Normally when I review games and report my observations here in The Bird Gauge, I will watch the game live, whether on TV or at The Vault and then I will review a tape of the game to focus upon play away from the ball.
Yesterday, while watching the game with a nice gathering of Ravens’ fans at Lager’s Pub, it dawned on me that I had forgotten to set up my VCR. “Not a problem” said my friend Pat. “I’ve got you covered. I’m taping the game.”
As the game unfolded, it became apparent that there were really two games within one. The Jets won the first (the first half) in convincing fashion and the Ravens won the second (half). The contest would be decided by overtime and we all know that the good guys emerged victoriously.
But I thought how do you grade the overall performance when there were such contrasting results from the first to the second half? So with that in mind, I’d like to briefly assess each position based upon my live observations (thanks anyway Pat) and then give an overall team grade to the Baltimore Ravens as a whole. Yesterday, that’s exactly what the Ravens were – whole — a whole team without a hole in the offense. A whole that proved to be greater than the sum of its parts.
Briefly, here’s the sum of the parts:
Time will tell if this was a coming-of-age game for Kyle Boller. The man made plays despite an inconsistent running game and despite the lack of adequate pass protection. During crunch time he appeared poised and confident. This game may prove to be more than just a building block. It could very well be the foundation for a competent passing attack. Great clutch throw on 4th and 8 from the Jets 34 with 1:12 left in the first half after the Ed Reed INT. Without this conversion, it would be difficult to envision the Ravens recovering from such a missed golden opportunity. Kyle still needs to sell the play action better.
RUNNING BACK 1/2
Jamal Lewis never seemed to get untracked but clearly that had nothing to do with a lack of effort. Although it didn’t happen for Jamal yesterday, the Jets commitment to stopping Jamal certainly provided space for the passing game. The backs were more involved in the passing game and hopefully we’ll see more of that in the future. It would also be nice to see a run here and there from Chester Taylor and Musa Smith to provide a change of pace. Alan Ricard seemed to be off his game a bit.
Clarence Moore had a slight case of alligator arms after a well thrown ball by Boller on a third and nine with 0:47 left in the third quarter from the Ravens 45. Despite this mistake which could have resulted in a turnover, Clarence Moore’s development continues. He and fellow rookie B.J. Sams have to be considered the most pleasant surprises of the 2004 campaign so far. He is becoming a threat in the red zone and his height advantage might force opposing defenses to account for him with more than one man. When Heap returns, that will spell relief ultimately for both Boller and Jamal Lewis. Overall this unit played well with contributions from nearly all members.
This unit struggled as much as any Ravens’ unit yesterday. Again they missed J.O. as well as Mulitalo for the second half. That forced Bennie Anderson to the LG position and a rusty Mike Flynn into RG. The results were predictably shaky against the quick defensive front of the Jets. The o-line failed to produce any space for Jamal Lewis or time for Kyle Boller.
DEFENSIVE LINE 1/2
Kevin Mawae dominated the Ravens interior d-line early. Later in the game the results improved although I think that had to do more with some questionable and conservative play calling by the Jets. Marquez Douglas should be singled out for an outstanding afternoon. He had 1 ½ sacks and 8 tackles overall. Three of those tackles stopped the Jets on third down.
Ray Lewis had 14 tackles but most were 3 to 5 yards downfield. The Jets borrowed a strategy from the Chiefs and decided to come right at Ray. More help was needed from Ed Hartwell. A.D. chipped him with another steady effort. Terrell Suggs was MIA.
The Ravens lost McAlister in the first half to a neck stinger and they started the game without the services of Deion Sanders. That left the unit leaning on Ray Walls and Corey Fuller. Walls was beaten badly by Santana Moss. Fuller played well with sure tackling. He could have used some inside support from Will Demps on a couple of square ins. Chad Williams always makes plays and did so again yesterday on a blitz, sacking Quincy Carter for a 13 yard loss. Baxter was quiet, often a good sign for a corner and Ed Reed was – well he was Ed Reed and he delivered a big play when it was desperately needed. Perhaps even a bigger play was Corey Fuller not tipping that Lamont Jordan pass that Reed picked. Had he tipped it, we all might not be so happy about the Ravens today.
