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Steve McNair’s performance against the Raiders was unfortunately the type of quarterback play we’ve grown accustomed to here in Baltimore. McNair’s QB rating for the day was 58.0 and it could have been worse. Thirty of McNair’s 143 passing yards came on a dump off to Musa Smith who made a nice play to pick up yardage after his catch of the short pass. Another 30 on a hitch to Mark Clayton who ran about 25 yards on his own. McNair was inaccurate, he looked confused at times, didn’t get his team to the line very efficiently and had this been a road game, the Ravens would have been penalized several times for delay of game or worse – a hastily run play could have resulted in a turnover.
Six Ravens drives started inside of Oakland territory on average from the Raiders 29 and the Ravens produced only 4 field goals. McNair floated balls outside the hash marks and with his obvious lack of velocity on the ball that is undoubtedly flirting with disaster. He forced balls into traffic, once to Derrick Mason while surrounded by 5 defenders. His interception on a pass intended to Heap was an ill advised throw and even his decision making when he had time to throw was questionable, such as a quick dump off to Justin Green when he had time and a short throw to Mason toward the left sideline on third and goal from the 16 was a unusual decision. Thankfully the Ravens didn’t need McNair today.
RUNNING BACK: B
Nowhere to run to….nowhere to hide. Early on in the game, Ravens RB’s had little room to maneuver. The Raiders frequently had 8 and 9 men in the box and they jammed running lanes. Jamal Lewis left a few yards on the field not taking advantage of a few cutback opportunities but otherwise he ran hard while picking up some tough yards on his own. Both Musa Smith and Mike Anderson seemed a bit quicker to the hole than Lewis although much of that took place late in the second half when the Raiders’ defenders were a bit worn down. Justin Green needs to remember the snap count.
Derrick Mason is a warrior and battles to the whistle on every play. During the Ravens touchdown drive towards the end of the first half, Mason’s efforts helped to bring the drive to a happy ending. When a pass slipped through the hands of Todd Heap on first and ten from the 20, Mason was there to catch it about 5 yards further down field from Heap for a gain of 10 to the Raiders 10. With the clock still running and no timeouts, Mason then caught a short pass from McNair and after some nifty foot work, he wormed his way down inside the one. Mark Clayton didn’t show up in the stat sheets until he caught a short pass from McNair with 3:30 to go in the game and turned it into a 30 yard gain after faking former Ravens DB Duane Stark out of his jock.
Demetrius Williams looks like a solid receiver and needs to see the field more. He also needs to see the sticks and have a better feel for down and distance when running an out on third down. Wilcox was a non-factor. Heap atoned for his dropped pass by snatching that TD and later with a great block to spring Mike Anderson on his TD run.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C-
The penalties have to stop and today’s biggest culprits were Tony Pashos and Mike Flynn. Pashos’ three penalties (two declined) were an indication that he was a bit twitchy going up against 2005 AFC sack leader Derrick Burgess. The Ravens can’t afford to be placed in obvious passing situations particularly in the red zone. Flynn’s holding penalty on the one could have been a pivotal mistake against a better football team. Warren Sapp owned the middle, challenging Flynn, Mulitalo and Vincent. Sapp had 2 sacks and 4 quarterback hurries. Ogden used his reach to help keep McNair clean. This unit was hampered by the pressure applied up front by Rob Ryan’s defense. The Ravens need to vary their snap count and be more productive on first down to take some pressure off this group.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B+
Terrell Suggs, a hybrid player (DE/LB) had a very solid game with 7 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 QB hurries. Kelly Gregg was busy inside and was disruptive. He knifed through the Raiders offensive line to take down Lamont Jordan for an eight yard loss. Trevor Pryce is beginning to assert himself. Justin Bannan and Dwan Edwards provided solid support in their rotations as did Jarrett Johnson. Haloti Ngata is still looking for his first NFL tackle.
