Words cannot describe the level of heart palpitations that I experienced into the waning hours of Monday night. At first, I was so uncomfortable with the fact that the defense gave up yet another late, 4th quarter touchdown. However, I had to constantly remind myself that this is how the Ravens do things. Many have said it and it is so true: the Ravens don’t panic and thrive under pressure.
Overall, I thought the offense was fairly average last night. They didn’t make a lot of mistakes and they didn’t turn the ball over. Against a swarming, attacking defense like Detroit, turning the ball over would have been a probable death sentence. They made plays in the passing game when they had to, they ran the ball fairly well (albeit, not great) and the offensive line did about as good of a job as you can ask against two of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.
Overall grade: B.
Individual Offensive Notes
I don’t know what is going on with Eugene Monroe, but he hasn’t played well the past few weeks. He is a good player, but one has to wonder if he was worth the sacrifice of two mid-round draft picks for a guy who they may not even want to re-sign after this season. Considering Gino Gradkowski performed admirably against Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh for much of the game, there is no reason that Monroe should have had as many issues as he did. I’ll wait for FilmStudy’s analysis, but in my opinion, Monroe was the worst lineman yesterday by far. I’d grade him a D at best.
Can you guys imagine what this team would be like without Joe Flacco? That guy was hit a lot and hit hard yesterday, yet he came back for more and made some incredible throws. Flacco didn’t turn the ball over and completed about 53% of his passes for 222 yards. There were at least two different passes that could have gone for touchdowns – one that Marlon Brown misjudged and let go through his hands and the other just a great defensive play by Detroit’s Jonte Green on a pass to Torrey Smith. Considering Flacco’s knee injury late in the game and that he was able to make that throw to Jacoby Jones on a crucial 3rd and long, I’d definitely give him an A.
As for Torrey Smith – first, I have to congratulate him for becoming the first Ravens receiver since Derrick Mason to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving. There were three distinct plays yesterday that make me think that Smith – as good as he is – will likely never truly develop into a true #1 receiver. Granted, this offense doesn’t necessarily need a “#1 receiver”, but after three seasons I would expect both Torrey’s ability to adjust to passes and his on-field awareness to be a lot better than they seem to be.
The first instance was the deep pass down the left sideline. Torrey was covered by Rashean Mathis who he had effectively driven towards the middle of the field leaving a solid 3-5 yard cushion between Torrey and the sideline. Flacco’s pass was perfectly placed between Torrey and the sideline and instead of adjusting to the pass, Torrey swung his arm over Mathis’ helmet and then stretched out one hand for the pass as it fell incomplete. To me, it looked like Torrey was trying to draw a pass interference flag.
The second instance came on the same side of the field and Torrey was given a huge cushion from Mathis (at least 10-12 yards). Torrey sprinted, did a double move to try and draw Mathis up and then Torrey sprinted further down the field. Now, Torrey didn’t sell the stop route very well, so Mathis didn’t come back to him at all. However, when Torrey stopped Mathis was still a good 8-10 yards behind Torrey. Had he just stayed there and let Flacco hit him on the stop route, Torrey would have had a big first down and then some.
The third instance came on the right side of the field, late in the game. Flacco saw single-high coverage by the safety with the corner (Jonte Green) cheating towards the inside. Flacco snapped the ball and quickly fired it out to Torrey who was busy blocking down on Green. Now, that could be a lack of communication, but Flacco clearly saw something in the secondary that made him think that Torrey could have made a big play there and Torrey just wasn’t on the same page at all. Still, Torrey made some big plays in the middle of the field, so overall I’d give him a B- performance.
Even though the defense gave up a big drive late in the game, I actually thought this was Baltimore’s best defensive game this season. Holding a team like Detroit to 16 total points and 345 total yards at home is really, really impressive. I’m still wondering where Suggs and Doom are because they’ve been relatively quiet in the sack department over the last few weeks, but they put enough pressure on Matt Stafford to make him throw a number of errant passes. When you win the turnover battle, you win football games. This defense has had a tough time coming up with interceptions for much of the season, so getting three interceptions was a huge factor in this win.
I’d give the defense an A- for their effort yesterday.
Individual Defensive Notes
Many of us just put palms over our face when the media started running with Matt Elam’s commentary on Calvin Johnson being “old.” In reality, Elam’s comments about age were really light hearted. I’m really glad he picked up his play as the game went on, because for much of the first quarter it looked like he was going to have to eat his words. Getting his first interception to seal the victory was icing on the cake. It was a great day from Elam and probably his best defensive performance of the season. Grade: A.
Calvin Johnson had 6 receptions and 98 yards. By normal standards, that would be a pretty good day for a receiver. However, for any defense to hold him to less than 100 yards is a great accomplishment. I started a thread on the Russell Street Report Forums about how I never quite understood why Dean Pees keeps the cornerbacks exclusively on either side of the field. Unless the corner was playing nickel (Webb), they pretty much played on one side or the other. Needless to say, I was very pleased to see Jimmy Smith covering Johnson for the whole game. Jimmy did a fantastic job and kept Johnson locked down for most of the game. Everyone knew that Johnson was going to rack up yards, but Jimmy played physical with him and he had a tough time all game. Jimmy absolutely deserves an A+.
Special Teams Grades
If it wasn’t for special teams, the Ravens wouldn’t have won. It wasn’t just Justin Tucker’s incredible night either; it was also coverage and Jacoby’s punt and kick returns. Special Teams flat out deserves an A+.
Individual Special Teams Notes
I’d like to take this moment and congratulate Justin Tucker on setting a franchise record for longest field goal. At 61 yards, that is one of the longest field goals ever made in a regular season game in the history of the NFL, and the longest ever made indoors. The current record of 64 yards was set a few weeks ago by Matt Prater in Denver. Tucker currently leads the league in made field goals with 35. He is arguably one of the top 3 players on the Ravens this year and is well deserving of an A+.
The Ravens are 8-6 with games against the Patriots and Bengals coming up. The Bengals have a tendency to cave in big games and the Patriots are not the same team without Rob Gronkowski. Each of those games is winnable and if the Ravens win out, they would win the AFC North division and secure a top-4 seed in the playoffs. What started out as a very lackluster and disappointing season has quickly evolved into a very exciting time for the Baltimore Ravens.