Jared Gaither returned to left tackle and turned in a stellar game. The other line results were mixed, however, as Michael Oher and Chris Chester both played poorly.
The Ravens ran 61 plays from scrimmage.
Gaither: Jared was effective as both a run and pass blocker. He connected on his lone pull on the game’s 2nd play leading Rice for an 8-yard gain. He had a pancake and 2 blocks in level 2. Less news is good news for any lineman. Scoring: 58 blocks, 3 missed, 58 points (.95 per play).
Grubbs: Ben allowed a very bad sack vs. the Broncos (Q4, 10:11). While maintaining the area between Gaither and Birk, each of whom was engaged with a lineman, Grubbs allowed Andre Davis to streak through the A gap for a free run at Flacco. Joe managed to dodge the initial contact, but turtled up for a 6-yard loss. Grubbs continues to provide some level 2 blocks (3) each week and pulled successfully on all 3 attempts. Unfortunately, he also allowed a pair of penetrations (Peterson and Williams). Scoring: 57 blocks, 1 missed, 2 penetrations, 1 sack, 47 points (.77 per play).
Birk: Matt continued a very solid season against the Broncos. He administered 3 pancakes and made 6 blocks in level 2 vs. the Broncos. His only significant mistake was a penetration allowed to Andre Davis (Q1, 2:15). Scoring: 58 blocks, 2 missed, 1 penetration, 55 points (.92 per play).
Chester: Chris did not allow a sack Sunday, but had a 2nd straight weak performance nonetheless. He was penalized twice, allowed a QH to Vonnie Holliday (Q3, 5:39), and a penetration to Davis (Q4, 10:50). He pulled successfully 4 of 5 times, but did not make any level 2 blocks as I scored it. Scoring: 54 blocks, 5 missed, 1 penetration, 1 QH, 1 false start, 1 holding, 40 points (.66 per play).
Oher: With the sneak preview for the blind side this week it would have been nice to report the on-screen story was simply a reinforcement of his feel-good performance from Sunday. This time it wasn’t Jared Allen or Antwan Odom across the LoS. Oher’s primary assignments were Ryan McBean, LeKevin Smith, and Darrell Reid, none of whom are better than adequate. Smith beat him for the sack with a simple bull rush that pushed him 4 yards into the backfield. LeKevin then turned right and collected Flacco who was in a very tight pocket. The play developed slowly, but Oher was cleanly beaten and left standing as Flacco went down. He had 2 pancakes and a block in level 2. Scoring: 58 blocks, 5 missed, 1 sack, 1 personal foul, 40 points (.66 per play).
The personal foul was a 9-point deduction from his score. If I were to ignore it, his score would have been .80. As I have often said, the system I use does not capture the quality of run blocks well. Oher certainly had a much better game as a run blocker (I have 3 of his missed blocks on running plays) and he wasn’t party to any of the numerous tackles for loss. I still believe he has the tools to be a Pro Bowl RT, but the consistency he’s shown has been in the wrong direction. Robert Geathers will be a good matchup for Michael. He’s a lousy pass rusher (he had a fine year as a situational pass rusher in 2006, but otherwise has never exceeded 3.5 sacks in a season) who plays the run well. If Oher can take him out of the game, the Ravens should be able to run effectively.
· The Ravens did not run a jumbo set.
· It will be interesting to see if the Bengals rely on their 4-man pass rush as much as they did 4 weeks ago. The Bengals secondary frustrated Flacco and the pass rush was just effective enough to force a large number of check-down throws. Since then, Gaither has returned, Oher has slid back to the right side, and Odom has been hurt. The Bengals 4 down linemen in passing situations, Fanene, Geather, Rucker, and Michael Johnson have combined for 4.5 sacks. With 2 weeks to prepare, however, I have to believe Zimmer will have a wrinkle to generate pressure. If not, Flacco will pick this defense apart.
· I went back to review each no huddle play in the Denver game. I didn’t uncover a zebra conspiracy. Dierdorf correctly identified 1 play (Q2, 4:57) where the referee appeared to hold up play when he should not have. The Ravens then substituted Kelley Washington for McClain and the referee again asked the defense if they were prepared. There were 2 other plays where the referee might have stopped play improperly, but I could not tell due to replay. I know Dan has his detractors, but he has a very engaging style, knows the game well, and I thoroughly enjoy his broadcasts. Like any of us, he says some silly things from time to time and I think he probably over-defends both officials and coaching decisions. Try listening to his color for either the 2000 home Jax game or the playoff game at Tennessee that same season. It’s obvious the guy loves his job.
· Kelley Washington is up with the league leaders in terms balls caught as a percentage of times targeted (24 of 30, 80%). He’s also had 12 catches on 3rd down and each has resulted in a 1st down. To put that in perspective, the Ravens have converted 48% of their 3rd down opportunities (good for 3rd in the NFL) and Kelley has converted 13% (12 of 95) of the team’s opportunities personally.