Well folks, what can I say? The Ravens just don’t seem to have “it” right now.
Defensively, they’re looking more and more like last year’s defense, which couldn’t get off the field and stop the run. I was happy to see Jameel McClain able to suit up, but he just looked so slow out there on the field. I think having him out there at all unless it’s absolutely necessary is a mistake.
However, I’m a bit stumped to the personnel decisions being made by the coaching staff. This leads me to my next point: Gino Gradkowski. It isn’t like the entire offensive line is playing particularly well, but he is missing blocks left and right and is getting pushed back into the backfield on passing plays. Joe Flacco can’t step up into the pocket and runs up the middle are consistently netting a loss of yards. And in all of that, 3 of the 4 losses this year are by a grand total of 8 points.
This team has talent and the issues are identifiable. Hopefully a much needed Bye week will be something that can give the coaches a little more time to figure some personnel issues out because the next couple of weeks are “must win” games.
Offensive Grades, Overall GRADE: C-
On whole, I thought the offense wasn’t terrible this week. What really gets under my skin is their inability to start fast. It seems like every week the offense just takes the entire first half off and only starts to play when they’re behind in the second half. The offensive line is the biggest problem on the team, but Coach Caldwell and Coach Harbaugh could do some things to work its obvious deficiencies.
I do like that the game plan today included a lot of short, quick passes designed to get the ball into the hands of their play makers, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss and Marlon Brown. If it were not for the receivers and Joe Flacco, this team likely wouldn’t have a win.
• Joe Flacco, 24 of 34, 215 yards, 1 TD. GRADE: B+. I would have gladly given Flacco an A had he not underthrown Jacoby who was streaking down the field and had a clear shot at a touchdown. Granted, Pittsburgh cornerback, William Gay, jumped all over Jacoby as soon as the ball got there so I cannot honestly say if it would have been a sure touchdown or not. Frankly, I was a little disappointed that the refs didn’t flag Gay for pass interference. Maybe that’s me being a homer, maybe not. Considering the running game continued to be abysmal, I’m thoroughly impressed with Flacco. I thought he did a great job getting into a rhythm and he made some incredible throws; namely the throw to Doss in the middle of the field. That pass is not a pass that many quarterbacks can make because the window of opportunity remained open for just a split.
• Ray Rice, 19 touches, 45 yards rushing, 27 yards receiving. GRADE: C. I thought Rice looked a lot more like himself today on some plays, but he is still sluggish and lacks any kind of lateral burst. Whether that is from his hip injury or other factors, I’m not sure. However, I think the Ravens really need to stop with the thought process of Rice needing to be a focal point of the game plan each week. Rice is a great person and he can still have a role in this offense, but I just don’t see the player that commands defensive respect each and every week. I think Torrey Smith needs to be that player now.
• Offensive Line, 3 yards per carry, 1 sack, several quarterback hurries. GRADE: D+. It is pretty clear that this offensive line just cannot run block at all. The lack of a running game is absolutely killing this team, especially the offense. Gino Gradkowski may develop into a good player, but he’s the weak link on this offensive line and he’s just getting blown back into Flacco consistently. There was one play in particular where Gino reached back to block Cameron Heyward, who was being blocked by Kelechi Osemele, and completely missed Polamalu. Polamalu went on to tackle Rice in the backfield for a loss. If the Ravens had a viable option outside of Gino, he’d probably already be benched. AQ Shipley is one of the more popular names on fan forums these days, but he was terrible during the pre-season. Who knows though, he can’t be any worse than Gino…can he?
• Jim Caldwell, GRADE: B. I actually thought the offensive game plan this week was much better than in weeks past. There is still an obvious lack of “feel” when it comes to calling the game, but I liked that they got Rice more involved as a receiver than continually trying to pound him into a wall 20 times per game. Additionally, I liked the short passing game. Bill Walsh’s offensive game philosophy was utilizing the short passing game in place of the running game. I just don’t see the Ravens being able to run the ball well at all this year, so they might as well go to more of a West Coast style of offensive play design and get the ball out quickly.
