Game #6: Vanilla Offense Features Too Much Rice

Ravens: 20   Patriots: 23 For some reason this season ends up being all about the Ravens offensive coordinator.  At some point we have to trust our offense and Flacco to make plays and cut them loose.  Our two losses can both be attributed to overly conservative play calling.  We have the weapons.  Let’s deploy them.  Against the Patriots today we played right into their gameplan by keying everything around Ray Rice.  They had the run shut down and they teased us into being content to throw check down passes to Ray for meaningless gains.  We are so concerned with protecting Flacco that we invest extra players into the protection schemes.  Then we end up throwing just the short dump down pass anyway.  What’s the point? I listed only positives last week so it’s only fair to pick on some of the negatives from today’s disappointing overtime loss. – Our execution on short yardage plays was deplorable — I would have gone for it on fourth down late in the game at mid-field rather than giving the ball back to Brady … but I can understand Harbaugh’s reluctance. – New England had open receivers cutting across the field all day long.  We were fortunate so many balls were dropped — especially two critical ones by their rookie phenom tight end that could have proved costly. – For all of Cundiff’s success on gaining touchbacks on kickoffs this year, his out of bounds penalty seemed to turn the game around.  The good starting position jump started the Patriots offense. – Our special teams  were outplayed all game.  We need another option for both kickoff returner and punt returner.  Parmalee made terrible decisions on whether to bring the ball out of the end zone.  By contrast the booming 65 yard punt late in the game by the Patriots may have been the difference.  Our coverage teams were burned as well at critical times. – Something has to be done by the league to stop these dangerous helmet-to-helmet collisions.  Merriweather needs a suspension, not just a paltry fine.  There was no excuse for launching himself against Heap.  The TV commentators did a good job documenting how he tried the same tactic earlier on the TD catch, but Todd ducked under that hit.  Look at the highlights around the league and you can see how serious this problem has become. – The retaliation personal foul...
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Game #5: Smash Mouth Football Bloodies the Broncos

Ravens: 31   Broncos: 17 For some reason the Ravens have a history of being able to exert their will against the Denver Broncos.  It was no surprise to see the vaunted early season passing attack of Denver be reduced to a couple of meaningless long scores at the end of each half.  The toughness of Baltimore earned them another double digit victory against the visiting Broncos. For a change, we will focus on nothing but the positives as we give out a number of game balls: Offensive Line — Let’s deal with them as a group.  They were solid in both pass protection and finally getting the running game untracked.  They gashed the Broncos all day and especially enjoyed putting the game away with the late drive in the fourth quarter.  For the most part they kept Flacco on his feet in the passing game as well. Fabian Washington — Must have been eating his Wheaties during the week.  He was all over the routes of the Bronco receivers — breaking at just the right moment to arrive simultaneously with the ball.  This was the best he has played and he seemed to be enjoying every minute of it.  Now if we could only translate this into some interceptions. Billy Cundiff — Those booming kickoffs for touchbacks kept Denver pinned back all game.  What a weapon!  The explanation after the game by the coaching staff makes you think that there is some harmful over-coaching taking place: “Recently we just told him to forget about all of the specific instructions we had been cluttering his mind with and just kick the Heck out of the ball.”  Glad to know that those expensive coaching salaries are worth every penny. Overall Toughness and Resiliency — When you get stuffed four times inside the five yard line on your initial drive it can take some of the starch out of your swagger.  But Joe Cool was unruffled and just took them back down the field on the next drive and made sure they stuck it in the end zone.  He made a couple of key runs — especially putting his shoulder down and running over the middle linebacker and then picking up a key first down with another strong run up the middle. Ed Dickson — We can look forward to some more passes down the seam from this rookie tight end.  He...
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Game #4: Last Minute Heroics Rewrite Typical Steeler Game Script

Ravens: 17   Steelers: 14 How many times have the Ravens come into Pittsburgh and battled their hearts out only to fall agonizingly short of victory?  This Sunday looked like another wasted effort until Flacco passed the team to victory in the final minute.  Give Houshman and Flacco props for making a nice adjustment on the winning TD play.  The icing on the cake was the defeat the Browns handed to the Bengals to further enhance the Ravens position in the division. The Ravens controlled the game in the first half and had to be disappointed to only be up 3 points.  After Cundiff missed his first field goal attempt (both teams struggled trying to kick into the open end of the stadium), Pittsburgh grabbed some momentum briefly.  Batch beat Fabian Washington down the sideline for one long play against the blitz for the first TD of the game.  But the rest of the half belonged to the Ravens.  They stopped themselves on several occasions and failed to capitalize on the crisp, accurate passing of Flacco. Their conservative play calling in the second half almost cost them.  At times it seemed that they were satisfied to sit on their three point lead.  By trying to establish the running game, they got away from the success that Flacco was enjoying through the air.   I found Harbaugh’s post game comments about giving Cam a game ball to be very defensive.  Some of the criticism has been justified — you cannot afford to be so conservative anymore in this pass happy league.  The mounting injuries against their running backs and the eventual awakening of the Steeler offense forced Baltimore to re-assert themselves at the end. A couple of areas of concern: – Way too many offsides penalties on hard counts — we want to be aggressive, but smart – Oher came awful close to jumping early on a number of plays — I guess I should be giving him credit for getting out of his stance quickly in pass protection situations — but he made me nervous – A couple of times we got beat to the corner on running plays – Hopefully the running backs are just nicked up and will come back quickly The turnover situation continues to put the team at risk.  We have enjoyed a significant positive differential for so many years that we are shocked to find ourselves on the...
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Game #3: Flacco to Boldin Keeps Ravens From Foldin

