The Ravens are like a levy that is breaking down and the leaks are becoming bigger and more plentiful. Sooner or later the whole thing begins to crumble particularly if the rain doesn’t stop. And for the Ravens the rain is pounding down in the form of injuries and ineptness on offense.
If the offensive players had the fire in their bellies like their defensive counterparts yesterday, it’s quite possible the Ravens could have given the Broncos a fight to the wire. But huge mistakes by Joe Flacco and an offensive line that played like their shoes were tied together proved to be too much for new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s punch-less unit to overcome.
The Ravens did end the day on a plus note – not of their own doing. When the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers it assured John Harbaugh & Co. of their fifth consecutive playoff appearance. Should the Ravens win one of their remaining two games they will clinch the AFC North. What does that say about the division this season?
THE GOOD: The defense gave a spirited performance and they deserved a better fate. Dean Pees opted to go with a nickel as a base defense for much of the game and it seemed to work. Josh Bynes filled in nicely as the defensive captain leading the team with 13 tackles. Albert McClellan also played well in certain sub packages. He chipped in with 4 tackles and a sack and also added two special teams tackles, one of which forced a fumble. Cary Williams knocked down a couple of long passes and supported the run well dropping RB Knowshon Moreno for a loss. Courtney Upshaw rebounded from a few consecutive less than desirable performances. He had 5 tackles, 2 of which were for losses. James Ihedigbo filled in very nicely for Bernard Pollard and was physical inside the box. Corey Graham played well and like Williams he supported the run on the edges well.
Dennis Pitta despite failing to haul in a tough catch for a first down in the second quarter and another that was well short of the sticks on third down had a career game with 7 catches for 125 yards and 2 TD’s…Jacoby Jones is a threat to break one on any kick return. He ran with purpose, vision and determination.
THE BAD: Anquan Boldin was shut out and as if to insult to injury, he took a cheap shot at the back of Broncos’ CB Chris Harris completely away from the play. It cost the Ravens 15 yards and it will probably cost Boldin $5K…Jimmy Smith seems to have about as much passion for football as Ed Reed does to staying with his assignment. He just doesn’t make any plays.
THE UGLY: Speaking of Ed Reed, if you are ever in need of a wingman and Ed volunteers, take a pass. He’ll leave you high and dry just as he did with Cary Williams yesterday on the long TD pass to Eric Decker from Peyton Manning. Reed was caught out of position a few times and Manning took advantage. And if that wasn’t enough, Reed pretended to be a high hurdle for an opposing ball carried as Moreno jumped right over him just as Brent Celek did during week 2 in Philadelphia.
The offense is embarrassing. They couldn’t muster a first down for the first 22 minutes of the game and had only 21 yards of offense in the first quarter. Their 7 first half possessions ended with 5 punts, a lost fumble and an interception…Many believe that Joe Flacco’s next 4 games (including yesterday) will amount to an audition for his next contract. If his performance against the Broncos is any indication, the Ravens should demand a rebate. The disconcerting stats aside, his two first half miscues (fumble and a pick six) arguably led to a 20 point swing. The fumble saw the Ravens give up great field position and possibly at least a FGA by Justin Tucker. The Broncos did capitalize with 3 points. Then the pick 6 inside of 25 seconds represented a 14 point swing. It was a game changer. Had the Ravens converted the TD from the Broncos 4 yard line the Ravens would have gone into the locker room down by 3 with the ball to open the second half. Instead it was over at 17-0.
Flacco certainly received no help from what has become a really bad offensive line. Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele were clumsy turnstiles and Matt Birk spent so much time on his back I started calling him Kim Kardashian. When executing screens, they were a mess. I’ve seen more coordinated schemes in electric football!
Ugly stats: Time of possession: 21:26 for the game; Third down conversions: 1 for 12; Eight possessions failed to produce a first down.
THE MEGAN FOX: If not for his two drops this would have gone to Dennis Pitta. However, it seems fitting that with 7 three and outs, the player of the game for the Ravens is Sam Koch. Koch averaged 50.4 yards on 7 punts with an average net of 45.7 yards. Now if only Sam had thrown from the formation a couple of times…