Defensive Grades, Overall GRADE: D
I think they did a pretty good job pressuring Roethlisberger and making him move around, but at the end of the game Roethlisberger didn’t need to do too much. Le’Veon Bell ran all over the Ravens and what started as a crap performance against Eddie Lacy and the Packers seemingly carried over into this week against another rookie running back and an offensive line decimated by injuries. The entire off-season was dedicated to bolstering the offense because the Ravens’ Front Office and coaching staff felt that last year’s Super Bowl winning defense was not good enough, yet the overall performance of this defensive unit doesn’t really seem to be THAT much better.
Was it really worth spending the entire off-season investing in the defense and not the offense? I’m beginning to wonder and I think it is a good question to ask.
• Elvis Dumervil, 3 tackles, ½ sack, 3 penalties. GRADE: D. Doom…seriously? Three penalties on the SAME drive? You’re better than that.
• Brandon Williams, 1 tackle, 1 sack. GRADE: B+. I think Brandon Williams is going to be an absolute stud for this defense. As he matures and develops better technique, he’ll continue to be a playmaker. He has quick feet and incredible strength. His 1-handed sack on Ben Roethlisberger is something that not many defensive linemen are capable of doing. With better technique and more experience I definitely think he has the talent to develop into a Casey Hampton/Vince Wilfork type of defensive lineman.
• Corey Graham, 4 tackles, 1 pass defensed. GRADE: D. Graham made one good play on a pass to Emmanuel Sanders that he knocked down as it hit Sanders’ hands. However, on a critical 3rd down play at the end of the game, Roethlisberger went right at Graham and he couldn’t make a tackle to keep their placekicker out of field goal range. Graham played really well last year, but that ship seems to have sailed. Graham has given up a lot of plays as a nickel corner this year and now all of a sudden he can’t tackle. Asa Jackson can’t get back soon enough. I fully expect Jackson to eat into Graham’s playing time, especially as a nickel corner.
• Dean Pees, GRADE: F. I’m sorry, but this is the second week in a row that the Ravens have been run all over. Le’Veon Bell rushed 19 times for 93 yards, which is an average of just under 5 yards per carry. What’s worse is the Steelers have one of the more incapable offensive lines in the NFL, but you wouldn’t have known that today. Last week, the Steelers allowed Roethlisberger to get sacked 4 times against the Jets. Against the Vikings, Roethlisberger was sacked 5 times. The defense played like they didn’t even make the trip to Pittsburgh. They couldn’t get off the field and even when they were well rested, they couldn’t muster up enough to stop Roethlisberger from driving down the field.
John Harbaugh, Overall Team GRADE: C-
Hey Harbs…so about those “changes”…yea. 2.83 yards per carry Coach. Also, I appreciate the gutsy call with attempting a fake onside kick, but the Ravens were only down 4 points and there was 13+ minutes left in the game. I guess Harbs doesn’t have faith in the defense’s ability to get off the field. Though there are statistics that show a surprise onside kick is likely to be successful, the Ravens executed it poorly and as a result they gave Pittsburgh excellent field position. Overall, the team just didn’t even look like they were into it today. Too often this year the Ravens seem lackluster and generally uninterested in giving 100%. It almost comes across as if they don’t entirely believe in themselves, so why bother?
Special Teams, Overall GRADE: C.
I thought the surprise onside kick coupled with the squib kick were two of the main reasons that the Steelers were able to eek out a win today. Emmanuel Sanders took the squib kick and if it weren’t for about ¼” of his heel going out of bounds around the 50 yard line, he would have scored a touchdown for sure. The kick coverage has been really inconsistent this year, yet they keep investing in supposed “Special Teams Aces” like Corey Graham and Jeromy Miles. Where were those guys?
• Justin Tucker, 3/3 with a long of 46 yards. GRADE: A. Tucker continues to show why he is one of the best placekickers in the NFL. If it weren’t for him, the Ravens wouldn’t even be in most games.