Ravens Week 1 Recap - A Tale Of Two Halves

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The Ravens 2016 kicked off in grand fashion yesterday. The boys came out in the first half and weren’t perfect, but they established a rhythm offensively and were able to move the ball down the field with ease. Better yet, a defense that was a major liability against the pass last year came out and impressed. If it wasn’t for a sloppy turnover and a few penalties, the Ravens would’ve been up by double digits at half instead of only up 10-7. They easily would’ve coasted to a win.

But that didn’t happen. They came out completely flat in the 2nd half and couldn’t move the ball at all. The defense still held up pretty well, but they started to show some cracks in the armor. Tyrod Taylor had all day to throw and it only felt like a matter of time until they broke through for a soul crippling play. Luckily both the offense and defense were able to make some important plays down the stretch and get a win, but it still didn’t leave a great taste in my mouth. This kind of football may work against the Buffalo’s and Cleveland’s of the world, but certainly won’t work against Cincy and Pittsburgh. Gotta clean it up. More thoughts on yesterday’s win:

OFFENSE

– Joe Flacco largely played a good game, but was by no means spectacular. 23/34 with 258 yards and a touchdown.  He had his stretches where it looked like he was wildly incompetent, and even lucked out with Ronald Darby dropping a sure interception. But for a guy coming off an ACL and MCL tear in his first game, you can’t really complain. There were a couple plays where he had an opportunity to tuck the ball and run and elected not to, but other than that, I didn’t really see the knee affect him much. The offensive line did a solid job of keeping him out of danger for the most part, so hats off to those guys.

– The most impressive part of Flacco’s day was his ability to spread the ball around. When he was moving the troops in the 1st half, everybody was getting some love. I’ve said time and time again that this is Flacco’s deepest supporting cast and it really showed. 10 different guys caught a pass from Joe, and nobody caught more than 5. If we can find a way to keep that rhythm for 4 quarters, the Ravens are going to win a LOT of football games.

– Mike Wallace and Joe are a match made in heaven. Look at this beauty. Just a little pitch and catch.

mike wallace

– On a more frustrating note, Trestman’s playcalling in key spots drove me up the wall, as it usually does. I understand that sometimes an offense doesn’t fire on all cylinders, but it seems like every time we get into a funk, he overthinks how to get out of it. Multiple times yesterday we got into a 3rd/4th and short in a spot where we were just thirsting for a first down, and he’d try to get too cute. Play-actions and toss plays ain’t Baltimore football. Just ram it down their fucking throats! Luckily he got a clue on that last drive and let West just bulldoze his way to a game-clinching first down but christ almighty, it shouldn’t take 3 or 4 failed attempts to learn that lesson.

– Sunday also marked the return of Steve Smith. When I saw this game face during warmups, I got fully torqued.

He lead the team in catches with 5, but didn’t really make his mark on the stat sheet otherwise. Still, you can’t ignore the bully’s presence.

– As much as I’ve raved about that first half, there was still a considerable amount of slop out there. A handful of false starts and a disgusting fumble when Jeremy Zuttah snapped the ball before Joe called for it. Without those drivekillers, the Ravens are probably up 2 touchdowns at the half and coast to a win.

– Ronnie Stanley was verrrrrry impressive in his debut. Same goes for Alex Lewis. Stanley was guilty for one of those false starts early, but he really settled in and did a great job protecting Joe. Joe was sacked 4 times, but none were on Stanley’s account as far as I know. The few plays when I keyed on Stanley, he did a great job of keeping his guy in front of him. The Bills aren’t really known for their pass rush (which is surprising given that it’s a Rex Ryan football team), but still very encouraging.

– I’m not sure anyone expected Dennis Pitta to play as much as he did, as he played 57 of 68 offensive snaps. 3 catches for 39 yards doesn’t look wildly impressive, but his 27 yarder in the 4th quarter was one of the key plays of the game. Great to see him make an impact again, and I’m sure we’ll see him celebrating in the end zone soon enough.

pitta

– Terrance West and Justin Forsett balanced out the run attack, and were just ok. Forsett got 10 carries and West getting a couple more with 12 mostly because of yardage situations. Like I mentioned before, I think Trestman got too cute trying to throw the ball on first down in the 3rd quarter. Even if we’re only getting a yard, we gotta keep at it and force the opposition to respect the run. That’s why Wallace was able to get behind the defense for his TD. Ultimately the run game closed out the football game, so I’m pretty pleased in that regard. I just want to see them succeed for 4 quarters.

