(TL is on vacation, so he asked me to put together his weekly Good, Bad, Ugly, & Megan Fox column. – Derek)
Well, there’s nothing like scoring the most points in franchise history (and most by any team in a single game in the NFL so far this season) to ease the collective mind of a Ravens fan base that hadn’t been exactly impressed by the team’s 6-2 start.
Well, yes and no.
While the mammoth 55-20 beat down that the Ravens put on the Oakland Raiders yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium was a beautiful thing to watch – and just what the doctor ordered after a string of less-than-impressive wins sandwiched around a similar beating that the Ravens were on the wrong side of in Houston – there were still some concerning aspects of the team’s play, especially considering that the schedule is about to get much, much more difficult.
Let’s take a minute and reflect back upon the win though, before we go full-bore into Steelers week.
THE GOOD: When you win by five touchdowns, there is bound to be plenty of “good” to go around. :deep breath: Anquan Boldin had just four catches for 38 yards, but three of the four moved the chains, and three of the four also came in the first half, when the game was at least marginally close…Likewise, Torrey Smith was quiet for most of the day, but made the most of his two catches, as both went for scores (47 and 20 yards, respectively)…Jacoby Jones also got in on the action, hauling in two passes for 54 yards, and adding his second kickoff return touchdown of the season…The tight ends made their triumphant return to the offensive game plan, as Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson combined for seven receptions for 126 yards.Pitta lead the team with five catches, and caught his first touchdown since Week 3 against New England…Paul Kruger had his first two-sack game since Week 8 of 2011 against Arizona, and added an interception on a very smart and athletic play where he read the screen and leapt to tip a Carson Palmer pass to himself…After nearly scoring on a similar play in 2008 against Dallas, and picking up a two-point conversion in the opening weekend Pittsburgh game in 2011, punter Sam Koch finally got into the end zone for his first career touchdown on a seven-yard fake field goal run…The guy he holds for, kicker Justin Tucker, was again solid, connecting from 48 and 34 yards in the first half. The rookie is now a very impressive 17/18 (94.4 percent) for the season…For as much grief as we give him around here, credit has to be given when due, and Cam Cameron put together a very effective game plan, utilizing the middle of the field much more than we’re used to seeing…Tandon Doss showed off both his hands, skying to haul in a 26-yard reception in the third quarter, and his elusiveness, making defenders miss on a 32-yard punt return that was unfortunately called back on a holding penalty..Bernard Pollard got beat on a wheel route on the Raiders’ opening possession, but rebounded nicely the rest of the afternoon, leading the Ravens with nine solo tackles and adding a sack. The team was extremely effective in both red zone and goal-to-go situations on both offense and defense. They scored touchdowns on 4/5 red zone attempts on offense, while holding Oakland to 0/3. The Ravens were 3/3 scoring touchdowns when they had go-to-go, and held the Raiders out of the end zone on their only opportunity…The defensive line, playing without Haloti Ngata (who was active but did not play a single snap), was very active and effective in getting their hands up when they were unable to get to pPalmer, tipping (Suggs 2, Tyson 2, Kruger, Upshaw) six passes at the line of scrimmage (two each from Terrell Suggs and Deangelo Tyson, and one apiece from Kruger and Courtney Upshaw)…On the other side, the offensive line protected extremely well, holding the Raiders without a single sack.
Whew. That was fun. Let’s hope the “good” list is just as extensive this time next week.
THE BAD: Ed Reed is clearly playing in a world of pain. On former Maryland Terrapin Darrius Heyward-Bey’s 55-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, Reed was in position to make the tackle, but simply bounced off DHB like a rag doll, not even attempting to wrap up. Reed stayed down on the field in obvious agony as the Raider speedster ran to the end zone. There was some miscommunication between Reed and Corey Graham on Denarius Moore’s 30-yard touchdown in the third quarter…Despite their strong pass blocking performance, the offensive line struggled mightily in the run game. Ray Rice averaged just 2.7 yards per carry on 13 attempts, and Bernard Pierce just 2.3 yards per carry on 10 attempts. Bobbie Williams was a weak link, and was replaced by Jah Reid after one quarter.
THE UGLY: Though everyone in the stadium knew that Carson Palmer was going to be throwing pretty much all afternoon, the Ravens pass rush generated only three sacks (one of which came as a gift when Palmer’s offensive lineman tripped him). With the huge lead, Dean Pees was admittedly able to be very vanilla with his schemes in the second half, but even with a simple four-man rush, it would have been nice to see more consistent pressure. Anthony Allen again displayed why he can’t be counted on as a backup running back, dropping a screen pass that would have gone for a big gain…the Ravens defense gave up 422 yards, as the team was outgained by three yards despite winning by 35.
THE MEGAN FOX: Joe Flacco was masterful. He went 21/33 for 341 yards and three touchdowns, and added another score on a QB sneak. His 10.3 yards per attempt tied Week 1 against Cincinnati for the third-highest in a single game of his career (12/28/08 vs. JAC 12.9, 12/13/09 vs. DET 11.5). The 80-yard touchdown drive Flacco led to end the first half and answer Heward-Bey’s touchdown when Oakland had closed to within 20-10 was, for all intents and purposes, the final straw for the Raiders. Joe made the right checks and audibles at the line of scrimmage all afternoon, including on the 47-yard touchdown to Torrey Smith. As always with Joe, he needs to stop the Jekyll-and-Hyde home-vs-road act. With the next two games away from M&T Bank Stadium against the league’s number one (Pittsburgh) and number seven (San Diego) defenses, Flacco needs to be much more the quarterback we saw against Oakland than the one we’ve seen in ugly road losses previously this season.