A Jekyll and Hyde Performance
One game at a time.
First things first.
All that matters is the “W”.
Win the division first.
Once you get to the playoffs, anything can happen.
These are all oft-used clichés bantered about the NFL as regularly as Steelers fans lose teeth. Yet the regularity doesn’t diminish the message or weaken the validity.
Heading into Week 10 the Ravens were faced with an opportunity to grab sole possession of first place in the AFC North if they could just take care of business against their archrivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers and then be ungracious hosts to the winless and hapless Cleveland Browns on Thursday.
This week’s opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, helped the Ravens quest to capture the North by knocking off the Steelers 35-30 dropping Pittsburgh to (4-5) on the season. RSR’s Ken McKusick shared some interesting divisional metrics yesterday on Twitter:
@FilmstudyRavens I would like to subscribe to your newsletter
— Whisky Jean (@Whisky_Jean) November 14, 2016
The remainder of the schedule plays out like this for the Ravens:
* Home: Bengals (11/27), Dolphins (12/4), Eagles (12/18)
* Away: Cowboys (11/20), Patriots (12/12), Steelers (12/25), Bengals (1/1)
If the Ravens can take care of business at home and get one from the Steelers or Bengals on the road…
But first things first.
Thursday’s game against the Browns revealed an offense with a split personality. The Ravens offense continues to lack an identity but during that second half, maybe they discovered something to build upon. Maybe the Ravens, despite the ugliness that is visible in the rearview mirror, are beginning to put the building blocks together for a successful season.
“To gain real confidence, you have to do something. I think, as a team, we’ve been fighting and competing and working hard, and all that stuff. When you lay a foundation of effort, and you have a bunch of men of faith and character that believe in one another, and live their faith out the way our guys do, that’s really important. Then, when you do something with it, when you have success like we have the last couple of weeks, that brings something more to the table.” ~ John Harbaugh on if [the Ravens are] confident that they can compete in each game
It’s not about where you’ve been, but more about where you’re going.
Not about how you start, but how you finish.
Ah, those clichés…
It was a tale of two halves for Joe Flacco and clearly he delivered in the second half after an abysmal effort before intermission against the league’s 31st ranked defense. By quickening the pace of play via the no huddle attack, there’s an energy about Flacco missing when the offense breaks the traditional huddle and moves to the line of scrimmage at a snail’s pace. He’s far more effective when there’s less time to think and opponents have less time to insert various sub-packages or dial up blitzes that ambush a Ravens offense that seldom adjusts pre-snap to the things unfolding in front of them.
Flacco had a passer rating of 66.8 and 6 points before the break when “executing” Marty Mornhinweg’s game plan. After the break when playing street ball, he had a 120.8 passer rating and 22 points. This isn’t anything new for Flacco and why the Ravens don’t play more street ball is maddening. Maybe it’s all about OC’s trying to justify their existence. Check egos at the door! Please? By the way, that throw to Darren Waller in the back of the end zone for Joe’s first scoring strike was a thing of beauty. When in the red zone, run to the edges, throw to the middle.
Nice to see Kenneth Dixon gaining confidence. He had 80 yards from scrimmage and the majority of his 59 rushing yards came after contact…Steve Smith, Sr.’s energy is infectious and eventually that will be tough to replace. He had 60 yards on 5 catches including a TD and of course his worthy rendition of Ray Lewis’ squirrel dance. He passed Reggie Wayne an into 8th place in all-time receiving yards. Canton awaits! …Mike Wallace chipped in with 59 yards on 4 catches and you have to like the crossers that provide an opportunity for YAC. He’s on pace for a 1200-yard season…Breshad Perriman caught his first TD, a contested catch. Hopefully this will be a launching pad for the 2nd-year, quasi-rookie… Rick Wagner’s clutch season continues. His number is rarely called and that’s a good thing when you line up at tackle. He will cash in (hopefully in Baltimore) and is currently PFF’s 19th-ranked tackle in the NFL.
Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce and Lawrence Guy were all stout across the defensive front. Williams and Pierce are such a formidable duo and their combined efforts greatly aid the play of Zach Orr and CJ Mosley…Jerraud Powers is beginning to stack games and has provided quality play as the team’s nickel. He was Johnny-on-the-Spot and snared a teed up INT courtesy of Terrell Suggs…Tavon Young is so technically efficient in both his tackling and technique and he possesses a keen nose for the football, uncommon for a 4th-round draft pick. He has the potential to be special…Lardarius Webb capped a productive week of play with back-to-back solid efforts. His well-timed blitz to sack Cody Ressler is something to build on and he finished the play without leaving his feet and delivering a textbook tackle.
Joe Flacco’s first half was at best bad, and should fall into ugly but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt given his second half performance. He’s failed to correct so many things, not the least of which is cadence, failure to sell screens and locking in on receivers. Many think that Flacco is a good long ball thrower. He’s not. Don’t confuse a strong arm with a good long ball. There’s a difference. Several times this season we’ve seen something like this unfold.
A throw to the inside of Aiken is an easy pitch and catch – or at least it should be with a hose like Flacco’s. But instead of throwing to the inside, Flacco throws it behind Aiken, effectively slowing the receiver down as he tries to adjust to the errant pass and that allows Haden time to close the gap on the sufficient separation.
The result is another missed opportunity due to another errant long pass.
The Ravens choked down on the penalties a tad but in comparison to the Browns, a much younger team playing on the road during a short week, there’s still some clean up required. The Ravens were flagged 6 times for 61 yards to the Browns 3 for 35. The Ravens are tied for the 6th most penalized team in the NFL. None of their AFCN rivals are in the top 18…Tim Jernigan was flagged twice for being offsides. C’mon man! …Vlad Ducasse got the nod over Ryan Jensen at right guard. Ducasse was awful while Jensen played decently before apparently taking a seat in the doghouse…Ronnie Stanley was better while matched up against fellow rookie Emmanuel Ogbah, but he still looked sluggish at times with his footwork. Maybe he hasn’t quite fully healed. Let’s hope that’s the case. So far his rookie campaign pales in comparison to (gulp), Michael Oher’s.
Terrance West and Dennis Pitta looked like matadors in pass protection. Consider these screen shots that illustrate Pitta’s inefficiencies. The tight end was actually held in to “pass protect” and instead he handed out a complimentary guest pass to the first Brown that came along.
If Pitta does his job, the Ravens have this play blocked up nicely. Instead the play breaks down because Pitta thought – check that, I have no idea what Pitta was thinking. Neither did Flacco who ended up on his back.
Joe Flacco’s direction of the two-minute offense is ridiculously inept…On first and goal from the 5 during the third quarter the Ravens lined up with a 3-receiver bunch to the right with West as a single back. They tried to run the ball through the A-Gap. You bunch up, bring in defenders and then run into them? C’mon man! Mornhinweg’s route combos, whether they are his or Trestman’s or designed by some kid playing piñata, too often lead receivers into the same area attracting more defenders. With the Ravens speed you’d think Marty Ball might be more interested in spreading the field on a regular basis. When they do, as evidenced by the crossers that yield impressive YAC, easy passes can lead to great results while tempering the opponent’s pass rush and ambition to blitz.
THE MEGAN FOX AWARD
We were concerned that he’d show up to camp out of shape. He didn’t. We were concerned that he might be too long in the tooth to continue to set the edge and get after the quarterback. He isn’t. We thought he might be done for the season after suffering a torn bicep against the Giants. He’s not! Terrell Suggs rebounded from a relatively pedestrian effort against the Steelers with an outstanding one just a few days later against the Browns. He had four pressures, a strip-sack and a deflected pass that was picked by Powers. That’s 6 impactful plays during 25 pass rush attempts against a 9-time Pro Bowler in Joe Thomas.
Although he has previously been bestowed with a Lifetime King Ugly Achievement Award, on Thursday T-Sizzle’s outing was a thing of beauty and deserving of the MFA!
— Tony Lombardi (@RSRLombardi) November 14, 2016