Here’s how the Ravens graded out in their 44-20 win over the Lions.
Joe Flacco played undoubtedly his most impressive and complete game of the season. He finished 23-36 for 269 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His numbers would have been even better had it not been for a couple of bad drops by Jeremy Maclin and Chris Moore that stalled drives.
Flacco made a couple of great throws including one where he hit Mike Wallace for 66 yards in stride that put the Ravens at the one-yard line. He also made smart decisions and threw the ball away when nothing was there. He still doesn’t go through all of his reads which causes him to at times miss open receivers including a wide-open Jeremy Maclin today who would have had an easy touchdown.
But if Flacco can hit his stride down the stretch and consistently make plays and smart decisions like he did today, the Ravens’ chances of getting back to the playoffs for the first time in three years greatly improve.
Running Backs: B+
Another impressive performance by Alex Collins. The Ravens’ bell cow finished the day with 75 yards on 15 carries for a solid 5 YPC and two touchdowns including one that all but sealed the game. Collins continues to break tackles with physical runs and rack up yards after contact. He also continues to improve as a pass catcher and had a big third down conversion in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens still don’t have a homerun hitter with breakaway speed at running back, but Collins is proving he can be an every down back in the NFL. That physical running game will be vital to the Ravens as the weather gets colder down the stretch.
It also puts Flacco at his best when he has an effective running game that sets up the play action pass.
Receivers/Tight Ends: B
Mike Wallace stepped, up going for over 100 yards for the second time this season including a big play for 66 yards when he got major separation from the Lions secondary. Ben Watson also had a couple of nice catches including one that extended a drive and another that went for a touchdown off of play action from the one-yard line.
But the Ravens had a couple of bad drops on third down by Maclin and Chris Moore. Both were fairly routine catches that would have extended drives early in the game. The Ravens were able to overcome them against a mediocre Lions defense, but they’ll need to play a cleaner game against stiffer competition including next week against Pittsburgh.
Breshad Perriman was a healthy scratch for the second time in three games and it’s fair to wonder if he will be next week as well. Michael Campanaro and Moore both add elements to special teams and the return game that Perriman doesn’t.
Offensive Line: A+
If Greg Roman isn’t at the very least an offensive coordinator somewhere next season it will be shocking. The job that he has done with a cast that includes late-round picks and undrafted free agents has been one of the most impressive parts of the Ravens season.
For a brief stretch in the beginning of the second half the Lions dialed up the pressure, but Roman adjusted and was quickly able to offset the rush. Flacco wasn’t sacked once all day, he had ample time to throw on most dropbacks and the ground game was effective, especially down the stretch as the Ravens were trying to put the game away.
The Lions defensive front isn’t one of the more intimidating in football, but anytime a quarterback goes a full 60 minutes without being sacked once it’s an impressive performance by the O line.
Ronnie Stanley doesn’t seem to be feeling any of the effects of whatever knee injury he sustained last week, and that’s great news for a line that’s already been decimated by injuries.
Defensive Line: B+
The Ravens made the Lions one-dimensional on offense but that was almost a given going into the game. The Lions totaled a mere 78 yards on 24 carries and 33 of those yards came on one scamper by Tion Green in the third quarter.
Michael Pierce finished tied for second on the team with six tackles, Brandon Williams shed a double team to stop the Lions for no gain on a key 3rd and 1 and Willie Henry continues to make plays as he emerges as this year’s biggest surprise.
The Ravens didn’t get a ton of interior pass rush throughout the game, but they accomplished the goal of making the Lions one dimensional on offense. That led to Matthew Stafford making several key mistakes including the interception that sealed the game in the fourth quarter.
Ravens linebackers had a hard time generating much pressure against a patchwork offensive line for the Lions. They also struggled in coverage against Lions tight ends who caught 7 passes for 71 yards including some key third downs.
However, the unit combined for 18 tackles including a team-leading 7 by Patrick Onwuasor, 6 of which were solo.
Terrell Suggs continues to dominate each week and be the best defensive player on the field despite being the oldest. What might have been most impressive about Suggs today, though, was what he did off the field. When the defense went through a rough stretch and surrendered a touchdown on a drive that lasted less than two minutes, Suggs gathered the unit on the sideline to regroup. He has never been viewed as the leader that either Ray Lewis or Ed Reed were, but Suggs has stepped up and done a great job filling that void this year.
It will be key to have that voice in the locker room as the Ravens enter a critical stretch.
Defensive Backs: C+
It was really a tale of two halves for the Ravens on the back end of their defense. After shutting down Stafford in the first half, he at one point completed 19 straight pass attempts. The secondary gave up 294 yards through the air and 204 of that came in the second half. It was easy to quickly see the impact of Jimmy Smith going down with a season-ending Achilles injury.
Stafford picked on Marlon Humphrey early and often and it was a real struggle for the first-round rookie. The Ravens invested heavily in their secondary this offseason and they’ve remained remarkably healthy up to this point, but Smith was one of the players they could least afford to lose.
There is depth there but no corner that matches up with number one receivers the way Smith can. The Ravens will find out quickly next week when they face Antonio Brown and the Steelers if they’re able to minimize the damage of losing their top corner.
Special Teams: A-
Well, no fake punts this week but the special teams unit turned in another top-flight performance regardless. Sam Koch continues to drop punts inside the ten-yard line, and Justin Tucker was perfect including a huge field goal from 51 yards that put the Ravens up 10 points with six minutes to play.
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of a great special teams unit but Ravens fans witnessed the other side of that today against the Lions. Matt Prater – who is viewed as one of the better kickers in the league – missed a short field goal and extra point early on. Those misses don’t seem critical especially when you lose by 24 points, but they can kill some of the momentum that’s created by long drives and touchdowns.
The only blemish on special teams today was a fumble by Michael Campanaro that was recovered by the Ravens anyway. The Ravens special teams unit continues to be a major weapon.
The Ravens finally opened up the playbook and it resulted in their best offensive performance of the year. The offense has frequently looked predictable, lacked creativity and been out-coached by their counterpart on the other sideline, but that wasn’t the case today.
Give Marty Mornhinweg credit for staying aggressive and keeping his foot on the pedal even when the Ravens were up. This team has often seemed like it was playing not to lose instead of playing to win a game but not against the Lions.
The Lions made some good halftime adjustments that resulted in a quick touchdown after the half but other than that it was a good game plan by the Ravens on both sides of the ball.