Win your home games and split on the road while getting better and stronger as the season progresses. For the 2013 Baltimore Ravens so far so good. Now they just need to take at least one of the next two games in Buffalo and Miami.
Sunday wasn’t pretty. The game was very reminiscent of the Kyle Boller years with the offense struggling and the team in desperate need of a defensive or special teams spark.
The Ravens got both and as they did, the momentum shifted tremendously while Texans’ QB Matt Schaub folded as he so often does when the heat is on.
The game atmosphere was a bit mixed for the fans. Naturally they were stoked about the Ring of Honor induction ceremony for Ray Lewis but there was also a melancholy vibe that permeated, stemming from the surreal vision of Ed Reed in Texans’ colors.
Reed seemed mostly detached from his new team – alone only in his thoughts, as cameras from all angles pointed in his direction. The body language suggested that he was uncomfortable being on a foreign sideline. It was hard not to wonder if the former Ravens great was fretting his decision to head to Houston.
And after his rather stealth performance yesterday, Texans fans may be wondering the same…
THE GOOD: James Ihedigbo was all over the field and was largely responsible for the Ravens checking the Texans very capable tight ends Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham. “Dig” had 9 tackles on the afternoon and broke up 2 passes. He also ended one Texans drive by dropping Arian Foster for a 2-yard loss on a swing pass with 1:13 left in the first half. On the very next play birthday boy Tandon Doss returned a punt for an 82-yard score…Doss looks like a confident punt returner with excellent vision and change of direction skills. While his touchdown was the game’s most memorable play, he nearly had another big play before slipping after an 11-yard return. If this confidence can carry over on offense, perhaps the former Hoosier can develop into the receiver the team expected him to be when they invested their fourth round pick on him back in 2011…
Torrey Smith had 5 catches for 92 yards and while he’s yet to hit pay dirt, he is clearly rounding into a more versatile receiver and is on track to catch 85 balls and eclipse 1,400 yards…Dallas Clark had a 4 catch game and it could’ve been even better had Joe Flacco been more accurate. For all of the unfair criticism directed his way, Clark is on pace to catch more passes with more yards than Dennis Pitta had in 2012 – not an opinion, a fact.
Courtney Upshaw was strong at the point of attack holding down the edge and also showed versatility defending the pass, particularly when marking running back Ben Tate. Two completed passes to Tate with Upshaw covering produced a total of minus 2 yards – not too shabby…Art Jones and Haloti Ngata combined to do a nice job of collapsing the pocket particularly since the D-Line rotation was thin given the injuries to Terrence Cody and Brandon Williams…Dean Pees had a nice game plan to choke down on the Texans’ tight ends and mitigate the running backs in the passing game…The Ravens owned third down on both sides of the ball, converting 50% on offense and limiting Houston to a 25% success rate.
THE BAD: The run blocking just isn’t there. It’s surprising that Jim Caldwell would sign off on the change to a zone-blocking scheme after the success the offense enjoyed down the stretch in 2012, in large part due to the offensive line play. It is simply unacceptable to have Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce in the backfield with Vonta Leach and produce just 2.6 yards per carry…Josh Bynes registered two tackles, neither of which was impactful and he was often lost in the wash. An inside backer needs to make a bigger impact. Arthur Brown lurks…The defense was lackluster when allowing the Texans to go 51 yards in 45 seconds to make it a one score game at the close of the first half.
THE UGLY: Most offensive linemen can go a couple of years without drawing a face-masking penalty. Bryant McKinnie was flagged twice on the same drive for the fingerpicking offense. His run blocking is rather uninspired…Four of the Ravens’ drives started from the 7-yard line or deeper and on average the Ravens’ drives began at their own 18…The Ravens had 65 yards of offense in the first half and 77 yards in penalties…Joe Flacco was on the field for 6 plays and 2:45 in the first quarter.
THOMPSON CREEK PLAYER OF THE GAME: On a day when the Ravens inducted the greatest middle linebacker of all time into their Ring of Honor, Ray Lewis’ replacement Daryl Smith shined. With his 10 tackles Smith lifted his seasonal total to 25 and his Pick 6 shifted the game’s momentum so drastically that the Texans never recovered. Repeat these words because they are true: The Ravens Mike linebacker in 2013 is better than the one they had in 2012.