October 12, 2008
For the third week in a row, the Ravens saw a game slip suddenly from their grasp. This time however their demise came quickly. There were no third quarter collapses against the Indianapolis Colts. By the time the first quarter was over, so was the game. The Ravens were trailing 17-0 in the first quarter and the rest of the game was like watching eleven men trying to stop a giant snowball rolling down hill.
In the two prior contests against the Titans and Steelers the Ravens found ways to beat themselves. But they were never close in this one. They were beaten in every phase of the game: offense, defense. special teams and coaching. If visiting teams could bring their mascot, I’m sure Poe would have been beaten, too.
It is hard to find even a statistical victory for the Ravens. They weren’t just beaten on the scoreboard, but in time of possession, rushing, passing, turnovers, third down conversions, you name it. The lone positive may have been penalties, with the Ravens committing just four to the Colts eleven.
It was all the more shocking because the Colts and Ravens both came into this game with identical 2-2 records. The Ravens had looked like a team that was maybe just a couple plays away from being 4-0, while the Colts could have been easily 0-4 without some luck and late game heroics. But that sort of rationalization flew out the big window of Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Colts were easily able to secure the first win in their new home.
The Colts overcame every question about their teetering situation. Jeff Saturday was back at center for just the second week. Bob Sanders is still out on defense. Joseph Addai and Mike Hart were lost at running back during the game for the Colts. None of it seemed to matter, though, as the Ravens offense sputtered, only crossing mid-field three times.
The Ravens’ defense fell apart, yielding touchdowns to the Colts seemingly at will. And they were simply outclassed on special teams, starting all but one of their twelve possessions inside their own 22.
The grades reflect how soundly they were beaten.
Joe Flacco looked more tentative to start the game than in previous weeks. Whether it was Tony Dungy’s
Running Backs: C
Both Ray Rice and Le’Ron McLain put the ball on the ground. McLain’s early fumble led to his not touching the ball again until nearly game’s end. Willis McGahee doesn’t look comfortable carrying the ball right now. He had eight hauls for 18 yards. He also stepped in the way of his guard, Ben Grubbs, which led to a Colts sack. When he appeared in the game later Ray Rice looked a lot quicker than McGahee. McGahee was sidelined after taking a hit from a Ravens offensive lineman at the end of a run. But Rice could only manage 23 yards rushing on six attempts mostly in passing situations with the game out of hand.
Wide Receivers: C
If you are looking for positives it was nice to see Flacco find Demetrius Williams later in the game, after the Colts put the clamps on Derrick Mason. Williams had six catches for 53 yards. Early, however, Williams was slow to get his head around coming out of a break. It seemed to be indicative of the Ravens play in general, a step slower than the hungry Colts. Mason’s 70 yards receiving was inflated by one 54-yard catch and run in garbage-time. Otherwise, he was five catches for 16 yards. He also fumbled. Mark Clayton chipped in for three underneath catches and 13 yards.
Tight Ends: C
Todd Heap was open more often than he was thrown to. He showed an ability to sit down in zone and help haul in a first down catch. But he also short armed a catch and dropped a pass when Bob Sanders’ replacement, Melvin Bullitt came up and applied a hard tackle.
Willie Anderson started at right tackle for the injured Adam Terry, and he struggled with defensive end Robert Mathis all day, who got to Flacco for three sacks. Some of it may have been Flacco slow to move up in the pocket or release, but much of it was Mathis outplaying
Interior Line: C
Ben Grubbs showed great quickness helping Gaither chip Freeney. But he did not show great awareness of the quicker Colts linebackers. This caused him to be a step late on one occasion, and later he was flagged for holding on a screen pass to erase what would have been a first down. Jason Brown also struggled at times with the speed of the Colts players. It was unfortunate to see Marshal Yanda get rolled up on Willie Anderson. He cried out in pain audibly on the telecast as his left knee bent in awkwardly. Marshal had been playing a solid game.
Words cannot describe how badly the corners were beaten by Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning. With Samari Rolle out, and Fabian Washington unavailable to back up, it meant Frank Walker at right corner. This sort of depth chart issue in the secondary was a big factor in the Ravens losing streak last season, and predictably enough it was a big factor in the loss to the Colts Sunday. More on
Corey Ivy v. Reggie Wayne was a mismatch from jump street that must have had Peyton Manning salivating like a lion edging up on a limping zebra. Ivy was beaten repeatedly, all over the field. And let’s not forget the rather lame day at the office for Chris McAlister. He “bit” on simple play action and Manning didn’t even need to pump fake with McAlister staring into the backfield.
Ed Reed saved Corey Ivy on a would-be touchdown throw in the middle to Reggie Wayne. It was still disturbing to see Reed awkwardly avoid contact with his left shoulder as Anthony Gonzalez slipped past him for a first down. Ed was uncharacteristically held to just one tackle. Jim Leonard was solid in run support and the Colts rarely made completions in the middle of the field. Not that they needed to try.
On a bad day this group showed why they are the strength of the team. Early on, before the game was out of hand, Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis caused Manning to take a dive and put the Colts out of field goal range after Flacco’s first interception looked like sure points for the Colts. The group was playing hard and in control the entire game. Intimidation by Lewis caused Marvin Harrison to alligator-arm a throw over the middle. Bart Scott and Jarrett Johnson continue to blow up runs. The group as a whole was better covering the short routes than in previous weeks.
Defensive Line: C+
Trevor Pryce did get a sack, and a nice tackle down the line of scrimmage. Justin Bannan almost tackled Manning in backfield on one occasion, allowing Ngata to clean up the runner. Against the Colts third-string back this group was stout per usual, holding the Colts to 78 yards on 28 attempts, although they were easily beaten for a
Special Teams: F
Strong punting by Sam Koch could not save the grade for this group. Yamon Figurs is pressing, and he continues to put the team in poor field position by running kicks out from five yards deep in the end zone. Whether it was the personal foul and holding call on Daniel Wilcox, or the personal foul and holding call on Corey Ivy—or just poor decisions by Figurs–the Ravens were constantly in a hole due to their miscues on special teams.
Cam Cameron continued to try to run the ball early in the game against eight and nine in the box. It was asking his young line to do too much, and putting his quarterback in bad spots on third downs. He was slow to change the game plan, finally spreading the field late and going no-huddle, with Flacco in the shotgun where he is obviously more comfortable. But it was far too late in coming. Despite having ample evidence that his corners were at a disadvantage, Rex Ryan continued to ask his secondary to play the Colts one-on-one, with disastrous results. They didn’t get pressure on Manning and they couldn’t cover receivers all day. The adjustments never came. It also appeared that Coach Harbaugh failed to have his team ready to play. The Ravens only have one win on the road in the last ten tries, so he has a lot of history to overcome.
There was early confusion over the clock, but Jerome Boger’s crew settled down and called a fair game. The Ravens cannot blame the officiating for this one.
Phil Simms continues to be one of the best analysts on telecasts. Jim Nance is a professional, but he tends to stick to the script and doesn’t improvise as well as some of his colleagues behind the lead mic.
The Ravens coaching staff will have to improvise much better next week in yet another road contest, against an improved Miami Dolphins team that took the Houston Texans to the wire in week six.