Report Card Colts 24 Ravens 7

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Quarterback
 
Kyle Boller executed the conservative game plan about as well as could be expected.  But the plan is part of the problem.  The Ravens do very little to stretch defenses save the occasional streak route to a receiver that is afraid of being hit.  The result is that defenses compress the Ravens offense and the margin for error is minimal.  Short pass routes are choked off, running lanes are collapsed and the pressure on the quarterback is intense.  Until the Ravens stop with the dummy down offense, little will change.  It’s hard to tell whether Boller’s interception that ended the first drive was actually his fault based on the limited replays yet it was third down and the Ravens would have been forced to punt anyway.  Still, Boller doesn’t look downfield for more enticing opportunities even when he does have time.  His passing efficiency (if you want to call it that, 15-23, 141 yards, 0 TD’s, 1 INT, Rating 63.9) often comes at the expense of a defense trying to prevent a first down.  Time and again, the Ravens only seem to be able complete 12 yard passes (example) when they need 17.  Ultimately, that falls on the quarterback who commands little if any respect from opposing defenses.  Those that say otherwise are usually opponents hoping that Boller remains the Ravens starting QB.

Anthony Wright’s arm strength is noticeably weaker than Boller’s yet he is clearly far more poised in the pocket despite the plethora of flying white jerseys targeting his back.  Yet Wright does make poor decisions with the football but that could be explained away by the desperation of this team’s offensive ineptness.  Desperate measures call for desperate means and that translates into risky throws.

If Boller is healthy, there will be no QB controversy, much to the chagrin of the fans that will clamor for Anthony Wright.  But why bother with a controversy when neither QB appears to be worthy of the argument at this point?  Is there any meaningful disparity in talent between these two?

Think Vinny might come out of retirement?  Elvis? Randall Cunningham?  Eric Zeier?  Does it even matter?

Running backs  1/2

It appeared as though the Ravens might get the ground game untracked and then allow the offensive line to exert their will upon the lighter Colts’ defensive line.  Yet as the game progressed, the Colts did what many Ravens’ opponents have done and will continue to do – choke off the run and let Kyle Boller try to beat them.  Jamal Lewis like the song goes, “got nowhere to run to baby…nowhere to hide.”  Outside of the struggles of the entire running game, Jamal looked indecisive often while showing little explosiveness.  His performance last night certainly begs the question, “Is he close to 100%?”  Chester Taylor showed flashes of what we’ve seen in the preseason and his open field elusiveness should be used in the passing game to exploit defenses more regularly.  Chester showed improvement in pass protection.
Receivers

Derrick Mason is a tough and reliable receiver who has the knack of finding the soft spots in the zone.  He is as advertised and if the Ravens could ever achieve balance in their offense, he could be a 75-80 catch receiver.  However as long as Clarence Moore continues to put the ball on the rug, Mason will draw top corner attention and bracketing from the safety on the post corner routes that were open late in the game last night.  Moore practices well but just doesn’t get it done in games.  The Ravens have given him plenty of opportunities.  He is at best a situational player and why a 6th round project starts before a first round draft pick is beyond me.

Mark Clayton needs to be more sure handed and remember that he can’t make plays with the ball until he actually has possession of it.  When he does get the ball in the open field, he will always be a threat.  By the way, is Randy Hymes that bad in practice that he can’t elbow Moore to the sidelines?

As for the tight ends, Daniel Wilcox made plays and demonstrated gritty determination.  Todd Heap was hardly noticeable and one has to wonder why he wasn’t a bigger part of the game plan given his ability to seemingly get open at will against the Colts last year. 

Offensive line

We said it, we wrote, you heard it all over town – J.O., an 8 time Pro Bowler, will not allow Dwight Freeney to do to him this year what he did to him last year.  To defend J.O. many said that last year Freeney jumped the snap counts, that J.O. was nicked up, that the turf aided Freeney’s speed, etc, etc.  And we were right, Freeney didn’t beat J.O. as bad as he did last year. 

He beat him worse!

Watching J.O. try to take Freeney on is like watching a power forward cover a point guard on the perimeter.  Imagine Lonnie Baxter guarding Stevie Francis at the top of the key.  You get the picture.

J.O. didn’t stop with Freeney either.  He let Triplett beat him and he let Mathis beat him.  And then he did his best pre-snap Bennie Anderson impersonation (two false starts).  Perhaps J.O. should get GEBCO and see if they have any deals on Freeney insurance.

Flynn recovered from a poor preseason and Zeus seemed to hold his own against Mathis.  By the way, was that a Super Whoopie cushion in Corey Simon’s pants?

