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 against Leron cannot be tolerated either.  No matter how badly you are baited, you have to put the team ahead of defending your personal honor.  Turn around and get back into the huddle.  There is far too much yapping after every play.  Those ten yards changed the complexion of that final scoring drive.

– How can we afford to play a safety so far off the line of scrimmage?  The TV commentators were spot on here as well.  I liked Rex Ryan’s gambling approach much better.  You cannot be passive against an accurate passer like Brady.  You have to attack with an element of surprise.  Playing 10 against 11 just doesn’t make sense.  When we play not to lose is when we end up getting beat.

– We have to give Boldin and Houshman more chances — even if they look covered.  They have proved that they are legitimate playmakers.  I know that the Patriots were dropping 8 into coverage frequently, but we didn’t spread the ball around enough.  The same can be said for giving some more shots to Dickson.  Heap continues to grab everything thrown to him — you just cringe every time he gets hit — wondering if he will get up.

– Flacco needs to use his legs more for us to be successful against the premier teams.  That helps to slow down the pass rush as well.

– Bottom line: we were out-coached today.  The Patriots made the necessary adjustments at half-time and the Ravens were unwilling to take the necessary chances to win on the road against an experienced opponent.