Ravens: 24   Browns: 17 This was an early season must win for the Ravens.  Given the high expectations, they could not affford to go to 0-2 in conference with the upcoming road game against the formidable 3-0 Steelers (who don’t seem to miss Big Bad Ben all that much).  The Browns took it right to the heart of the Ravens defense — rushing unheralded fullback Peyton Hillis for 144 tough yards right up the gut.  This had to be a blow to the pride of a unit that was gashed for its first two TD drives of the season.  But in the end, Joe Cool proved that he could bring some toughness to bear as well — responding by hanging in the pocket to victimize Eric Wright with 3 pretty TD strikes to his new favorite weapon — Q Boldin.  There were two other long tosses to the end zone that could have easily earned a yellow flag for pass interference.  In a game of punch and counterpunch, the Ravens answered every challenge and spared themselves the embarrassment of being lit up by another week of sports radio pot shots. Punch: Flacco came under severe criticism all week for his 4 interceptions and ineffective play against the Bengals. CounterPunch: He responded with classic “take that and shut up” performance, going 22 for 31 with 3 TDs and no interceptions.  His decisions were spot on and he seemed to play with more energy and as much quickness as the situation required.  His QB rating was a flashy 128.7. * * * * * * * * * * Punch: Coach Cameron’s play calling for the first two games was more than suspect. CounterPunch: Cam responded with a nice balance between passing and running.  He took the handcuffs off Flacco and allowed him to go downfield to exploit the key matchup against the clueless Wright. * * * * * * * * * * Punch: Normally reliable punter Sam Koch fumbled the snap causing a five yard penalty for ineligible man downfield when the timing of the play was disrupted. CounterPunch: Koch responded by driving the ball deep and pinning the Browns inside the 20.  Cribbs and the special teams stars of the Browns were kept in check all day by the long kickoffs of Billy Cundiff. * * * * * * * * * * Punch: Cundiff’s 51 yard field...
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Game #2: Flacco Feeds Bengals Too Many Turnovers

Ravens: 10   Bengals: 15 Four interceptions doomed the Ravens to a key divisional road loss against the Bengals, despite the stingy defense keeping them out of the end zone.  This season has not gotten off to a good start for Joe Flacco.  The expected high octane offense with the new additions of some powerful weapons has sputtered and looked out of synch so far.  It is going to take more than a ten spot to earn most victories.  An analysis of first and second down plays would show that too often the Ravens end up in third and long situations.  Part of the blame must go to the play calling, but a lot of the blame falls on the shoulders of poor execution by the offensive line and by Flacco. The sense of frustration and futility is quickly building as seen in the body language of some of the receivers like Boldin and Mason.  They come off the field clearly upset with the decision making of where Flacco is distributing the ball.  Once again, I have to note that he does not seem to see the whole field or move through his progressions rapidly enough.  He seems too slow and deliberate to make the needed adjustments on the fly.  He throws into coverage where there must have been a better option.  Then again, part of the problem probably lies with route schemes that need to be more creative and productive.  The line has not opened enough holes consistently for the running game and the dump downs to Ray Rice no longer catch the opposition by surprise.  Hopefully the offense can get Gaither back at some point and start to move the chains with more regularity. The defense comes to play every game.  To hold Cincinnati to just field goals is a tremendous achievement — especially when mistakes give them a short field.  The secondary got a nice boost from the return of Lardarius Webb who still looks like a developing star.  Lewis brings that warrior mentality and elevates everyone’s play so that they fly to the ball and deliver solid hits.  That personal foul call on Suggs for a late hit on Carson Palmer was ridiculous.  That was a major call at the time and Harbaugh was justified in blowing a gasket.  The tripping call on Lewis was more of the questionable category — the first view live did...
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Game #1: Atrocious Play-Calling but Ferocious Defense

Ravens: 10    Jets:9 The Rex Ryan Trash Talking Bowl  almost proved too much of a challenge for the new era Ravens — which looked surprisingly like the old Ravens of Ray Lewis-led solid defense coupled with unimaginative play-calling.  It’s fine to trust your defense and play conservatively at times … but now that we have reloaded with some quality offensive weapons, please give Flacco and his troops a chance to win the game.  Our field position was horrible the entire second half, but you still need to try some creative plays on first and second downs rather than the predictable QB sneaks and Ray Rice runs that got squashed the entire game.  You would think that our fantastic success in converting long third downs (either by quality pass receptions or stupid penalties on the part of the Jets) would encourage us to be more daring on first and second down … but Cam elected to put all his eggs on the broad shoulders of Ray Lewis and his faithful warriors. The Preacher’s Commentary: – What a terrible way to start the game!  Give Flacco credit for toughness after taking a savage hit.  My main concern for his development is that he is too slow and deliberate at times instead of being quick and energetic to get rid of the ball.  But the flip side of that same trait involves his poise and unflappable demeanor … you can’t have everything.  At times he just managed to escape a sack and get the ball off … but you wish you could turn up his speed dial a notch. – Harbaugh’s post game comments were spot-on.  The team played with tremendous discipline, poise and toughness in a chaotic arena where the Jets were out of control and committing stupid penalties.  This was an all-out war and one of the all-time defensive gems for the Ravens. – You will rarely find such a one-sided affair (in terms of time of possession, number of offensive plays, yards gained, etc.) where a team has to hang on for a single point victory. – What can you say about Ray Lewis — talk about cashing the check!  He not only called out Rex Ryan for his brash boasting but proved with his play on the field that he still is the best middle linebacker and leader of men on the football field.  His tackle on third...
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