The Ravens entered the opener with no greater question mark than their offensive line.
When the game was finished, the offense had an impressive list of accomplishments:
· They looked comfortable in the no-huddle offense and tired the Bengals defense despite a modest play count
· The skill position players bailed out the line for some bad blocking (particularly on the 2nd drive) to score
· They did not turn the ball over and took advantage when Cincinnati failed to capitalize on turnover opportunities
· The offensive line was not penalized and allowed just a single tackle for loss on a running play.
· Ravens’ QBs had Ample Time and Space (ATS) on 20 of 35 drop backs and a combined QB rating of 125.7. This is especially impressive given the Bengals’ ability to successfully rush with 4 versus the Ravens in recent years.
· Pitta and Dickson returned after missing most of the preseason and performed well
· They responded to the Bengals’ string of 24 consecutive meaningful offensive snaps (11:53, excluding Flacco’s kneel) spanning halftime with an 89-yard TD drive that extended their lead to 11.
The Ravens had just 57 offensive snaps excluding Flacco’s kneel to end the first half and found playing time for all 8 of the offensive linemen who dressed. Meaningful snaps by player were Oher 49, Harewood 57, Birk 52, Yanda 45, Osemele 57, McKinnie 10, Williams 12, and Gradkowski 5.
Oher: Michael had a terrific 2nd half after struggling early versus 6’7” Michael Johnson. Most of Oher’s problems were confined to the 2nd drive of the game when the Ravens scored a TD nonetheless. On that drive, Oher:
· Allowed a QH to Johnson (Q1, 11:14) when he appeared to give up on the block
· Was bulled backwards by Johnson which may have interfered with the handoff to Boldin on the fumbled double reverse (Q1, 10:40)
· Was bulled 5 yards straight back by Johnson to disrupt Rice’s run (Q1, 8:43). Rice nonetheless cut back for a gain of 1 so I charged Oher with just a miss instead of a penetration.
· Was again pushed back on the 12-yard throw to Pitta (Q1, 6:39) to the point where Johnson was standing with his back facing Flacco and Joe tripped over his foot after the throw (scored as a miss, but could have been a pressure)
· Nearly tripped over Harewood who was comically late out of his stance on Rice’s 7-yard TD run (Q1, 6:08)
If you’re going to have a series that bad, it’s nice to get help from your friends. He contributed to the sack of Flacco on the Ravens last meaningful snap of the 1st half (Q2, 6:31) when Johnson induced a double team by crossing Oher’s face and left 2 blitzers off the edge for Ray Rice.
What’s the good news?
Oher returned from the locker room to miss just one 2nd half block in 21 snaps. He wasn’t penalized and accumulated 7 blocks in level 2 despite sitting out the last 9 plays. His play in the 2nd half was one of the big reasons for the Ravens 17-point offensive outburst (sandwiching Reed’s pick-6) that put the game away. Scoring: 41 blocks, 4 missed, ½ sack, 1 QH, 1 penetration, 33 points (.69 per play). That breaks down as .48 for the 1st half and .95 for the 2nd.
Harewood: Ramon was a visible part of some big plays on Monday. On Flacco’s 34-yard teardrop to Boldin (Q2, 12:34), Harewood was bulled into the quarterback by Geno Atkins as he threw. Atkins again created pressure via the bull rush on Flacco’s incomplete pass to Pitta (Q3, 7:54). Those 2 pressures were his only negative events although he had other plays where he looked lost, including:
· failing to block Peko (Q4, 14:48)
· allowing Johnson through untouched (Q3, 1:49) on Rice’s aborted halfback option
· getting out of his stance slowly on the first TD (Q1, 6:08)
He and Oher doubled Atkins on the Ravens second offensive play (Q1, 14:07). It amazed me that Geno was not pancaked on the play, but it opened a big hole. There was a lot to like about Harewood’s first NFL action, but I’m most impressed with the fact that he pulled successfully on all 4 attempts and had 3 blocks in level 2. That’s great mobility for a tackle coming off consecutive IR years with knee issues. Scoring: 51 blocks, 4 missed, 2 pressures, 47 points (.82 per play). That’s a solid C+ effort for a guard and I would grade it slightly higher subjectively given the quality of competition.
Birk: Matt was overwhelmed by the Bengals’ inside pass rush. He was flattened straight up for a sack by Atkins (Q1, 13:27). He surrendered a QH to Peko (Q3, 5:33) on which Birk tripped over Harwood’s right leg. He had some run blocking highlights including great push on Thompson to open a lane for Rice’s 6-yard run (Q2, 13:06) and a kickout of Peko (Q4, 6:55) to lead the way for Anthony Allen’s 6-yard run. Scoring: 48 blocks, 2 missed, 1 sack, 1 QH, 39 points (.75 per play). That’s a poor game for a center.
