Despite the unfortunate outcome, there were a lot of great performances against Green Bay. And I’m not sure ANYONE played a better game for the Ravens than the talented new Left Tackle who arrived from Jacksonville. Sure, he wasn’t lining up against the most talented players, but aside from one big mistake, he absolutely killed his debut for the Ravens.
Known for his pass protection, Monroe gave Flacco considerable time in the pocket to find targets downfield. However, what Monroe brought to the Ravens was schematic value. With the ability to shut down the pass rush on the left side, the Ravens were able to slide their protection to the right, helping Oher and Yanda. Monroe’s importance wasn’t limited to pass protection, though. When the Ravens finally decided to run behind Monroe, they found great success, utilizing Monroe’s athleticism in zone stretch plays. The Ravens got a steal in Monroe; he’s going to be a major contributor going forward.
While Haloti Ngata gets all the attention, Arthur Jones has quietly had the best season out of any defensive lineman on the Ravens roster. Usually lining up over the tackle as a five-technique, Jones has displayed incredible length and the ability to disengage and make a tackle.
Against Green Bay, Jones took his game to another level. Whether it was against the run or the pass, Jones was able to leave his mark on every play. When Green Bay tried to run away from the former Orangeman, he showed incredible quickness and chased down the runs from the backside. These are the types of plays that great defensive lineman make. Hopefully for the Ravens, Jones continues his dominance. It is surely needed.
I honestly don’t know what to think about Jimmy Smith. As most saw Sunday, Smith was unbeatable. He was physical, smart, took great angles, and he was aware of the ball, all things that have eluded him during his young career. But, he has talent – loads of it. When he puts it all together he could be an “elite” caliber talent, and we saw a glimpse of that Sunday.
Most will point to the interception as Smith’s best play of the game, but he shut down his man consistently—not just on that play. On the “smoke” route that allowed Jarret Boykin to run for 43 yards, Smith actually played it correctly. He broke down, acknowledged his inside leverage, and forced Boykin to hesitate while other defenders made their way to the ball. Whether the tackle was made is irrelevant, Smith did his job—something he will need to do to keep this secondary off the field.
I know everyone loves Ray Rice. He’s a classic Raven, he always will be. But, maybe its time to acknowledge what he is. For the last season and a half, Rice has been a bad runner and a great receiver. While I wished they didn’t, the advanced statistics back that up. Last year Rice averaged 2.36 yards after contact (28th). This year, Rice is averaging 1.58 yards after contact (43rd). Pierce hasn’t been much better statistically, but he is clearly the superior option at this point.
Against Green Bay, Rice arguably had his worst performance yet. The holes weren’t there most of the game, but even when they were Rice wasn’t hitting them fast enough. The 900 carries in college and about 1600 touches in the NFL have apparently caught up to Rice, and he has simply lost a step. He doesn’t have the astounding burst or elusiveness that at one time kept opposing defensive coordinators up a night. Maybe Rice will pick his play up when the weather gets colder, but if he doesn’t, expect even more Bernard Pierce.
Most know Yanda as the best guard in the NFL, but he has hardly played like it this year. Penalties, mental mistakes, and the inability to open holes have become the new norm for Yanda. While he isn’t surrounded by adequate talent, he has been notably weak in the run game. That’s something were not used to seeing out of the All-Pro.
On Sunday, Yanda had his worst game since he moved inside from his old tackle position. His two horrible penalties plagued the Ravens offensive, but his play on the other 70 downs was just as horrific. Running behind Yanda, the Ravens gained a total of 9 yards on 5 carries. He had a decent game in pass protection, but his poor play forced the Ravens into nine 3rd downs of 10+ yards. That’s unacceptable. Bottom line is that Yanda is making a lot of money for a guard, and he needs to play to that standard regardless of the players beside him.
John Harbaugh and Dean Pees
I’m not going to question Harbaugh’s choice to run the ball on 4th down near the goal line. That’s a calculated risk that the Ravens felt they needed to take. What I am going to question, however, is Harbaugh’s decision making before the half. I’m sorry, but I see no upside in attempting to move the chains on your own 34-yard line with 20 seconds left. Of course, it could’ve been the whole “were not giving up, no matter how much time is left” declaration, but the Ravens were only down three at the time. It made no sense no matter how you slice.
John Harbaugh wasn’t the only Ravens coach who struggled. Dean Pees, who has done a great job this year, called very untimely run-blitzes that allowed Eddie Lacy to run wild on a stout Ravens front. If the Ravens blitzed the A gap, the Packers ran off tackle. If the Ravens blitzed the C gap, the Packers ran inside zones and quick handoffs. I wouldn’t expect this to happen every week as Pees’ is an excellent coach, but his poor performance was definitely noteworthy.