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Steve McNair was out of sync from the start and made a few mistakes uncharacteristic of a savvy veteran. He allowed the play clock to tick down to zero to take a penalty, was called for a very untimely and unnecessary grounding penalty (on second and 2 from the Ravensâ€™ 49) and was extremely fortunate not to have thrown at least 3 interceptions. If someone gets Johnathan Joseph a pair of those nifty receivers gloves for Christmas (You know, take care of the hands that take care of youâ€¦), this one could have been a blow out! But it wasnâ€™t and in typical McNair fashion he rallied the troops albeit way too little and way too late. Why the Ravens never took a shot downfield until the waning minutes against a team that yielded 359 yards on average for the past 3 games is inexcusable.
RUNNING BACKS: B-
The predictability of Brian Billickâ€™s play calling last night hurt Jamal Lewisâ€™ chances of ever establishing the run. This little shimmy-shimmy doo-wop from Ovie Mughelli moving in motion from right to left is way old after just two games. At some point you would think that the Ravens would use this very predictable dive into the pile play to set up something else but they didnâ€™t. It amounted to nothing more than being tackled in the backfield. Lewis ran hard and nearly broke off a couple of runs but his failure was more the failure of the offensive line and the play calling. This grade is clearly a reward of effort.
This group should have been licking its chops against the Bengals Swiss Cheese secondary but instead, Mark Clayton, Todd Heap and Demetrius Williams were relatively absent from the game. As a unit they appeared to be on a different page than Steve McNair save for the feisty Derrick Mason who chipped in with 7 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C-
This unit looked sluggish and they were beaten on the snap repeatedly. Although McNair was not sacked on the night he was hurried throughout the contest. Mike Flynn was pancaked on one play and added to the embarrassment by tackling his assailant. It did not go unnoticed. Penalties riddled this unit on the night and regularly placed the offense at a decided disadvantage with down and distance. Although Sam Adams didnâ€™t show up on the stat sheet, he made an impression upon the significantly slighter foes on the Ravens side of the ball.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
Rudi Johnson was held to 47 yards on 16 carries for a 2.9 yard average. Most of the credit must go to Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg particularly when you consider that the Ravens backers and secondary played a shell often in order to prevent the big play. Trevor Pryce played well and was menacing with 3 QB hurries but he didnâ€™t get his usual support from line mate Terrell Suggs who was relatively absent. Suggs managed only a single assisted tackle all night and was barely more than a speed limit sign throughout. He didnâ€™t drive 55â€¦it was more like reverse.
Ray Lewis was strong at the point of attack in support of the rushing defense and showed great athleticism in pass coverage. Adalius Thomas spent most of the night in coverage and was not a factor rushing Carson Palmer. Bart Scott played hard and led the team with 8 tackles, 1 sack and 2 QB hurries but was held up often when blitzing as a result of solid pass protection from the Bengalsâ€™ running backs.
Last night the Ravens secondary seemed to employ the â€œbend but donâ€™t breakâ€ mentality. Unfortunately they broke once when either Chris McAlister, Ed Reed or both were sucked up by the flea flicker to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I have to wonder if Ozzie Newsome kept the receipt on that new Ed Reed contract. What has happened to this playmaker? He dropped another potential interception. Overall a pretty decent effort against a prolific QB, limiting him to 227 yards of net passing offense.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
The Ravens lost B.J. Sams for the rest of the season and his absence was felt when Corey Ivy muffed a punt that cost the Ravens a possession. Flawless in his rookie season, long snapper Matt Katula hasnâ€™t been sharp lately and his poor snap on a Matt Stover 29 yard field goal changed the way the Ravens approached the game late in the contest. Ovie Mughelli was solid in punt coverage but the Ravens gave up a 38 yard punt return in the third quarter when they could least afford it. The defense bailed them out. Sam Koch was inconsistent, booming a couple and then hitting a few flat, returnable punts.