This game wasn’t all that different from last week’s game against Buffalo. It was another tale of two halves. This time the Ravens came out completely flat and played some disgusting football before they found their groove late in teh 2nd quarter and dominated the rest of the way. It took a shut down effort at the end to close it out and they got the job done yet again.
You can look at things one of two ways. You can look at the negatives and acknowledge just how bad this football team can be when they’re struggling. They find no sort of rhythm, give up long 3rd down conversions, and drop sure touchdowns. Orrrr you could take the positive approach and take solace in the fact that 2 of the 4 halves they’ve played this year have been complete and utter domination. Sure the competition has been weak, but you gotta build on something.
I prefer to take the positive outlook. This year’s Ravens are very much a work in progress and they’re going to need to play 4 complete quarters of good football to beat the Steelers and Bengals, but they don’t have to do that for a while. They don’t have to be perfect right now, as frustrating as it can be to watch. I’m just thankful that they’re closing out games in the end and not letting the negatives outweigh the positives. They easily could’ve packed it in yesterday and taken that L sitting down, but they didn’t. I love the resiliency and the mental fortitude of these guys. I think wins like these are ones to build on and will pay off down the road when adversity rears its ugly head again. More thoughts on the win:
– Allow me to start off with a gripe. Marc Trestman has completely exhausted my patience when it comes to playcalling in key situations. Even after we get a win, I walk away steamed that we keep running those stupid toss plays out of the shotgun on 3rd and 1. Stop trying to get cute with every play call and just pound the damn rock! I feel like I say this every week. The worst playcall of all was the toss left on 2nd down late in the 4th quarter when we’re trying to kill clock. Yes, Forsett needs to do a better job of staying in bounds, but it’s completely maniacal that we called a toss in that situation in the first place. We’ve got the best guard in football on the right, just pound that gap inside the tackle. Stop trying to be a headset hero.
On top of that, it wasn’t until Flacco confronted Trestman about taking some shots downfield in the 2nd quarter that this offense started to move the ball. I can’t help but think that these two just don’t mesh well. Trestman loves his toss plays and slants, when it seems like those are the kinds of plays that are constantly getting us in trouble. With Joe’s arm, we’ve got to be throwing the ball downfield, and all Trestman wants to do is throw short. Completion percentage doesn’t win football games, touchdowns do. The worst part of all with Trestman is that every time we find success doing things one way, it’s right back to the old way the next week. Flacco called the audible at the line that resulted in the Ravens’ only touchdown last week too. Maybe he should be OC?
– Anyway, another mixed performance from Flacco. The pick that he threw when they were already in a 14-0 hole was just brutal, and he definitely could’ve thrown a better deep ball on the 2nd one in the end zone. Other than that though, I can’t say there were any other throws that left me disgusted. When they got the ball down 20-2 towards the end of the 1st half, I knew they needed to put a drive together and grab some momentum going into the half. Joe did exactly that, and was slinging it all over the place. He looked as good and moved the offense as methodically as I can remember since the Super Bowl year on that drive. He’s definitely had some stretches the past 2 weeks where he looks like the elite QB we all know that he is, and that’s a product of him having so many options around him. Excited to see him continue to build on that.
– Mike Wallace obviously was the hero in the red zone with the 2 TD catches, but there was no doubt who the best pass catcher on the Ravens was yesterday. Dennis Pitta is BACK BABY. Guy was giving the chain gang a workout all game. 9 catches for 102, with most of those catches coming on key 3rd downs to sustain drives. He’s moving as freely and comfortably as he ever did before the hip injuries, if not better. Him and Joe are gelling like old times. It’s really fun to watch and I can’t wait to watch it continue to flourish, fingers crossed.
– Steve Smith was quiet on the score sheet for the most of the game, except for dominating on the 2 drives to close the first half and open the 2nd half. 3 catches for 64 yards was the vast majority of the offense on those 2 drives. But he his presence was felt all game, especially on this block to spring Pitta for a long gain. Gotta love the bully.
Guy moved into the top 10 in all-time receiving yards too, so kudos to him on that, even though it’s clear he only cares about getting the W in the end.
– The running game never really got going yesterday, but I have to say that Terrence West looked like the better back yet again. The thing that separates the two is the pass-catching. West dropped an easy first down early in the first quarter and didn’t see many more snaps the rest of the half. One of these games we’re going to be able to pound it inside with one of these two running backs, and my gut feeling at this point is that it’s going to be West.
