The changing of the guard continues.
It’s happening right before our very eyes.
After 3 weeks the Ravens are 2-1. There’s nothing unusual about that since the Ravens, after defeating the Patriots on Sunday night, have the longest active streak in the NFL of playing at .500 or better (62 games).
What is unusual is the way in which the Ravens are getting it done – on offense. Currently the Ravens offense sits in unfamiliar territory as the league’s fourth best. Ironically, the Ravens defense is swimming with the NFL’s bottom feeders – also unfamiliar territory for sure, with an overall rank of 27.
And with this new look Ravens team, it’s safe to say that the look of this column will change regularly as well to match the seemingly overnight shift in power of the Ravens’ roster towards offense.
THE GOOD: There are probably a couple of passes that Joe Flacco would like to have back but at the end of the day a 28 for 39, 382 yard performance including 3 TD’s and a 117.7 QBR performance against the defending conference champion can’t be considered too shabby. More importantly he guided the team on two scoring drives during the team’s final two possessions when anything less would have resulted in a loss…Ray Rice had 150 yards of offense averaging 6 yards per touch while adding a pancake block in pass protection…Dennis Pitta is beginning to make fans forget about Todd Heap. Flacco’s ace-in-the-hole target gathered 5 passes for 50 yards, one of which was a score on the heels of some nifty YAC and bad Patriots tackling…Jacoby Jones is a difference maker on the Ravens offense. And while his contributions on the stat sheet were good (3 catches, 86 yards), what his speed does to create space for the team’s other offensive weapons can’t be so conveniently measured. He looks like that final missing piece in Flacco’s arsenal…Rice’s tag team battering ram Vonta Leach was his usual road-grader self…Javier Colon’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner was phenomenal!
Ed Reed had one of his best games in recent memory (9 tackles) and brought physicality to the Patriots that we haven’t seen in years. He broke up a possible touchdown toss from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman; on the second play from scrimmage he read the Patriots signature bubble screen and dropped Edelman for a loss of one. This game was reminiscent of Reed’s play during his AFC DPOY season in 2004…Dannell Ellerbe was explosive off the edge as a pass rusher, contributing 1 ½ sacks and 8 tackles overall. He is much more impactful than Jameel McClain and his playing time should reflect that…Haloti Ngata was in on the other half of the Ravens 2 sacks and he chipped in with 9 tackles, displaying athleticism uncommon for a 340 pound man. He also had 2 QB hurries…Courtney Upshaw continued his steady progression as an edge setter and scraped down the LOS effectively as well. And let’s not forget that he dropped Edelman for a 14-yard loss on a failed reverse…On whole the defense did a very nice job of bracketing Rob Gronkowski.
Justin Tucker had a plus performance. Four of his five kickoffs were touchbacks and the other returned to the Patriots 19. And of course there was the game winning FG…Deonte Thompson shows patience and navigates behind his blockers efficiently. It seems like only a matter of time before he busts one…Props to Coach Harbaugh for coaxing a measurement timeout and then used the time to take a closer look at a questionable spot. After the measurement Harbaugh saw what he needed to see to effectively challenge the spot. The resulting first down following the Anquan Boldin catch kept the drive alive, one that would end with a 25 yard scoring strike to Torrey Smith…Kudos to the fans of Baltimore for creating what Al Michaels referred to as “a complete wall of noise.”
THE BAD ~ Dean Pees’ apparent unwillingness to aggressively pursue Tom Brady, until he had no choice. When he did, he likely wondered why he waited so long…The rush defense alignment on the Bolden TD run was uncommonly spread wide. It made little sense and Bolden easily scooted into the end zone…
THE UGLY ~ The Ravens offense went the entire first quarter without registering a single first down…Cary Williams performance was wretched. His technique was awful on so many levels. It’s time for 2011’s first round pick to start acting like one and take over the starting corner spot opposite Lardarius Webb.
THE MEGAN FOX ~ In an uncommonly inspiring performance, Torrey Smith burdened by a tremendously heavy heart having lost his brother about 19 hours before kickoff, somehow found strength undoubtedly fueled by brother Tevin’s memory and turned in a performance that left an indelible mark on his teammates and all of Ravens Nation. We may never again witness such a heroic performance at M&T Bank Stadium.