Defensive line:

Solid play from the defensive line for the most part, particularly Anthony Weaver who was very solid with 7 tackles.  Kemoeatu was relatively quiet but he and Kelly Gregg were often on the sidelines as the Ravens defense rotated many substitution packages.  Against a less dynamic offense, you will likely see more of Dwan Edwards and Abrauyo Franklin.  Terrell Suggs was solid on the outside with pressure and backside pursuit on running plays.  He needs to wrap up better after initial contact though.  Peter Boulware was surprisingly forceful and showed a high motor fighting through some double teams.

Linebackers:

It is difficult to define this group as linebackers since they moved all over the field.  Adalius Thomas and Ray Lewis lined up in many different positions.  Sometimes they were in the secondary and other times on the line of scrimmage.  It’s hard to say that Ray was an imposing presence given the offense that Manning orchestrated.  Both AD and Ray had solid games yet other than these two, it’s hard to say who else really played linebacker.  Both were efficient but not controlling.  Tommy Polley was introduced as a starter but most of his snaps were on special teams.

Secondary:  (1/2 Star bump for containing Manning)

Communication breakdown…always the same…  And Rex Ryan and Brian Billick nearly had nervous breakdowns that drove them insane when Marvin Harrison sprinted down the side lines all by himself.  The play should have resulted in an easy six after Reed and McAlister crossed signals but Manning fortunately overthrew Harrison.  McAlister had decent coverage on Harrison much of the night and was in position to make a play on Harrison’s TD catch.  He seemed to slow down to leap and make a play instead of running to the ball.  If he does, it could have resulted in a pick but then again, he could have dropped it as he did towards the end of the first half.  CMac read Harrison’s goal line out perfectly and jumped the route.  His drop could have changed the entire game if he holds on and goes the other way.  Deion Sanders was a step behind Brandon Stokely all night.  Dale Carter was guilty of a very costly hands to the face penalty after a third down stop by the Ravens defense giving Manning & Co. new life.  Manning made the Ravens and Carter pay, capping off a 63 yard drive with a scoring strike to Harrison.

Demps was decent and Reed made consistent plays in the open field with sure tackling but missed on a gift wrapped INT from Manning.  He also prevented a big running play after Manning raced his unit to the line to run a quick snap power slant right to James.  Reed read the play and clipped James’ legs in the backfield on an impromptu blitz from safety.  Samari Rolle wasn’t very noticeable and often times, that’s a sign of a good night for a corner.

Special teams:  (Despite Stover)

Matt Stover hasn’t missed three field-goal attempts in one game since 1998.  By the way, does Miguel Tejada point to the sky after a strike out?  Stover’s struggles while the most obvious part of special teams play tainted an otherwise strong night from Gary Zauner’s group.  Kick off coverage was solid (they were well rested), punt coverage was terrific particularly from newcomer B.J. Ward and B.J. Sams showed a bit of that early season form from 2004.  Was Ed Reed tackled (i.e. blatantly held) or what on that tipped punt?

If only the offense could improve half as much as this group from preseason to regular season, we all might be smiling today. 

Coaching:  (Thanks to Zauner & Ryan)

Again, nice group turnaround from Zauner’s troops.  Rex Ryan installed a solid game plan – one that would have beaten a tough Colts’ team with even a slightly below average performance from the Ravens’ offense. 

Is Matt Cavanaugh officially exonerated?  There is absolutely no detectible difference between Jim Fassel’s offensive scheme or Cavanaugh’s.  Maybe it has been Billick’s all along?

The choice to go with a 47 yard field goal attempt into a slight breeze instead of going for it on fourth and a short 2 from the Indy 29 was a very questionable decision by Billick.  Also, he choice to use timeouts while the Colts were taking a knee with the score 24-0 was pretty bush.  Sure, the argument of league tie breakers will likely be served up by Billick as an excuse but if those tie breakers were so meaningful this early in the season, wouldn’t the Colts have opted to move the ball forward and try to score again?  After all, they were on the Ravens 42, first and 10.

For the record, here are three tiebreakers for teams competing for playoff spots:

Best net points in common games.
Best net points in all games.
Best net touchdowns in all games.

You should know that of the 11 tiebreakers, these are the last 3.  The tiebreaker immediately preceding them — best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.  Gee, I’m sure that one is leaned on often to break ties.

Billick is right to think that the 15-20% of the fans that cheered Kyle Boller is bush league.  Yet he should accept that his usage of those timeouts is also bush league.  If those net points are so important, instill a sense of urgency in your offense while down by 17 points.  Preach “tempo” in and out of the huddle.  Better yet, save time – skip the huddle.

Final thought…

I found the exploding fireworks after the Ravens first touchdown at 0:13 of the fourth quarter to be extremely amusing. 

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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