As suspected the game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns was anything but a sight for sore eyes. It was a game that was pure agony for fantasy football aficionados and challenged the unfortunate viewers without a rooting interest in either team.
For the Ravens, the game was a stepping-stone – a building block of sorts. They are a team in search of an identity on offense and continuity on defense. Neither is clearly in focus and until coordinators Jim Caldwell and Dean Pees can lock in, ugly wins along the way are the equivalent of beer goggles at the club on a Saturday night.
Some injuries of concern reared their ugly heads during this physical struggle including a hip flexor for Ray Rice, groin strain for Chris Canty and a strained pectoral muscle for Art Brown. John Harbaugh addressed the injuries during his opening statement at yesterday’s press conference in his usual uninformative way:
“Injuries, just the guys we talked about last night are really the only things to speak of, I would say. Chykie [Brown], same as last night. Ray [Rice], same as last night. Chris Canty has an MRI that we’re waiting for on a groin strain, and we had the MRI on Art Brown with the [pectoral] strain, but he was out there at the walk-through, so I don’t know that there was any issue there, but we’ll find out here soon enough. That’s what I know at this point.”
THE GOOD: Jim Caldwell’s inclusion of and a near reliance upon crossing routes is a welcome development for the Ravens offense. Inside linebackers that abandon the area to pick up backs running perimeter routes or those who are blitzing were made to pay the price with effective drags and crosses beneath the defensive drops. Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown were particularly effective and comfortable executing such plays. Departed offensive coordinator Cam Cameron seemingly looked upon such patterns as violations of the demilitarized zone…
Bernard Pierce was effective against a tough Browns front seven picking up 57 yards on 19 carries and while the 3.0 ypc isn’t anything to get excited about, Pierce produced in obvious running situations to help take time off the clock. His burst on back-to-back runs of 8 and 5 yards, the later for a score, were impressive. Pierce was also solid in pass protection, thwarting the efforts of interior blitzers.
Brandon Weeden probably had a sleepless night on Sunday with visions of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil running through his head. Both were menacing as edge rushers each with a sack and 3 QB hurries. Suggs per usual was excellent at the point of attack while defending the run and holding down the edge, effectively funneling the powerful Trent Richardson into heavily trafficked areas…Haloti Ngata helped his edge rushers by providing a strong interior push limiting Weeden’s ability to step into the pocket – or lack thereof…
Daryl Smith contributed 11 tackles, 1 ½ sacks, 2 QB hurries and was outstanding dropping into deep zones, tipping 2 passes. If he secures the tipped ball for what should have been an easy interception, this former Jaguar and very welcomed addition would have been the game’s best player…Jimmy Smith was isolated often in one-on-one coverage and answered the challenge. His technique is clearly showing improvement. He recorded 3 PD’s on the day…Lardarius Webb was explosive off the edge when supporting the run defense, contributing 9 tackles overall, one of which was a touchdown saving tackle of TE Jordan Cameron who broke free deep in the Ravens’ secondary…
It was great to see Art Jones, whose career and even his life were at stake with a viral condition that threatened his heart. He often played like a man with a new lease on life, contributing 3 tackles, a sack and a QB hurry…Corey Graham made an excellent tackle on Cameron during a key fourth down stop to open the fourth quarter with the Ravens holding a razor thin 7-6 lead…Sam Koch had an outstanding day averaging 48.5 yards on 6 punts that yielded an eye popping 45.3 net yards. Three of his punts were downed inside the 10 at the 7, 4 and 1 respectively.
THE BAD: The blocking scheme in the running game continues to fail to produce any push whatsoever. The offensive front just doesn’t seem to be responding to Running Game Coordinator Juan Castillo’s teachings, particularly Kelechi Osemele who too often looks lost. He’s been a big disappointment after showing tremendous promise at left guard during the team’s streak to the championship…Ray Rice seems to be in a funk. He looks like he’s anxious, pressing and lacking patience to enable blocks to develop. His regular uncontested slipping and stumbling suggest the same and his fumble hints of a lack of focus. He also needs to focus on playing and not jawing with knucklehead 335 pound opponents like Phil Taylor…
Open field tackling is lackluster and symptomatic of the modern day training camp where little real tackling actual takes place…James Ihedigbo has to clean up his blocking off the left edge during punts. It contributed to a blocked punt in Denver and if he didn’t hold Barkevious Mingo on Sunday, there would have been another…The Ravens defense appeared to lack focus during the Browns final drive of the first half. After a missed Justin Tucker field goal the Browns marched 33 yards in 20 seconds to take a 6-0 lead on a 51-yard FG by Billy Cundiff…
It didn’t take PA Announcer Bruce Cunningham long to deliver his first miscue. After the Browns Billy Cundiff sailed the opening kickoff through the end zone Cunningham “informed” us that it was first and 10 Cleveland. At the conclusion of the Browns first possession we were told that Cundiff’s “11-yard field goal is good.” Eleven?
THE UGLY: From the very beginning of the game, the Ravens tight ends were a non-factor. Ed Dickson dropped a well-conceived seam route pass that should have picked up 15 yards. He was never targeted again. Dallas Clark had an 8-yard grab for a first down on the game’s opening drive, after which HE was never targeted again (although open a couple of times). The tight end HAS to be more involved in the offense but unfortunately Joe Flacco’s confidence is plummeting and he only appears willing to throw to the TE’s if they are wide open. Throwing to a spot and trusting in the tight end’s ability to get there is obviously not part of Flacco’s repertoire at the moment…Marlon Brown and Torrey Smith, regardless of what the stat sheets will say, dropped TD passes…Justin Tucker missed two makeable field goals from 50 and 44 yards respectively pushing both to the right from the right hash mark, something to keep in mind going forward.
Apparently no one was assigned to Browns running back Chris Ogbonnaya. After a tipped passes batted at the line of scrimmage about 20 feet in the air, Ogbonnaya was so alone that he was still able to corral the pass and advance it for a 15-yard gain. One possession earlier at the 2:38 mark of the third quarter, Weeden overthrew a wide open Ogbonnaya down the left sideline that if successful could have resulted in a touchdown to put the Browns ahead 13-7. It appeared as though Josh Bynes blew the coverage on that one.
THE THOMPSON CREEK PLAYER OF THE GAME ~ With a little cooperation from pass catchers named Dickson, Brown and Smith, Joe Flacco would have had an outstanding day and a QB Rating over 133 while leading his team to a commanding victory. Despite the questionable support he still finished strong with a 94.4 rating.
On his TD connection with Marlon Brown, Flacco checked off at the line of scrimmage – an encouraging sign since the pitch and catch tandem were on the same page and that could lead to the pair developing more confidence and rapport with each other. Fantasy footballers might disagree but this was an outstanding performance from a player who had every reason to be distracted since his wife gave birth to the couple’s second son just about an hour before kickoff. To Joe and his baby boy Daniel, this POTG is for you!
GIFs c/o Gordon Dixon