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As Brian Billick would later explain, whenever a quarterback throws the ball 53 times, he’s usually on the losing side of the ledger. Sunday was no different. McNair completed 34 of those throws for 307 yards and 1 score. Mix in the interception and McNair posted a QB rating of 78.1. The Q1 interception was the result of McNair trying to force a pass into double coverage on first and 10 from the Browns 27. A veteran with McNairâ€™s experience should know better. McNair was fortunate not to have been intercepted in the third for a pick six when CB Daven Holly jumped a slant route to Mark Clayton who may have quit on the route or read it differently than his quarterback.
McNair sailed a few passes, probably the effects of his sore groin. One such pass came on the Ravens’ second play from scrimmage when he missed a wide open Todd Heap. McNair also ran the no huddle without a sense of urgency. Itâ€™s one thing to be calm and collected. Itâ€™s another to be too deliberate as valuable game clock ticked away. McNair was also guilty of not getting his team to the line of scrimmage taking an unnecessary delay of game penalty. McNair was protected well and at times he failed to let plays develop down field, instead opting for the easier short throw which too often was well short of the sticks.
RUNNING BACK: B+
Willis McGahee was certainly the bright spot on a gloomy Sunday for the Ravens. He managed 104 yards on just 14 carries and another 32 yards on two pass receptions, one of which went for 30 yards on third and one. McGahee was patient, quick to accelerate through holes and showed excellent vision when he reversed field on a stretch run left that was defended well. Twenty eight yards later he was outside the right hash behind a wedge led by Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason. Musa Smith was much less decisive in relief. Both he and LeRon McClain did a nice job picking up the blitz. McClain however had a costly holding penalty on first and ten from the Browns 19. The 10 yard set back forced the Ravens to settle for a field goal attempt by Matt Stover that went wide right.
Derrick Mason had 10 catches for 78 yards working under zone coverage most of the afternoon and doing a nice job of moving the chains once again. Six of his catches were for first downs. Demetrius Williams started well and continues to impress with 5 grabs for 63 yards. Mark Clayton had 3 catches but had trouble staying on his feet after catches. Quinn Sypniewski had a career high 6 catches subbing for the injured Todd Heap and Daniel Wilcox late in the game as the No. 1 tight end.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B
This unit did a nice job of creating space for McGahee and they did a solid job of protecting McNair. He wasnâ€™t sacked on the day despite dropping back 53 times. Marshal Yanda at times had trouble with Kamerion Wimbley off the edge but with the help of the chipping backs, McNair was kept clean. Jason Brown and Chris Chester were effective getting to the second level and the pair along with Mike Flynn were stout picking up the interior blitzes although Flynn struggled at times at the point of attack in the running game when matched up against DT Shaun Smith.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C-
Haloti Ngata struggled at times with constant double teaming but did clog the middle for Bart Scott and Ray Lewis to clean up. Kelly Gregg was pushed around a couple of times once by Seth McKinney and another time by Kevin Shaffer. Dwan Edwards was a complete non-factor for the second consecutive game. Justin Bannan chipped in with some good reps and dropped Jamal Lewis for a three yard loss on one run. Trevor Pryce is sorely missed. This group does not provide a push. Where was Antwan Barnes? Still being held up by Cardinalsâ€™ linemen?
Ray Lewis was pushed around whenever center Hank Fraley put a hat on him. Lewis had six tackles, just one after the break. Terrell Suggs made a nice play scraping down the line of scrimmage to drop Jamal Lewis for a loss of two but for the most part wasnâ€™t a factor in the game. He had four tackles. Jarret Johnson had perhaps his weakest outing of the season and was taken completely out of the play by Kevin Shaffer on Jamal Lewisâ€™ 28 yard run. Bart Scott had the best game of this group with 8 tackles, a QB hurry and a near interception. He also had tight coverage on Joe Jurevicius on a pass eventually intercepted by Ed Reed. Of Scottâ€™s 8 tackles, 7 were for gains of two yards or less. This group was shutout again in the sack department.
The biggest mistake was obviously that of Chris McAlister when he gambled and lost in a big way on Braylon Edwards 78 yard TD catch. McAlister looked to jump an in route by Edwards who simply ran a go. McAlister looked silly anticipating the route since the ball was already in the air. His mistake put the Ravens in a big hole early. He also lined up in the neutral zone on a missed field goal attempt. The penalty gave the Browns a first down which they later capitalized on taking a 24-3 lead. The tackling by the secondary was suspect. Dawan Landry plays much better up in the box or close to the line of scrimmage. The lack of pressure on the quarterback exposes Landryâ€™s lack of top end speed. Ed Reed had a pick but he seems a bit hesitant when tackling. Perhaps thereâ€™s a lingering injury influencing the apparent bashfulness when delivering a hit. Derrick Martin was ok and deserves another look if Samari Rolle is down again in San Francisco.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F
Matt Stover missed badly twice on field goals that are normally sure things for the reliable Ravens kicker. His kickoffs were weak and one has to wonder why the Ravens even bother with a roster spot for the again inactive Rhys Lloyd. Matt Katula needs to get the placekicking snaps in a better spot for holder Sam Koch. Koch never punted, quite unusual for a losing team. Yamon Figurs fumbled kick return led to 6 points, thanks in part to McAlisterâ€™s penalty and Brian Billickâ€™s inability to throw the challenge flag on Jamal Lewisâ€™ 1 yard TD run. The kickoff team opened the game with a few missed tackles thanks to their collective failure to stay in their lanes. The Browns opened the game at their own 46. Thatâ€™s as close as the game would get.
The Ravens failed to put pressure on Derek Anderson and they were caught out of position and in the wrong alignment a few times on some of the Browns longer runs particularly in Ravens territory. Brian Billick once again failed to game plan to attack an opponentâ€™s weakness. Granted he got off to a slow start quickly down by 14. But the Browns are pansies when it comes to defending the run but that didnâ€™t stop Billick from going with 6 passes during the initial 8 plays from scrimmage. The last of those passes was intercepted and one play later the Ravens were down 14-0. The Ravens have no sense of urgency on offense when itâ€™s sorely needed and that has to come from the top. Billick seems to be too immersed in play calling and not in tune enough with the overall flow of the game as evidenced by his confusion over what down it was and his inability to challenge an obviously questionable touchdown by Jamal Lewis.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS: The Ravens won the battle for time of possession convincingly (34:29 to 25:31). They had over 100 yards more in offense (418 v. 303), more than twice the number of first downs (26 to 12), better third down efficiency, zero punts, twenty-five more plays and identical penalty yardage yet still lost by two touchdownsâ€¦Alex Smith injured shoulder will keep him out this week in San Francisco. Trent Dilfer will get the nod on Sunday v. the Ravens.