In baseball you will often hear that the difference between a good pitcher and a great pitcher is his ability to win when he doesn’t have his “A” game.
Perhaps the same can be said of an NFL football team.
Last night the Ravens delivered a performance that many expected. It was their fourth game in 18 days. Not only is that extremely taxing physically, it is also mentally draining. The entire process of the workweek is accelerated and the implementation of game plan after game plan can run together like cramming for one final exam after the next.
Fortunately for the Ravens their effort against the Browns was simply a pass/fail grade. They passed but just barely but in the end the goal was achieved – a 3-1 start to the 2012 season.
THE GOOD: Torrey Smith continues to develop into more than just a deep threat. His hands, once labeled suspect, have been reliable. With his 6 reception, 97 yard game and one catch for a score, Smith is on track to snag 64 balls this season for over 1300 yards and 12 scores…Bernard Pierce showcased that one-cut-and-a-burst ability with effective north-and-south rush attempts (6 for 48 yards)…Joe Flacco made some great throws into tight windows to Smith and Anquan Boldin. And that teardrop into a bucket to Tandon Doss was a thing of beauty. It is still debatable whether or not Flacco is among the game’s elite quarterbacks but no one can deny his arm is clearly among the elite. He arguably possesses the best “hose” in the NFL.
Albert McClellan helped seal the edge to contain the Browns dangerous rookie RB Trent Richardson. The former member of Marshall University’s Thundering Herd had 8 tackles, two for a loss and a total of 5 tackles containing Richardson to 3 yards or less…Give Cary Williams credit for receiving the telegraph sent by Browns QB Brandon Weeden and then returning it to sender for the pick six. That said he again had several weak moments…Paul Kruger was effective dropping back into zones in pass coverage. He successfully defended 2 passes and had the Ravens only sack…Officiating – the contrast against what we’ve seen during the previous three games against what we witnessed last night with the return of the professional officials was hard to ignore. In a word – CONTROL. Order was restored to the chaos. Welcome back zebras!
THE BAD: When the Ravens offensive line isn’t in the rhythm of the fast break no- huddle offense, their weaknesses are exposed. Michael Oher, Ramon Harewood and Kelechi Osemele all struggled on Thursday night…Joe Flacco despite adequate time to read through progressions, still has a habit of pre-determining where he is going with the football. It led to one inexcusable interception in the end zone and if Browns defenders could catch it would have been worse…
The Ravens pass defense was generally atrocious and if not for a pair of boards that Greg Little refers to as his hands, the outcome of this game could have been different. When you have time for an appetizer and an entrée while standing behind your offensive line, quarterbacks will usually post big numbers. Weeden did that without his No. 1 receiver (Mohamed Massaquoi) and without clutch play from his wideouts and still managed to put up 320 yards passing…Jameel McClain failed to contain on Richardson’s 1 yard scamper around the defensive right edge…Ray Lewis was barely noticeable…At the quarter pole the Ravens defense ranks 25th. No this is not a misprint…Deonte Thompson’s kick returns were quite clueless.
THE UGLY: The Ravens pass rush and vanilla schemes are ineffective and frighteningly similar to the approach taken by Greg Mattison. Rushing 3 defenders just outside the red zone when facing receivers as pedestrian as those of the Browns is unconscionable. Weeden was sacked only once despite dropping back 53 times.
THE MEGAN FOX: Despite the slippery conditions Anquan Boldin put on a clinic. He demonstrated outstandingly strong hands in traffic while on the receiving end of a few Flacco missiles. The tough veteran finished with 9 catches for 131 yards, 8 of those grabs coming in the second half, five of which went for first downs.