Some may disagree, but I think today’s win was exactly what the Ravens needed. It was a total domination from the defense against a poor offense. It was also a rather solid outing from the offense against arguably the best defense in the NFL. Folks may look at the score and only see one offensive touchdown, but they’d be completely missing out on the number of sustained drives that tired the Jets’ defense out and put Justin Tucker in field goal range. There are still some things that the offense needs to work on, but if they can build off of today then it will go a long way to making a final push towards the playoffs.
Offensive Grades: As a unit, I feel pretty comfortable giving them a C+ performance.
However, when factoring in the defensive unit that they were playing against and the weather (apparently there were 40 mph wind gusts), I’d have to bump it up to a B. The Jets have some issues in their secondary, but their front-7 is arguably the best in the entire league. Considering the issues that the interior of the Ravens’ offensive line has had this season, I completely went into this game thinking that there was a legitimate chance that Joe Flacco could leave the field on a cart.
- Joe Flacco, 17/26, 273 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. Grade: B. Like I said above, I really thought there was a great chance that Flacco could get seriously hurt in this game. Still, he hung in there and made some great throws and was the biggest reason why the offense was able to sustain drives and get points on the board.
- Ray Rice, 16 touches, 30 yards, 1.9 yards per carry. Grade: F. Too often I see Rice running into the backs of his linemen. Too often I see Rice being tackled on first contact. Too often I see Rice missing cutback lanes only to be bottled up at the line of scrimmage. I’m sure Rice is frustrated with his production; how could he not be? I was afraid that his performance last week against the Chicago Bears was more of an anomaly and not the norm. Unfortunately, this just isn’t Rice’s year. Still, it isn’t entirely his fault because the offensive line has been really bad and the play calling worse.
- Jacoby Jones, 4 receptions, 103 yards, 1 TD. Grade: B+. Had Jacoby held onto the pass in the end zone, I’d have given him an A+. The reason why I am being hard on him for that is because the ball hit him in the hands and Ed Reed pulled up significantly so as to not draw a flag. Not only did the ball hit Jacoby in the hands, but also he HAD IT in his hands. An NFL receiver has to make those catches. It was really great to finally see Joe and Jacoby hook up on a deep pass though. Jacoby made a beautiful catch on a well-placed pass. I also thought Jacoby did a nice job working the short and medium routes as well. If I recall correctly, Jacoby had three receptions and nearly 40 yards before Torrey Smith even had his first real look.
- Jim Caldwell, Grade: D. In life, there are situations where a little bit of something goes a long way. For example, a good chef knows that a little bit of salt in the pasta water will go a long way towards turning a good pasta dish into a great pasta dish. Conversely, if the chef over salts the water, then the pasta is way too salty and the entire dish is ruined. In the kitchen, this is called “showing restraint.” I think Caldwell needs to show a little more restraint with his play calling. Just because an end-around play works with Tyrod Taylor one week doesn’t mean that an entire half of plays with Taylor on the field against one of the best defenses in the NFL is going to work. I’m all for trick plays every now and then, but come on! Today was ridiculous. Without exaggerating too much, it literally seemed like Taylor was involved in the play every other snap. This just proves my overall point that the offensive coaching staff doesn’t have a clue about how to go with the flow of a game. Joe hits Torrey Smith on a 60-yard pass and the next play they have Joe split out wide and Tyrod taking the snap? Have they not heard of momentum? It was no surprise that play was completely shut down by the Jets. Fans can get up in arms by pointing out Joe’s “Bad Habits” all they want, but Flacco is getting minimal help from the play calling and today was no exception.
Defensive Grades: Today was one of the most dominating performances I have seen from a Baltimore defense in a very, very long time. In the 2nd quarter, the defense gave up zero offensive yards. Geno Smith has a long way to go before we can call him an NFL quarterback, but up until the game was already over he had less than 100 yards passing and had only completed four passes. The entire defense earned an A+ grade today.
- Arthur Brown, Grade: B+. According to www.nfl.com, Arthur Brown only had 1 tackle today against the Jets. I’m not entirely sure they tallied that correctly. I’ll have to go back and re-watch some of the game, but to me the kid was all over the place and his ability to time blitzes is outstanding. It was really nice to see him out on the field quite a bit today.
- Corey Graham, Grade: A. I’ve been hard on Graham this year because early on in the season he was really just not playing very well at all. They had him lined up at nickel quite a bit and he just doesn’t have the quickness to cover guys in space. Once Dean Pees moved Lardarius Webb to nickel and Graham to the outside, Graham began playing a lot better. Today, Graham had two interceptions and while they were on poorly thrown passes, any turnover is a good thing.
- Haloti Ngata, Grade: A. Ngata wasn’t active against the Bears and even though Art Jones, Terrence Cody and Brandon Williams filled in decently for him, it is really hard to replace someone like Ngata. When Ngata plays like he is capable of playing, the rest of the defense just falls in line and does the same. The Jets have a pretty decent offensive line as well, but they couldn’t handle Ngata at all today.
Special Teams Grades: Overall, I definitely would give the Special Teams an A+. Jones looked good returning kicks and punts and had a punt return of nearly 40 yards at one point. On another punt return late in the game, Courtney Upshaw completely leveled a Jets defender. Neither Jones nor Doss sprang one for a score, but from what I’ve seen this year, I think this may have been one of the best special teams performances.
- Justin Tucker, 4 for 4 and a long of 53 yards. Grade: A+. Folks, not only was that kick 53 yards, but it was 53 yards into the wind. If there was no wind, that kick could have been made from 60 yards out. I definitely think there is an argument to be made that Tucker is the best kicker in the NFL.
The Ravens are 5-6 and heading into the last part of the season. Typically, John Harbaugh has done pretty well in December and he is of the mindset that you have to win in December to win in January. Teams that limp into the playoffs rarely get hot enough to make a run in the playoffs. The next two games are in Baltimore, where the Ravens typically play very well. If the Ravens can come out of this home stretch at 7-6, then they definitely have a shot at getting into the playoffs and possibly even winning the division again. I didn’t think I’d be saying that a few weeks ago, but the Patriots haven’t been that great this year despite the big comeback win over the Broncos, the Bengals are up and down and the Lions just got throttled by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dare I say that it is possible for the Ravens to finish the season 10-6? Stranger things have happened…
Bring on Pittsburgh!
GIF courtesy of Gordon Dixon