– Breshad Perriman exists.

 DEFENSE

– Helluva day for the defense, keeping the Bills to only 160 yards and 7 points. They really came out with authority from the jump, shutting down Lesean McCoy on three straight plays for a quick 3 and out. Shareece Wright was especially impressive with 2 of those tackles, and carried that over to the rest of the game. He actually was the only player in this game to log double digit tackles with 11. Obviously he, like everyone else on D, had a great game in coverage too.

– I basically called Tyrod a fraud in the pregame blog yesterday, and I couldn’t have been more right. The Ravens goal was to contain and make him be a pocket passer. They did exactly that and he was exposed. I don’t like saying it because I really do like the guy, but it’s the truth. Last season was a fluke.

– The Ravens would’ve pitched a shutout if Albert McLellan could’ve just wrapped up Tyrod on a 3rd down late in the first half. It was really the only defensive play of the day that left me utterly disgusted. Gotta tip the cap to Tyrod for making a play out of nothing, even if it was just this once.

– 3rd down conversions were a major weakness for the Ravens last season, so it was good to see them make improvements there. The Ravens held the Bills to only 3 conversions on 13 attempts. It was tough not to think that the Bills were going to break through with a late drive because it happened so many times last season, but it never happened. Gotta credit Dean Pees and the secondary for getting a job done.

– Having said alllll these compliments, it was frustrating to see the pass rush completely disappear in the 2nd half. Maybe that’s why it felt like the Bills were ready to break out at any moment. Tyrod had all damn day back there. I realize that schematically the goal was to avoid getting too far upfield where the pocket would collapse and Tyrod would make plays with his feet, but damn. We’ll see how things change in week 3 when they face Bortles (I expect the gameplan to be very similar for RGIII this week), but I’d like to see some more pressure on the QB.

– Going along with that, Terrell Suggs also made his return yesterday. Honestly he didn’t look like his old self. He looked a bit sluggish off the line, and was hardly a factor. He did notch a late sack, but that was more of a product of a broken play where it was really anyone’s sack to be had. I’m hoping he’ll be more effective when Dumervil returns and they can work in tandem. The pass rush overall lacked a lot of speed and that’s what Doom brings to the table, so fingers crossed that he’ll be back soon.

– Timmy Jernigan did log himself a sack, which is encouraging. The defensive line isn’t one of the team’s deeper units and they have some young guys who need to step up, him being one of them. They did a great job of stuffing the run and forcing McCoy and Bush to try to bounce it outside, which is where they ran into Wright so many times. I also liked Matt Judon getting in there and giving Tyrod a good lick in the 2nd quarter. Judon and Z’adarius Smith both have opportunities to earn more snaps with Dumervil out, so keep an eye on them.

– Can’t help but think Eric Weddle’s addition was the key to the secondary’s performance. He made a few tackles and earned a pass defense, but it was clear that he was the traffic director back there. He brought some energy and attitude to the defense, which they needed badly. Gotta love it.

– This goes hand in hand with the pass rush, but it’s surprising to see a team dominate defensively like that without forcing a turnover. Luck plays a big part in that, so we’ll see if 1.) the defense can keep this kind of performance up and 2.) that leads to a flood of takeaways. It’s fun to think that they can play that well and actually deserve an even better outcome.

Special Teams

– Justin Tucker was nails. We don’t like to talk about it, but Tucker had himself a down year in 2015. I don’t think anyone was ready to get too worried about it, and his contract extension shows it, but it’s still encouraging to see him knock down a 50 yarder earlier yesterday. Especially given that he’s dealing with natural grass for the first time at M&T Bank Stadium (which looked great by the way, hopefully it holds up)

– Devin Hester was unspectacular, if not poor. With a guy like him it’s boom or bust so I’m not worried about it, but I could’ve done without that 8 yard loss on the punt return late in the 4th. Gotta be smarter than that and just take what the coverage team gives you when you’re protecting a lead. Hopefully he’ll strike gold against Pittsburgh or Cincinnati later this year and we’ll crown him a hero.

That’ll do it for Week 1. This week the Ravens probably copy/paste their gameplan and head to Cleveland to take on Subway Bob. 1-0 going on 2-0. Tell em Joe.