Adalius Thomas was a beast, contributing 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 QB hurries and an interception. Bart Scott turned in another solid game with 5 tackles, a sack and a QB hurry. He had a second sack and a forced fumble taken away by a premature whistle in the fourth quarter. He has excellent timing on his blitzes. He did get caught up inside on a rollout by Andrew Walter leading to a first down completion to Alvis Whitted for a gain of 13 yards. Ray Lewis scraped the line better this week than last and was more productive in run support. He also made a very athletic play on his interception in the third quarter.
Dawan Landry appears to be on his way to developing a reputation as an enforcer. His shot on Alvis Whitted when crossing the middle with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth will almost certainly make its way to ESPN’s “Jacked Up” segment tonight. Landry supported the run well but needs to be a bit more consistent in run blitzing. He seemed tentative at times. Ed Reed was silent for most of the day, in part because of his centerfield bracketing assignment and due to the Ravens outstanding pass rush he wasn’t really called upon for much. Evan Oglesby was decent subbing for the injured Samari Rolle. Chris McAlister played well but lost his head needlessly with the game fully in control. Despite the fact that the call was a bad one, McAlister’s unnecessary behavior might haunt him in games to come. Ronnie Prude showed textbook technique on his fourth quarter interception. He’ll be a player to keep your eye on.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
What a contrast between the effectiveness of the coverage teams and the return teams. The Ravens return teams were outstanding, helping B.J. Sams to rack up a 40.4 yard average on 4 returns. The kick coverage teams seem to get down field slowly and don’t seem to make initial contact until the ball carriers reach the 25 yard line. That has to improve. Better offenses will make the Ravens pay for the great field position they’ve been serving up over the past two weeks.
Other than one flubbed punt, Sam Koch had a very good game, averaging 43.3 yards per punt and pinning the Raiders inside the 20 on 3 punts. He was 3 for 3 in that department. He and Ronnie Prude combined to execute a pin just like special teams coach Frank Gansz, Jr. drew it up, when Prude caught Koch’s lofty punt at the 3 yard line. Corey Ivy and Gary Stills are doing what they’ve been brought here to do – provide stout special teams play. Stover was money!
COACHING: OFFENSE D, DEFENSE B+
The offensive game plan was once again very unimaginative. The Ravens showed very little motion and often left McNair alone in the backfield, something that is ill advised given the pressure the Raiders can bring particularly when there’s no possibility of a draw or delay. On first down the Ravens ran Jamal Lewis 13 times for 35 yards despite the box being loaded with defenders. Six of those runs accounted for a total of minus 2 yards. The Ravens don’t have the offensive line to protect Steve McNair even when he’s on in so many obvious passing situations. More effective first down throws off a quick three step drop might loosen that box and make running on first down more effective. It was also a bit of a surprise to see the Ravens not run at Burgess more. He was taking a wide approach to the QB all day. Musa Smith needs more touches and not allowing Todd Heap to test rookie safety Michael Huff is a bit of a mystery.
Defensively, the Ravens wanted to pressure the quarterback, stop Lamont Jordan and prevent the big play with Randy Moss. They accomplished all three but let’s face it, the Raiders supporting cast is pretty pathetic and two of those turnovers were absolute gifts from Aaron Brooks.
I hope the Ravens kept the receipt when they purchased that new scoreboard system and if it isn’t the scoreboard electronics, then the operator needs to go back to training class. The out of town scores were a joke and the new board just above the club level displayed this down and distance for several minutes: 9th down and 939 yards to go. That’s probably a punting situation.
Review of the video tape wasn’t helpful but if that wasn’t a block in the back by a Raider on Chris Carr’s 24 yard punt return early in the fourth quarter, then I must not understand the rule…I wonder how Brian Billick would have responded to that premature whistle had the game been close…I give the crowd a B for their effort yesterday. An “A” was within reach for the cranked up crowd had it been a closer game and if it had witnessed a more inspired offensive effort.