Boller was inconsistent with his accuracy throughout the contest, leaving his throws a bit behind receivers at times during crucial plays. On a rollout play intended for Darnell Dinkins that would have placed the Ravens deep in Colts’ territory, Boller threw behind his tight end on a relatively easy pass. Dinkins pulled in another of Boller’s throws that was a bit behind. On a big 4th and 7 with 8:35 remaining in the game, Boller was a bit behind again this time to Clarence Moore. The lanky receiver had both hands on the ball but couldn’t pull it down. Admittedly, some of the off target tosses were hurried by some guy named Freeney.
On another throw at the 2:45 mark of the third quarter, Boller overthrew an open Todd Heap in the end zone. That miss would prove costly. Two plays later, Stover’s 31 yard field goal attempt was blocked leading to a 10 point swing — the eventual difference in the ball game. Twice Boller threw balls into traffic that were picked off. The first of the two has to fall largely upon the shoulders of Clarence Moore who was very slow out of his break. You have to admire the young QB’s guts and hustle. He avoided big sacks with some nifty footwork, and hustled to put himself in position to recover a Jamal Lewis fumble. On Lewis’ big 43 yard run in the second quarter, Boller was downfield trying to make a block at the end of Lewis’ run. He did demonstrate his continually improving ability to hit second and third options although in this game, those opportunities were few and far between given the ferocious Colts’ pass rush.
Despite an ankle that seems to still be bothering him a bit, Jamal Lewis looked like he was in 2003 form. Averaging 6.5 yards per carry, the Ravens’ workhorse posted 130 yards. The only time that Jamal was stopped was on a 3rd and 2 from the Colts 25 early in the second quarter. Curiously, they ran it up behind the right side of the line instead of behind the team’s stronger left side. Chester Taylor spelled Jamal well and demonstrated a nose for the first down marker. Jamal was weak in support of pass protection and he needs to protect the football better. Nice heads up play on the tipped pass that helped to keep the Ravens comeback hopes alive.
Clarence Moore and Travis Taylor are soft, especially Moore. We can start calling him Charmin. Moore lacks the courage to go over the middle of the field and I don’t buy the excuse kicked around on the airwaves that he is just young. You have to want to go over the middle to be successful. Desire has nothing to do with youth and inexperience. Sunday night was the second time that he sold out his QB and failed to run an in route properly fearing the big hit. Taylor failed to hang on to a perfectly thrown ball by Kyle Boller on first and 10 from their own 9 that should have resulted in an 18 yard gain. He also seems to fall to the ground rather easily after a catch instead of fighting for more yardage. When called upon, KJ delivered; Dinkins contributed a nice catch and Heap was very productive once he got started. He did drop a touchdown pass. However, that catch would have been negated by an illegal substitution. Against the Giants, the receivers made plays. Against the Colts, they did not. Until Clarence Moore seeks counseling from the Wizard of Oz’ lion, he’ll never be anything more than a situational player. Has anyone seen Randy Hymes?
Sunday will go down as Jonathan Ogden’s worst performance in a long, long time — perhaps the worst of his career. Dwight Freeney beat Ogden throughout the night, oftentimes by getting up into Ogden’s left and then spinning to the inside. Freeney hurried Boller at least 6 times and sacked him twice. Other than Ogden, the offensive line played decently. No that is not a typo. The run blocking was very solid and once again, you have to wonder why the Ravens didn’t try to dominate this game on the ground. Had the Ravens run right at Freeney more frequently, he may not have been as dominant. By running at Freeney, he may not have been so revved up to rush Boller. As it turned out, Freeney conducted a clinic. Ironically, Ethan Brooks for the most part and Zeus to a lesser degree, took Robert Mathis (10 sacks on the season) out of the game completely. Casey Rabach had a costly and completely unnecessary penalty with 9:13 remaining in the game. Rabach was flagged for being downfield, negating an 18 yard pass to Todd Heap that would have placed the Ravens first and 10 at the Colts 15. Instead they faced a second and 7 from the Colts’ 38. Three plays later they turned the ball over on downs, wasting critical time, great field position and a chance to cut into the 20-10 Colts lead.
