"When you’re stopping them, you’ve got to come back and score points. At some point, [the Bengals are] going to score, regardless of how you play. It just gets frustrating; every week we lose the same way." That’s from Samari Rolle. Folks, there’s movement in the fault line between the offense and defense. Will sizeable tremors follow?
There’s not much to say about Anthony Wright that hasn’t been written on these pages over the past 8 weeks. He’s a No. 2 quarterback at best yet even during today’s press conference, Brian Billick defended Wright’s play by saying he’s played well. Billick either has very low standards or he is politicking for support from his team during these very tumultuous times – times that could push Billick on the outside looking in. Either way, it looks like Wright is off the hook – check that, he got the hook and he’ll be replaced by Kyle Boller and his 9 good toes in Jacksonville. Shortly after naming Boller the starter, Billick was quick to mention that Anthony Wright had done nothing to warrant his demotion. Really?
Look, the strength of a quarterback is measured by how he manages the offense, runs the two minute drill and converts red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Wright consistently strikes out in all three of these areas.
After taking possession of the ball following a Bengals touchdown with the score 14-3, the Ravens faced a first and 10 from their 12 with 1:45 left in the half. After a nine yard pass to Daniel Wilcox and the clock still running the Ravens huddled. Breaking the huddle and staring down the line with clock at 1:12, Anthony Wright burned the team’s second time out. Two minute offense, one nine yard gain in the bag and 33 seconds and one time out burned.
The Ravens did go on to kick a field goal but part of that was courtesy of two Bengals’ penalties. During that drive, Wright spiked the ball twice to kill the clock. After 1 spike on the Bengals 35, the Ravens faced a 2nd and 10. I can’t believe that Jim Fassel called a two yard pass to Randy Hymes without getting out of bounds and costing the team its final time out. That has to be on Wright, Hymes or both. Losing that time out forced the Ravens to throw to the edges and it made it easier for the Bengals to tighten up coverage in the red zone.
Kordell Stewart provided a brief spark but what does it say about the Ravens confidence in Stewart’s throwing ability if the only pass intended during Stewart’s snaps was thrown by Randy Hymes. Even the horribly executed bootleg when the Ravens faced a third and 1 from the Bengals’ 6 didn’t allow Stewart a throwing option. In case you’re wondering, Hymes’ QB rating was 39.6 for his one incompletion – just about 20 points lower than Wright’s performance against the Steelers.
RUNNING BACK 1/2
Jamal Lewis’ streak of 7 consecutive 100 yard games against the Bengals is officially over. But that wasn’t from a lack of effort. Jamal worked extremely hard for every inch of his 49 yards and Chester Taylor bobbed and weaved for all of his 9. Like Martha Reeves once sang, “Nowhere to run to baby…nowhere to hide.”
Last week Chester Taylor was superb in his blitz pick ups. This week, he blew an assignment and allowed safety Kevin Kaesviharn to come in free on a blitz during the Ravens first half two minute offense. The net result however was positive since it resulted in a late hit on Anthony Wright and placed the Ravens in better field position. Taylor has a knack for making something out of nothing and needs to touch the ball in the passing or running game more consistently. Justin Green had all he could handle in landing lead blocks on Odell Thurman.
Derrick Mason…the real deal, tough competitor…he was the same old, same old but in a good way. The Ravens will have to look to get the ball in his hands more often and at different spots on the field. That crossing pattern will be heavily defended by the hard hitting Jaguars. Todd Heap’s fumble at the Ravens’ 31 was very costly. Darnell Dinkins whiff on Brian Simmons on the second play of the game led to a Simmons sack and fumble by Wright. Dinkins did have the presence of mind to recover the fumble.
OFFENSIVE LINE 1/2
After a brief 3 hours of hope in Heinz Field, the offensive line reverted back to form and provided inconsistent protection for Anthony Wright all afternoon. Keydrick Vincent was beaten repeatedly and even Ogden left Wright out to dry on second and goal from the four. Ogden was beaten by Robert Geathers and Wright was sacked for a loss of 10. On another occasion the Ravens while operating out of a shotgun with Wright flanked by Taylor and Lewis, faced a third and nine. The Bengals rushed 3 linemen and despite the Ravens five offensive linemen and the two backs, Wright was flushed out quickly and forced to throw a short pass to Taylor for no gain. Gee, another pass well short of the sticks followed by a punt.
"At 2-6, history says we might as well pack our bags and go home. But that’s not we’re going to do," left guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "We just have to come back, work hard and stick together. If we start turning on each other, it’s just going to be a longer season." Good luck Edwin. We’re pulling for you brother!
DEFENSIVE LINE 1/2
Kelly Gregg turned in another solid effort. Jarrett Johnson fought hard to the whistle. Terrell Suggs was quiet. He and Dwan Edwards were dominated by Levi Jones all afternoon. Suggs on Jones was very reminiscent of Joey Porter on Ogden last week in Pittsburgh.
Adalius Thomas was outstanding. He has become the heart and soul of the Ravens defense. At times AD was even squared up against Chad Johnson more than likely as a result of a misaligned defense yet held his own. He forced two fumbles and added a sack and was dominant at the point of attack. Bart Scott turned in another very solid performance although his penalties (one questionable) hurt the Ravens efforts while attempting to stall a Bengals’ TD drive. He was also faked out badly by Chris Perry on a third and 7 with 9:50 left in the game. Scott had Perry in his sights but allowed him to escape for the first down. Tommy Polley had 10 tackles but was pushed around easily by the Bengals interior line and by fullback Jeremy Johnson.