This unit cost the Ravens 7 points early in the game after B.J. Sams’ fumble at the Ravens’ 12. Matt Stover did an adequate job on kickoffs and adjusted well without normal holder Dave Zastudil. Kordell Stewart was huge subbing for Zastudil, pinning the Jets deep in their own territory twice. Coverage teams were decent but outplayed slightly by the Jets. And of course credit must be given to Stover for the clutch walk off kick.
As indicated above, I took in the game at Lager’s Pub. While watching the game I stood next to a guy that seemed to have a decent understanding of the game, yet whenever anything went wrong I couldn’t help but think “The Sky Is Falling.” He complained about nearly everything.
When the Ravens failed to convert on fourth and goal from the 1 and then B.J. Sams fumbled a punt at the 12 leading to the Jets 7-0 lead, this glass half empty kinda guy went on to tell everyone who would listen that the Ravens were done. The 10 point swing (he felt the Ravens should have taken the easy 3 on their first possession) sealed the Ravens fate. He repeatedly echoed “this game is over” as though it was some personal mantra that in some sadistic way might make him one with his universe.
And he had his disciples.
Gradually, a few others around us turned to me one by one to repeat the mantra, “this game is over.” It was worse when the score went to 14-0. I tried the rally cap. Nothing. I change my position in the bar steering clear of Mr. Gloom & Doom. I wasn’t about to sip from his Kool Aid and wanted no part of his universe.
At about the same time, the wife of our Fantasy Football Guru, the Rainman himself — Kurt Backert, suggested something that seemed to change everything. Hanging behind the bar was one of our handsome black long sleeve t-shirts with the front facing forward. Cindy suggested that I flip the shirt around so that the big logo on the back was displayed. Not long after the flip was made, the game too began to flip in favor of the Ravens. Hey desperate times call for desperate measures. And then it happened….
GO ED REED…GO ED REED…GO ED REED! Of course Mr. Gloom & Doom dished out the high fives followed by “that’s what I’m talkin’ about!” I guess the game wasn’t over.
It’s interesting to see how others respond to adversity and to see how quickly they abandon their team. That’s not to say that the team was above criticism. There was plenty to criticize in the first half and that’s ok. But don’t abandon your team. To me, the Ravens are like family and where I come from, you don’t go against the family.
Fortunately, the Ravens were 192 miles from this scene at Lager’s. They managed the adversity and they pulled together like a family.
When Chris McAlister went down, an already thin secondary pulled together to pick up the slack for their missing brothers; when Ed Mulitalo went down, the Ravens shifted the offensive line to do the best that they could without Big Ed and J.O.; when Dave Zastudil was taken out with a cheap albeit legal hit, Kordell Stewart dusted off his punting leg that had been shelved since his high school days and helped the team manage field position; and with Zastudil in the trainer’s room, Kyle Boller stepped in as the holder for Matt Stover.
It was a gut check game for the Ravens — a game in which the special teams weren’t as special as they normally are and a game in which the defense wasn’t as stout as usual. The offense on Sunday contributed greatly to winning the football game. As the offensive and defensive units stood side by side on the sidelines, many holding hands, the bond that cements this team’s solidarity grew tighter and deeper. On a day when the two more dependable units weren’t quite as dependable the offense stepped up. And when that 42 yard field goal attempt by Matt Stover sailed between the yellow poles, a genuine team effort was rewarded.
The whole was greater than the sum of the parts.
* How big was that PAT that bounced off the upright?
* One reason that it is often difficult to win on the road has to do with the way calls often go the way of the home team. Yesterday was no exception:
1. B.J. Sams seemed to be interfered with prior to fumbling that first quarter punt;
2. Why was Ray the only one flagged during his altercation with Rugrat Chrebet?
3. I think Terrell Buckley clearly interfered with Randy Hymes on third and 5 from the Ravens 49 at the 12:30 mark in overtime. If that call is made properly, game over!
* And speaking of the home team, New York yesterday showed why the fans of Baltimore are better. The Meadowland gathering fell silent for most of the second half and the only time they were heard from, was to deliver a cascade of boos. You don’t go against the family and you don’t go against the home team. The minute you do, you give the bad guys an advantage — you give them confidence. Keep being the best 12th man B’more!