I have to tell you, grading the Ravens has become monotonous. Watching them isnâ€™t much different and reading about this mess that has become the 2007 Baltimore Ravens is probably painful. So letâ€™s just net it out, realize we just stink and remember that the sun will rise (although probably not shine) tomorrowâ€¦
Nothing changes here. The Ravens M.O. during the Billick years has always been to play good defense, run and protect the football while winning the game of field position. The Ravens somehow lost that formula and the Ravensâ€™ quarterbacks are simply poor caretakers of the football. Kyle Boller yesterday was no different than heâ€™s always been â€“ consistently inconsistent. He can make the best of throws and the worst decisions within minutes of the same game. The Poole interception had rookie mistake written all over it. Camera shots on the sidelines of Steve McNair could have been used as footage for a Genesis video â€“ Land of Confusion.
RUNNING BACK: B+
Just give McGahee the ball. He makes things happen. And someone please explain to me why your best offensive playmaker is on the sidelines on third down! Did Glenn Gulliver ever pinch hit for Eddie Murray? McGahee might soon be asking himself the same thing that McNair is asking himself â€“ â€œWhat am I doing here?â€ When he gets his next paycheck heâ€™ll remember. McGahee was very solid in all phases of the game, particularly in pass protection picking up the blitz. In a more limited role, Leâ€™Ron McClain was nearly as effective against the blitz. Wish we could say the same for the rest of the offensive unit.
Lost in the shuffle of this mess called the Ravensâ€™ fourth consecutive loss is the play of Quinn Sypniewski. Sypniewski was a regular whipping boy of Billickâ€™s during summer camp for many boneheaded mistakes. Give the sophomore TE credit. Heâ€™s stepped in and filled in admirably for Todd Heap. Welcome to the real world Devard Darling. Maybe the Ravens actually have four legit receivers now. This was however the Cleveland Browns secondary so letâ€™s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Derrick Mason was solid but had a key drop for a sizable gain. Mark Clayton disappeared and he needs to do a better job of playing defender on an underthrown pass such as the one Boller threw in the first quarter that was intercepted.
OFFENSIVE LINE: D-
The Browns averaged about a sack per game heading into this contest. Yesterday they got six. Chris Chesterâ€™s pass blocking at left guard made me wonder if we were in Spain. Olay! Kamerion Wimbley ran by Adam Terry early like he was a crash test dummy. Chris Foerster untied his two feet at half and he played a little better. Jonathan Ogden looks uninterested. This unit played better with Terry/Gaither at LT and Marshall Yanda at right tackle.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C
The Browns offensive line had a push up front in the running game and it gave the determined Jamal Lewis a running start several times during the contest. Lewis is less effective when heâ€™s forced to change direction. He didnâ€™t have to often yesterday. The stout tackle tandem of Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata werenâ€™t as effective as usual. Dwan Edwards was pushed around like the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Ray Lewis was a beast, particularly in pass coverage contributing 16 tackles, recovering a fumble, breaking up a pass and of course the interception followed by a 35 yard scamper for the score. Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott were both effective contributing 9 and 8 tackles respectively. Scott was away from the line of scrimmage most of the game drawing the tough assignment of Kellen Winslow. Jarret Johnson wasnâ€™t much of a factor.
Chris McAlister gave a gutty performance fighting through the pain of a sore knee that sidelined him for 4 weeks. Donâ€™t be surprised if San Diego is his last game. It might be time to shut him down as a once hopeful season dims quickly. He did get trucked by Jamal Lewis. Corey Ivy competed well. Dawan Landry was decent but needs to be more of an enforcer in the middle. Heâ€™s often a step behind in support of the underneath routes. He is excellent at recognizing the swing pass to the tailbacks and closing when the ball in thrown to his side. Derek Anderson stayed away from Ed Reed for the most part. Derrick Martin is improving yet it was surprising that the Browns didnâ€™t test him more. Jamal Lewis used him as a launching pad during his long run of 21 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F
The coverage units were horrific and they looked like the boys going up against a beast when trying to contain Brownsâ€™ return ace Josh Cribbs. Why they continued to kick to Cribbs is a mystery that I canâ€™t wait to hear Brian Billick explain. But then again, will I really get the answer Iâ€™m looking for? They just looked plain stupid repeatedly kicking to Cribbs who averaged a whopping 35 yards on 7 returns, the longest of which was 50 yards. He contributed greatly to Clevelandâ€™s average start to all drives â€“ their own 41.
Finally the Ravens made some offensive halftime adjustments and they were able to produce points in the second half. Letâ€™s not get too excited thoughâ€¦the Brownsâ€™ defense stinks! But Billick once again showed that he knows nothing about clock management at the end of regulation. You have to run time off the clock and you have to force the opponent to burn their timeouts. A run for a first down on second and 1 and third and 1 would have been the â€œprudentâ€ thing to do Brian. Didnâ€™t you learn anything in Buffalo? The last play in regulation should have been a Matt Stover field goal. INEXUSABLE!!!
Nearly equally inexcusable are the repeated kicks to Josh Cribbs who obviously owned the Ravens yesterday. If a batter keeps crushing the fastball, do you keep throwing him the fastball? Apparently Frank Gansz and Brian Billick think so.
OTHER OBSERVATIONSâ€¦The Ravens need to get a scoreboard operator that actually has a clue about football. Chances are the Josh Cribbs fumble may have been challenged anyway had the scoreboard not shown the play. But why take the risk? Same thing with the slow motion replay of the caromed field goal. Let ESPN take care of that over and over. One official thought he saw the ball bounce off the center support on the other side of the uprights. The scoreboard replay provided support of his opinion that the other officials could no longer refute. That is NOT a reviewable play yet the scoreboard operator gave them and the Cleveland Browns the gift of review and the evidence needed to convince the officials that the kick was goodâ€¦Our own Eric Buckner sent this note over to me this morning:
â€œI am puzzled as to why the Ravens didnâ€™t consider using Rhys Lloyd in yesterdayâ€™s game. They activated Matt Willis at WR, yet knowing that Joshua Cribbs is a dangerous return specialist (ask the Steelers who he burned for 2 TD last week), why not play the man that youâ€™ve kept for the sole purpose of kicking off? With the wind at his back, Matt Stover was popping his kick-offs to the goal line. Isnâ€™t it logical to conclude that Lloyd would have kicked his through the end zone with the wind at his back?â€
Ericâ€¦in the words of Rocky Balboa, â€œABSOLUTELY!â€