Raven, Billy Cundiff accounted for all the Browns points hitting both of his attempts.
Opinion: Tucker has been slicing and dicing a lot lately and may need to hone his mechanics a bit. He needs to find the center of the net a bit more than trying to sneak the ball inside of an upright. It appears the Ravens are going to desperately need those six points during many of their games this year, so whatever adjustments Tucker needs to make, he needs to make them. Tucker could also be depressed, as his former college team, the Texas Longhorns, who were considered a dark horse BCS title contender before the college football season started, has lost two in a row and looked very bad doing so. In case you are wondering, Michael Huff, another former Longhorn, cannot use that excuse, he’s looked bad since his arrival.
Fact: Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens are now 11-0 vs. the Cleveland Browns. All time, the black and purples moved to 22-7 against their ancestral brothers. Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens have won 25 of their last 28 regular season home games and are 34-7 in games played in Baltimore, tying for the NFL’s second-best home mark since 2008. During that span, the have only allowed 14.6 points per game at home, which surpasses the Steelers, who owned the top spot with 14.9.
Opinion: The Ravens have issues that must be addressed. Games that once appeared to be should-win contests on the schedule look to be in doubt with the way the team is performing at the moment. The Ravens will likely be home underdogs next week and may not be favored in any game until they travel to play Cleveland again on November 3. The Ravens have better talent on paper than do teams like the Bills, Dolphins and Steelers—but are not playing nearly as their talent level says they are capable of with consistency. The defense took a major step today but ask yourself this, what would have happened if No.3 and No.17 for the Browns was wearing No.18 from Denver?
I assumed the Ravens would make a better transition without Ray Lewis but it is obvious I was wrong. There is no clear-cut leader and at times, the unit seems to lack intensity. I will give the benefit of the doubt, as they continue to transition into whatever they want to be on offense and defense in terms of an identity. The benefits expire next week when Ed Reed and the Texans come to M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens must be 2-1 before hitting the road for two straight in Buffalo and Miami. It will not get any easier when they return home, as the Packers will be waiting for them. Playing as they have through the first two weeks means the Ravens are no better than 2-4 or 3-3 heading to Pittsburgh in Week 7 and that is not where many of us thought they would be.
Please join me tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. for The Baltimore Ravens Monday Night QB on the Fanspeak Radio Network. I will have all of the stats that matter and the ones that do not, as well as interviews from the locker room. You will also hear, in its entirety, HC John Harbaugh’s Monday media presser.