Chris McAlister may be the most overrated defender in the NFL. For someone who is suppose to be a shut down corner, the only thing that shuts down is him. Carson Palmer challenged McAlister three times on deep passes, alternating T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chris Henry and Chad Johnson. Palmer’s pass to Houshmandzadeh was under thrown into the wind. Henry juggled his would be touchdown and Johnson finally did connect much to the dismay of McAlister. Once again, McAlister lost his head and chose to argue the non-call by the official instead of downing Johnson after he had fallen to the ground. Will Demps delivered some solid hits but coverage is still lacking in the middle of the field without Ed Reed. Samari Rolle was solid although one has to wonder how Chris Henry was so open for the score. Once again, a communication breakdown in the secondary? Deion Sanders is not a very good nickel back. He’s better on the edge and using him to blitz might be good in flag football, but let’s face it, did it look like Deion really wanted to tackle Carson Palmer?
The punt and kickoff return teams, if they aren’t careful they might get B.J. Sams killed. Last week against the Steelers and this week against the Bengals, vicious hits leveled Sams on kick returns and then thanks to a lack of hustle on Chris McAlister’s part, Sams was nailed by Reggie Myles for a loss of one on a punt return. Zastudil crushed a punt while standing just inside the 5 and sent it high and through the wind to the Bengals 30. The net was a 47 yard clutch punt. Zastudil’s net average for the game (36.7) slipped because he missed on an opportunity to pin the Bengals inside the 20 resulting in a touchback. The kickoff team was efficient and Aaron Elling finally lived up to his promise nailing four kicks on average to the goal line with one touchback. Bart Scott was a special teams beast contributing 3 tackles and a forced fumble that nearly resulted in a game altering turnover.
* If Kordell Stewart can’t throw, why was he the No. 2 quarterback? Why is he even on the team? Are the Ravens secretly planning to run the wishbone?
* There didn’t seem to be much of a game plan on offense. At least against the Steelers, the plan was to throw early in down sequence and use the pass to set up the run. It is nearly impossible for the Ravens to use the run to set up the pass anymore with Jamal Lewis. Again, with an aging line that doesn’t create holes and with the cutback lanes sealed off, the Ravens are no longer able to use Jamal to wear down defenses. It puts them in too many third and long situations and the Ravens QB isn’t good enough to consistently bail the team out of such predicaments.
* The Ravens still lack discipline on offense and it shows in their execution. They make the same mistakes repeatedly. If you make a mistake once, you learn from it. Make the same mistake again, and they call you stupid. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Straight jacket Brian? How about giving them out to the fans during the two minute drill? If the execution of that two minute offense is acceptable to Brian Billick (and judging from his press conference today it is) than coaching is to blame for its inadequacies.
Rex Ryan seemed to have a plan but it’s difficult to compensate for the loss of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed against Carson Palmer. He’s too poised and accurate and the Bengals have home run hitters on the outside. The Heap turnover helped to put points on the board and Tommy Polley in the middle might have to be abandoned. With a healthier Anthony Weaver, perhaps the Ravens would be better with Polley on the weak side and Scott in the middle.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
* “If they don’t keep pace with a win today, the rest of the 2005 season is Training Camp for the 2006 football season.” That was one of color commentator Steve Tasker’s opening lines prior to kickoff yesterday. Does that mean more days off for the players?
* Entering the game against the Bengals, the Ravens were 24th in the league in third down conversions when faced with 8 yards or more (18%). Yesterday the Ravens were 3 of 8 in such situations.
* Once again, officiating did not favor the Ravens. An inadvertent whistle cost the Ravens a touchdown on the Will Demps fumble recovery and a catch given to Houshmandzadeh should have been ruled out of bounds. It changed the third down play to a third and seven instead of a third and twelve. Ultimately the drive was extended when Bart Scott was called for pass interference. The call was made by the back judge nearly 25 yards behind the alleged illegal contact. Game officials should not be exempt from accountability.
* The hard gang tackling that was part of the Ravens effort against the Steelers wasn’t as prevalent yesterday.
* The Bengals were 7-for-11 on third downs during the game and 5 of 7 in the second half. "It was tough getting them off the field," Bart Scott said. " … They made the plays and we didn’t." ….In red zone the Ravens ran 16 plays yesterday amounting to 5 net yards.
* Play by play man Gus Johnson had this to say about The Vault during CBS’ presentation of the game: “[These are] maybe the best fans in the league and in my opinion [M&T Bank is] the best stadium by far!”
* Yesterday the Chiefs with 5 seconds left on the clock and his team trailing by 3, faced a first and goal from inside the one yard line. If confronted with the same choice, would Brian Billick kick the field goal or go for it. Drop us a note and let us know…
* The inactive list included: QB 7 K.Boller, S 20 E.Reed, LB 52 R.Lewis, OL 60 J.Brown, T 78 A.Terry, WR 81 D.Darling, TE 82 T.Jones, WR 84 C.Moore