Baltimore Ravens 34, Washington Redskins 31
August 25, 2011
Another week, a different story.
For the second straight week the Ravens offense put more than thirty points on the board, but this time it came in a comeback, 34-31 win over the Washington Redskins.
The tight margin of victory is not the only difference between this week and a lopsided victory over the Chiefs a week ago.
Against Todd Haley’s arrow-headed group we ignored the starters and place our collective entire focus upon the new faces and the young hopefuls trying to make a name for themselves. There was little else at stake in week two of the preseason.
Week three is always a different story. It’s the last major tune-up for starters, many of whom played far into the third quarter. And it’s the last gasp for many bubble players who paced the sidelines, hoping to get one last chance to make their mark.
With that in mind, we’ll split the grades three ways. Starters, back ups, and finally the bubble players. Let’s break it down and see where all the chips fell.
It was a rough start for Joe Flacco as the offense seemed completely out of synch in the first quarter. He threw an early pick to DeAngelo Hall that was returned for a TD. But Flacco was never rattled and he looks noticeably improved moving in the pocket and making something out of nothing. He aired out the ball regularly with beautiful looping spirals, connecting with Lee Evans for a score to cap a 96-yard drive.
Playing in front of three of the five original starting linemen into the fourth quarter, Tyrod Taylor made the most of his chances, showing a quick, accurate release on intermediate throws. And when receivers weren’t open, he showed nice patience or flashed his superior elusiveness. His poise led to a late comeback win. He’s already light-years ahead of former Raven Troy Smith’s career trajectory.
The bubble just burst for some veteran quarterback waiting for his phone to ring.
Ray Rice pledged to become a complete back and it showed: great hands as a receiver; running hard between the tackles; elusive in space; speed to the hole on a sprint draw. And picking up the blitz to allow Flacco to step into a TD toss. Fullback Vonta Leach was steady, and made his presence felt (in more ways than one) as a lead blocker.
When the Ravens signed Ricky Williams, coordinator Cam Cameron pointed to the veteran’s ability to pass block as being better than what he expected from younger backs. It showed. On the flip side, Williams lacked foot speed.
Anthony Allen again outplayed Jalen Parmele, who was slow to the hole and fumbled. Allen never stops moving his feet and was the quickest of all the Ravens ball carriers accelerating through the hole. He dropped a would-be winning, fingertip catch on fourth down.
After a bad first quarter with no separation, Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans shook off the rust. Boldin was excellent finding soft spots in the zone and spinning off tacklers. Lee Evens ran past Hall for an avenging TD catch and showed toughness on slants.
Torrey Smith pulled the grade down for this unit. While his route running improved, the game is still moving too fast for him. He showed poor concentration and poor hands. Meanwhile, Tandon Doss looks ready to contribute today as a go-to possession receiver. David Reed dropped a catchable slant.
Brandon Jones stretched out beautifully for the game winning TD.
Ed Dickson flashed sure hands and an uncanny ability to run after the catch. Dennis Pitta is learning to become a better blocker, and snatched a nice catch off the turf, and also showed quick feet on an underneath route.
Kris Wilson made a number of clutch catches in the fourth quarter and will push hard for a roster spot.
Michael Oher was not good, aside from a couple of powerful zone blocks to spring Rice off the back side. He was beaten on inside moves, failed to slide out to slow down outside rushers, and was miserable leading an end around. Time to pray Bryant McKinnie can save the left tackle spot. Jah Reid struggled slowing down rookie Ryan Kerrigan, but showed promise as a run blocker. He’s not yet quick enough to survive against better ends.
Ramon Harewood did not get the same push he was able to generate a week ago, but was steady in pass protection, mostly on quick hitting throws however.
Bryan Mattison continues to defy the odds and outplay expectations. He wobbled a few times on the snap count or making good shotgun snaps, but it was a good night for Bryan overall. Ben Grubbs didn’t seem to play very hard. Mark LaVoir played poorly early in the game after being moved inside to guard, but settled down as the game progressed. He did not show great balance.
Justin Boren looked very polished, particularly in recognizing the blitz.
Domonique Foxworth looked a step slow all night, as he continues to recover from knee surgery a year ago. Cary Williams slipped considerably from his week two performance, with inconsistent tackling, poor jams at the line of scrimmage, and tailing receivers by a step in the first half.
Jimmy Smith continues to learn how to play in the NFL. He showed a lot of athletic skill, but blew an assignment to allow a touchdown. Lardarius Webb made a nice interception on a ball intended for Donte Stallworth, but he needs to learn to go up for the ball at its highest point. He showed terrible technique in the slot on multiple plays to get regularly beaten every way possible. The more he played the worse he looked in any capacity other than blitzing off the edge.
Ed Reed and Tom Zbikowski were steady but were not challenged much. Zbikowski was good in coverage and ineffective when blitzing.
Haruki Nakamura and Bernard Pollard were just as effective as the starters.
Last week it was Josh Victorian and this week Talmadge Jackson grabbing a fourth-quarter interception on a ball thrown right to him, and a better return.
Terrell Suggs was impressive against the run and in coverage. Jameel McClain improved his run support but didn’t drop back into coverage as effectively as he can.
Brendon Ayanbadejo played well, particularly setting up a blocker to allow Cary Williams to blitz inside to the quarterback. Tavares Gooden ran with receivers but didn’t always take good angles.
Josh Bynes and Jason Phillips didn’t do much to make the roster, playing poorly on runs between the tackles. Bynes did make one nice open field tackle. Albert McClellan played well.
The defensive starters did not put much effort into the game early. Haloti Ngata was knocked around the entire first quarter and Terrence Cody struggled to keep his feet. Cory Redding stepped up his game, however, other than getting flagged for holding the tight end on a screen.
The second unit played harder and more effectively than the starters. Art Jones, Pernell McPhee, Paul Kruger, and Sergio Kindle used a barrage of swim moves and bull rushes to apply constant pressure.
Neither Lamar Divens nor Bryan Hall did much to separate themselves for the final spot on the defensive line.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Lardarius Webb was crafty letting a punt roll into end zone. David Reed, Prescott Burgess, Haruki Nakamura and Brendon Ayanbadejo stood out for their excellent punt coverage. Sam Koch had a nice night pinning punts deep, while Billy Cundiff was perfect on two field goal attempts, including a 44-yarder, while booming kickoffs to the back of the end zone. Bernard Pollard had the special teams hit of the night covering a kick. LaQuan Williams gave the coaches one more reason to keep him on the 53-man roster with a long punt return. Danny Gorrher was flagged for a block in back on a punt return.
The team came out flat and the offense looked like it had never played together in the first quarter. The staff managed to rally the team and generate energy as the game wore on. Kudos for going with more of a hurry-up tempo in the second quarter.
The ESPN crew did their best to make the game interesting. You got the impression that only Ron Jaworski had done his homework on the two teams, however. Jon Gruden was determined to paint John Beck as a potential starter for the Redskins but he wasn’t fooling anyone, including Grossman who refused to claim title to the job when asked during a sideline interview. Sloppy comment of the night goes to Mike Tirico when he said, “Cody Redding in his second year as a Colt made the first contact.” The final five minutes of the broadcast with Ray Lewis cheering from the sideline was an instant classic.