Many considered last week’s game against Cleveland to be a “must win.” In a lot of circumstances it was, because a win against Cleveland and a win yesterday against the Bengals would have set Baltimore up for a much better shot to earn one of the final Wild Card playoff slots.
Right now, the playoff picture in the AFC looks like this: Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts leading their respective divisions. The 5th and 6th playoff slots will (right now) be the Denver Broncos and New York Jets. Yes, winning against the Bengals helped tremendously, but the Ravens pretty much have to win out for the rest of the year to have a solid shot at getting into the playoffs. I’m not so sure that this current Ravens team will be able to accomplish that, even when the defense plays as well as they did yesterday.
Overall Team Grade: B.
The defense was flat out nasty for pretty much the entire game. AJ Green did what AJ Green was going to do, but over 50 of his receiving yards came on that absurd fluke “Hail Mary” (or when you’re in Baltimore, Fail Mary) play that tied the game up and sent them into overtime. Folks, don’t let the 17-0 score for much of the game fool you though. The offense was gross for much of the game and they did a great job capitalizing on the Bengals committing penalties, but if it weren’t for those penalties I’m not so sure the offense would have done much at all.
Offensive Grades: Overall, I’d probably grade the offense around a D+.
They did a great job scoring when they were in the red zone, but like I stated above, a lot of it had to do with the Bengals committing penalties. They still can’t run the ball and Joe Flacco is still under far too much duress. Short of a few interesting gadget plays – one to Tyrod Taylor and the other a Flea Flicker – the offense was still pretty bland and uninspiring.
Jim Caldwell, Grade: C-.
The gadget plays were too little, too late. I can’t imagine that Caldwell is so oblivious that he can’t see what the issues on the offense are. Zero second half points. Not even a field goal. What boggles my mind is that they just seem to continually be trying to force a square peg into a round hole.
Why are they taking Marlon Brown out on 3rd down plays?
Why are they running 15+ yards down field on a 3rd and 5 with absolutely NO underneath routes?
Finally, why are there no blitz-beating hot routes? Every week there are free-runners at Flacco and he has no outlets, or so it seems.
Joe Flacco, 20/36, 140 yards 2 touchdowns 2 interceptions, Grade: C.
For the second week in a row, Flacco looked fairly off-target on a lot of his passes. He missed Jacoby Jones on a deep pass again by under throwing the pass; however, it is possible that the wind may have impacted that throw because they were going into the wind. Then, he overthrew Torrey Smith on another deep pass, which would have been a sure touchdown. He also tried to force a couple of passes that should have been intercepted, but weren’t. Still, Flacco has moments of sheer elite brilliance and his first touchdown pass to Dallas Clark was one of those moments.
Eugene Monroe, Grade: A-.
For the second week in a row, from my perspective, Monroe performed admirably. He displayed nice footwork as a pass blocker and he did a nice job as a run blocker. Monroe has to be a huge priority this off-season; perhaps even more than guys like Dennis Pitta. The offensive line is a hot mess, but the acquisition of Monroe gives them the best left tackle they’ve had since Jon Ogden.
Ray Rice, 18 carries, 30 yards, 1.67 yards per carry, Grade: F.
Ray Rice claims he is 100% and over his hip injury. If he is, then there is something serious going on because he is nothing short of disappointing. From my perspective, I think the most glaring issue with Rice is that he is still trying to run the ball like he is a spry 24-year old who weighs 200lbs. He isn’t that small anymore and I still think he can be an effective back, but he needs to learn how to run like a guy who is closer to 220lb side than 200lb. That means instead of trying to shake a defender, who isn’t biting on it, he needs to lower his shoulder and run through it. While Rice hasn’t been very good as a runner, his atrocious blocks are a big issue. It has been multiple weeks now and Rice has whiffed on several blocks that have gotten Flacco destroyed.
Defensive Grades: The defense was fantastic yesterday. Grade: A+.
Other than a fluke play where James Ihedigbo tipped the Hail Mary pass right into AJ Green’s hands, the defense was excellent. They made Andy Dalton look very average (which he is in my opinion) and the Bengals had a hard time getting anything going on the ground as well. Even when Haloti Ngata went out with an injury, other guys like Terrance Cody, Art Jones and DeAngelo Tyson all stepped up.
James Ihedigbo, 2 interceptions, 6 tackles, Grade: A-.
The tipped pass was a huge error and a blemish on what was otherwise an outstanding day. Ihedigbo looked like he was in the zone playing center field and it reminded me of Ed Reed in a lot of ways. Ihedigbo has always been a guy who can come up and stuff the run, but his coverage skills have been called into question as of late. There were a few breakdowns in coverage with Green, but overall I thought Ihedigbo played an excellent game.
Jimmy Smith, 4 tackles, multiple passes defensed, Grade: A.
A lot of folks still want to paint the “bust” pejorative all over Jimmy Smith every time he isn’t Deion Sanders in his prime out there. However, to me, Jimmy has been the best defensive back on the team this year. He has done well against a lot of top-flight receivers and he had some nice plays while covering Green yesterday. Jimmy may not lead the NFL in interceptions, but he does a fine job in man-coverage.
Lardarius Webb, 5 tackles, 1 interception, Grade: A.
Frankly, I thought this was Webb’s best performance of the year. He was flying around the field, knocking passes away and all things considered he did a nice job against the Bengals’ receivers. One thing that I was pleased about was seeing Webb playing from the nickel position instead of Corey Graham. Graham is much better suited as an outside corner, so having Webb line up as the nickel was a good choice. I hope they stick with that for the rest of the season.
Dean Pees, Grade: A.
Why can’t Dean Pees produce a game plan like this each week? The Bengals have a pretty darn good offense and the Ravens defenders gave them fits all day. Suggs, Doom, Canty, Tyson, Art Jones, Ngata, McPhee, Upshaw, Daryl Smith and even Arthur Brown were constantly getting into the backfield and causing Dalton to throw the ball before he wanted to. If it weren’t for a fluke play in the last seconds of the game, the Bengals wouldn’t have been close at all.
Special Teams Grades: B.
Justin Tucker kicked the game-winning field goal in a pressure situation. As always, Tucker is fantastic under pressure. Additionally, the wind factor impacted a lot of the passing game and it also made an early field goal attempt by Mike Nugent sail to the left of the uprights. Tucker’s kicks were true and he continues to show why he is one of the top kickers in the NFL, maybe even the best. Regarding the return game, I would like to see them get some splash plays but as long as they aren’t putting the ball on the ground I can’t complain too much.
John Harbaugh, Grade: B-.
I thought John’s use of the challenges were brilliant. I think Walt “I See Nothing” Coleman royally screwed him because Coleman clearly doesn’t understand the NFL rules for fumbles. They ruled AJ Green was down, but the ball bounced out of his hands when the back of his hand was the only thing on the ground. That is a fumble as per the NFL rules.
I thought this game plan was a lot better by the Ravens, but I still am really not impressed with the offensive performance (or lack thereof). There are some obvious issues that I think could be easily fixed. I know Harbs is a pretty risk-averse coach, but he of all people should know that sometimes drastic changes are necessary to get the most out of everyone.
Right now the Ravens are 4-5 in a division where the leading team is 6-4. The problem is there are nine other teams that have as good or better records as the Ravens and Baltimore still has games against Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota and another Bengals match up. That is not a cakewalk schedule by any stretch of the imagination and with the way the offense is playing, I’m not so sure they’ll be able to get to the playoffs.
GIFs c/o Gordon Dixon