Yanda: He connected on all 8 of his pulls, many of which opened big holes (gains of 6, 3, 16, 6, 10, and 1 on the 6 pulls that were runs). The last of those 6 pulls was Rice’s 2nd TD. On Rice’s first TD (Q1, 6:08), Yanda pinned Peko on Birk, then moved to level 2 and kicked out Howard which opened up a canyon for Rice. Rice ran middle for 10 yards (Q3, 2:26) when Marshal knocked Geathers off his pins (engaged by Pitta), then kicked out Maualuga. Scoring: 44 blocks, 1 missed, 44 points (.98 per play). I think it’s clear from this game that last season’s slump in the final games was entirely injury related. In fact this was among his finest games as a Raven and will go up there with his 2009 playoff performance against New England (19 pulls) in terms of visual memories.
Osemele: Kelechi was simply outstanding. Flacco was knocked down on the first offensive play when Geathers effortlessly flicked Pitta to the ground as he beat him outside on the ORS. Osemele blocked inside then chased Geathers in vain. I mention it only because it appeared initially as a QH that would be charged to him. In fact I scored him with just 2 missed blocks. He moved to level 2, but found no block on the failed double reverse (Q1, 10:40) and he moved quickly to level 2 and missed a cut block on the screen left to Leach (Q2, 7:41). He had 2 blocks in level 2 and pancaked Geathers on Flacco’s 34-yard TD to Boldin (Q2, 12:34). Scoring: 55 blocks, 2 missed, 55 points (.96 per play). It’s very close to Oher’s 2009 opener against the Chiefs, detailed here as the best debut at tackle in Ravens history.
McKinnie: Bryant was inserted for the 2nd Rice TD run (Q4 14:09) as a tackle eligible and then again for the last series of the game. He made all 10 blocks including a pair in level 2. Scoring: 10 blocks, 10 points (1.00 per play).
Williams: I stopped the video to make a note about the sack Williams allowed to Atkins (Q4, 10:16). Williams has his right arm up high and pointed backwards. He appeared to be waving Atkins by on the outside. I can’t decide if he looks more like a matador or a traffic cop. Atkins took it easy as he knocked down Flacco. Williams made his other 11 blocks including a pull. Scoring: 11 blocks, 1 sack, 5 points (.42 per play).
Gradkowski: Birk was removed 4 plays into the final series and Gino replaced him. Scoring: 5 blocks, 5 points (1.00 per play).
Other Offensive Notes:
· Flacco had ATS on 18 of 32 drop backs (56%), a figure higher than his 49% aggregate rate for the last 2 seasons.
· With ATS, Flacco completed 13 of 18 throws for 164 yards, 0 TDs and 0 INT (9.1 YPP). The yards per play are somewhat better than his 2010-11 aggregate of 8.0, but he did not have a TD.
· The 2 near interceptions that were unpressured (Q1, 6:45, Howard and Q2, 6:35, Maualuga) are cause for concern.
· Without ATS he was 8 of 11 for 135 yards (114 net) including 3 sacks for -21 (8.1 YPP) with 2 TDs and 0 INT. Those stats are absurdly better than what we might expect (2-year aggregate is 3.9 YPP with a QB rating of 73.3). His QB rating without ATS was 153.4 on Monday night. It was an inverted game based primarily on the 52-yard bomb to Smith, the 34-yard TD to Boldin, and the 10-yard TD to Pitta, all of which were made under duress.
· It’s the nature of most fans to expect that their team can duplicate the successes and progress in eliminating mistakes. Like you, I’m thrilled with the first game, but Flacco will have great difficulty replicating his week 1 performance. He had an outstanding night of touch passing under pressure which he can’t expect to duplicate, must be more vigilant to avoid unforced errors, and is unlikely to be as effective with the no huddle on the road. That said, the game was a big step forward in terms of on-field command.
· This was a game where the skill position players minimized the damage from blocking errors with some great individual efforts. Ray Rice escaped the backfield on what could have been a loss of 5 yards (Q1, 8:43) when Johnson penetrated to blow up an apparent sweep left. Rice also turned a blown halfback option into a 7-yard run when Harewood failed to pick up the penetrating Peko (Q4, 14:48)
· Torrey Smith generated another 20-yard Pass Interference penalty. It’s good to see that trend continue and wholly expected. Smith is the clear favorite to lead the NFL in PI yards this season after his speed and Flacco’s arm combined to generate the 3 longest PIs in the NFL last season (60, 50, and 50 yards). They are a function of design and not luck or favoritism.
· After a difficult preseason, Jacoby Jones had a fine first game as a receiver. He went down to catch a low slant (Q1, 10:25) for a gain of 5. That’s something he did well last season and will add another 3rd down conversion option. On the next play, he put Newman in a position where he could not find the football (Q1, 9:46) and caught the ball by the right sideline to convert 3rd and 15. He hauled in a high missile by the right sideline (Q2, 13:40) over the leaping attempt from Newman then eluded 3 defenders for 11 YAC. He’s recorded as having caught all 3 passes on which he was the target, but based on both his and Joe’s reaction, I would guess he ran the wrong route on the Ravens first drive (Q1, 13:31).