DEFENSIVE LINE 1/2
The NFL’s leading rusher Edgerrin James, was limited to 69 yards on 22 carries, 17 of them coming on his initial carry. The Ravens ability to control James is due in large part to the solid play by Marquez Douglas and Tony Weaver who helped string out plays and gain initial penetration to free up the linebackers to make tackles. Kelly Gregg was caught up inside going the wrong way inside the 5, enabling the Colts LG DeMulling to seal Ray Lewis. James waltzed into the end zone. However, Gregg did help to string out runs. None of the lineman ever had a sniff of Manning.
Because of the play up front, the linebackers were free to clean up and make plays in a defense that continually morphed throughout the game. Ray Lewis was the maestro, although he didn’t start quickly. On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Ray looked overmatched in the open field trying to bring down Edgerrin James. Later on Ray was moving his mates in and out of a variety of defensive looks. Ray scraped the defensive line and made several tackles that limited the Colts to short gains despite playing most of the game with a fractured wrist. Mike Nolan’s defensive game plan required athletic versatility and there are few Ravens as versatile as AD. And he delivered, particularly on the Colts’ second series of downs. Hartwell provided some pressure in blitzing situations however his snaps were limited due to the Ravens heavy usage of sub packages.
The secondary was outstanding in run support, particularly Ed Reed. Baxter made a great read defending the flanker screen to Reggie Wayne. He also nearly stripped Wayne for an interception in the third quarter. I’ve looked at that play in slow motion and I’m still not convinced that he didn’t strip the ball but as they say, it’s water under the bridge. Chad Williams was solid as always as the dime in run support, in blitz packages and defending the pass. He nearly picked Manning at the goal line at the end of the Colts’ first series of downs. The secondary is so much stronger with a healthy Sanders. McAlister is still looking for his jock around the Ravens 25 yard line after biting on the outside move of Marvin Harrison. Any Football 101 course will tell you to favor the middle of the field in single coverage without safety support. Other than the touchdown pass, McAlister stayed with Harrison most of the evening — one of the most difficult tasks for any corner given the long time rapport between Manning and Harrison.
The kickoff team played tired. They seem to be lacking energy and look vulnerable. A big return appears imminent and it almost happened on the opening kick. B.J. Sams looks as though he’s hit that rookie wall but then he bounced back with a big 64 yard return to set up the Ravens only touchdown. His fair catch inside the 10 was a mental mistake. He made up for it by positioning himself perfectly on one of Dave Zastudil’s punts to pin the Colts at their own 1 yard line. And speaking of Zastudil, solid game for the punter, placing the Colts inside their own 20 four times and inside the 10 twice. Wade Richey’s leg looked rested, sending his kicks to the goal line or deeper, registering one touchback. Mr. Money, Matt Stover — had perhaps his worst shank indoors as a pro. His "blocked" 31 yard field goal attempt conjured up memories of those attempting 20 yard field goals for pick up trucks down at The Vault.
Mike Nolan’s game plan was flawless. He attacked Peyton Manning throughout the game. He played to win, not to lose acceptably. His counterpart on the other hand — Matt Cavanaugh, may be approaching the twilight of his career as a Ravens coordinator. The offense did little to try to counteract the aggressiveness of Dwight Freeney; they continue to send Clarence Moore over the middle. Moore and the middle of the field are like oil and water; the play calling in the red zone bordered on pathetic; they continue to dictate their play calling to the defense with the personnel packages and formations; only once did they try to isolate Clarence Moore on the 5’8” Von Hutchins; with 1:30 to go and down by 10, they dink and dunk passes in the middle of the field without any sense of urgency; receivers are running routes within yards of each other making separation even more difficult; they failed to take advantage of a defensive line that clearly could not compete with the Ravens run blocking and Jamal Lewis‘ running; and how in God’s name do you explain that Todd Heap doesn’t see the ball until the 5:43 mark of the third quarter!!!
Matt is a good man but it’s time for a change. Hopefully Pitt will welcome Cavanaugh with open arms. That will be the easy way out. If Pitt doesn’t offer the job to Cavanaugh, their may be some front office battles since Billick has final say on his assistants by virtue of his contract. Does anyone have any solid connections at the University of Pittsburgh?