The Ravens entered yesterday’s game against the Texans well rested. Many believed that besides rest the down time might be spent on self-scouting and refining some of the areas where the team needed some polish, such as in red zone efficiency and in chemistry building along the offensive front. If they did invest some sweat equity in those areas, yesterday produced no dividends.
The game was a rather strange one since it isn’t often that you see a team win by 15 points while losing the turnover battle by -2 and the other team converts 5 of their first 6 third down attempts from more than 8 yards out. But like a pitcher who wins without his good stuff, the Ravens found a way to improve their record to 4-1. If this team can correct their red zone woes (more on that later), develop some consistency in pass protection and get some key contributors like Ben Grubbs, Lee Evans, Jimmy Smith and Chris Carr healthy, then a solid argument can be made that the Ravens are the AFC’s best.
Arian Foster is a very good back. That said he had a very bad game and if not for 3 dropped passes and several slips on cutback attempts during stretch runs, we might be talking about a different outcome or at the very least a closer game. But give the Ravens front seven along with help from safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard their due for taking Foster out of the game, winning first down and forcing Matt Schaub into 16 third down conversion attempts that on average were just shy of 7 yards…Jarret Johnson was an anchor on the edge and also menacing when rushing Schaub. He had a momentum sustaining sack of Schaub in the third quarter…Lardarius Webb has been very steady at corner and pound for pound is one of the team’s best tacklers. He was beaten a couple of times in man coverage on slants but if not for razor sharp precision from Schaub each of those passes could have been knocked down. Webb minimized the damage each time with an immediate take down.
Ray Rice needs to touch the football no less than 20 times per contest because eventually he’ll break off a play of 20 or more yards…Joe Flacco continues to struggle in the red zone but give him his due for delivering in the face of extreme pressure between the 20’s. His fourth quarter toss to Anquan Boldin from his own 25 yard line which was caught at the Texans’ 20 traveled no less than 60 yards (thrown from outside the right hash to the far side of the left hash). What made the throw a thing of beauty was its accuracy given the fact that Flacco was sent tumbling immediately after completing the throw…Speaking of Boldin, his strong hands alone should invite attempts by Flacco because he consistently comes up with catches even in tight coverage. He just needs a chance to make a play on the ball. He had 8 snags for 132 yards.
Torrey Smith had a productive day and like his sidekick Boldin he would have eclipsed the 100 yard mark had Flacco thrown to him a little sooner in the second quarter when running a 9 route from the Texans 24… Brendan Ayanbadejo made a great tackle after a Schaub to Owen Daniel pitch and catch. If Ayanbadejo misses that take down, it could have gone for six…Danny Gorrer gave defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano some quality snaps yesterday in nickel packages…
The Ravens red zone offense is among the league’s worst (ranked 27th entering the game). The stats will show that they were 2 of 4 in the red zone yesterday but 1 score was aided by an outstanding run by Rice to the Texans’ 4 and if not for two personal fouls by Antonio Smith giving the Ravens a fresh set of downs twice while inside the 2, they could have easily been forced to settle for 3 on their opening drive…Joe Flacco’s badly overthrew a wide open Ed Dickson during the waning moments of the first half. That connection would have at the very least provided an opportunity for 3. Instead, it was intercepted by Johnathan Joseph…Dickson should be on the field for every offensive snap. He’s just a matchup nightmare. But yesterday, he was on the sidelines quite a bit. After a closer look, his suspect blocking more than likely cost the young tight end snaps in the first half. One missed pass pro assignment nearly sent Flacco head over heels into Ostend Street…Fellow tight end Dennis Pitta looked a bit out of sorts and obviously on a different page than Flacco. With more time to prepare for this game coming off the bye, one would think this potentially productive combination would be more finely tuned. Pitta added a false start to boot deep in Ravens territory…Two players usually as dependable as death and taxes were off their games – Terrell Suggs and Marshal Yanda…John Harbaugh mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half. When you are at home and you genuinely believe that you are fielding a high level quarterback, you don’t allow the opponent to burn off the play clock when they are facing a third and 12 from their own 18 with 1:15 left in the half and 2 timeouts.
Flacco continues to show inconsistent pocket awareness and if his fumbling continues it could prove costly on the road…The Ravens better get it together in the red zone or it will cost them in the future particularly when playing tough opponents outside the comfy confines of M&T…The secondary had a costly breakdown in the third quarter when Pollard committed his coverage to Owen Daniel running a crossing route, vacating his area on the field despite Daniel already attracting three defenders. Ed Reed couldn’t close in time and it ended with a 32 yard scoring strike to Jacoby Jones.
THE MEGAN FOX
Billy Cundiff set a club mark with seven touchbacks, one of which sailed into the third row of the end zone seats in the east end of the stadium. He also was flawless in five field goal attempts despite some tricky crosswinds. A few seasons ago when Matt Stover retired, we all expected to miss his consistency. Outside of the Hauschka hiccup season, Cundiff has made the transition from the Ravens ROH member seamless.
And that’s saying a lot!