– Chris Moore dropping that sure TD felt like an absolute backbreaker at the time, especially after the Ravens went for it and failed on 4th and 2. It was 20-2 and the Ravens need something… ANYTHING to get themselves going offensively, and all he had to do it was catch it and waltz into the end zone. Moore isn’t a guy who we necessarily have huge hopes for, but could be a nice contributor for us down the road. The last thing a guy in his position needs to be doing is giving everyone a reason not to trust him. Alls well that ends well with the win, but people in Baltimore won’t be so quick to forget it if it happens again.
– Pass protection was satisfactory yesterday given that they didn’t allow any sacks. It wasn’t perfect though, as Joe took a few hits and was pressured more often than I’d like to see. There was the chop block that killed the one drive, but other than that, I can’t really complain about the OL play much. I’d like to see them bully the front 7 more on the ground, but overall a good performance from them.
– The defense also started out incredibly sluggish and it looked like McCown was going to have his way with the Ravens yet again. They were TERRIBLE on 3rd down stops and just couldn’t get themselves off the field in the early going. I want to say the Browns were something like 7/8 on 3rd down in the first half? But on the flip side, they finished at 8/15, which goes to show how starkly different the defense performed in the 2nd half. Jekyll and Hyde indeed.
– Corey Coleman is going to be a problem for a while in this division. That cat can ball. They made a lot of comparisons in the draft between him and Steve Smith, and I can confirm that there’s a resemlance between him and SSS in his prime. He’s a fiery guy too, and I’m jealous that he’s not one of ours. He started out the game with a big 31 yard TD catch on 3rd and 10 on the opening drive…. or was it???
Listen, all’s well that ends well and we got a win. It’s just irritating that the NFL still can’t get this whole replay thing right. I understand that the referees couldn’t get a TV angle good enough to see definitive evidence to overturn the call. It was definitely one of those plays where you could say with 80% certainty that he was out, but you need 100% certainty. But that’s the entire issue. How in the world do we not have HD cameras or lasers on the end lines, sidelines, and goal lines at this point? It’s 2016 for chrissakes. Tennis, volleyball, all these sports have these computer systems that zoom in on the line and give definitive answers. With the bajillion dollars the NFL brings in, how can they not afford to put this into place? We’ve got some Joe Schmo from the Associated Press getting a PERFECT photo of this play, but we can’t get a computer that can give us an answer. Unbelievable.
– I really don’t know what to say about that long Crowell run. That’s so uncharacteristic of the Ravens, even when they’re at their worst. I can’t remember the last time they gave up a long house call on the ground. Take out that 85 yard TD and Crowell had 17 carries for only 48 yards. We’ll just chalk that up to a fluke and pretend it never happened.
– Going with that, the tide really turned when McCown airmailed his receiver late in the first half and Weddle was there to pick it off. I was really pleased to go into the half having cut the lead to 20-9, and McCown really gifted us with one there so that we could cut it to an 8 point game. It took until the Ravens’ 4th game against Josh fucking McCown to finally pick him off, but once they did, he was back to being an ordinary QB. It got us over that hump.
– It felt like we were eventually gonna turn a corner with McCown because the D-line was beating him relentlessly back there. The Browns’ biggest problem is their OL, ain’t nobody safe back there. McCown was on his ass every other play, and I think there’s a good chance he separated his non-throwing shoulder. Guy was tough as nails playing through it, gotta tip the cap there.
– The guy who has really caught my eye on the DL through two weeks is Michael Pierce. Where the hell did this guy come from? Undrafted rookie this year out of Samford, and he’s not just getting snaps… he’s wreaking havoc out there. He notched his first career sack, and he’s been strong inside against the run. What a steal that guy is, credit to the scouting department on finding him.
– CJ Mosley obviously played a great game, and it wasn’t just the game-winning interception. He was flying from sideline to sideline stopping the run, and was effective blitzing on 3rd down, grabbing himself a sack there too. It’s easy to forget he’s out there sometimes because he just put his head down and does his job so well. It’s his 3rd year and I think he’s really putting himself into the discussion of best inside linebackers in the league.
– Lastly on the defensive side, it was really cool to see these guys rally around the death of defensive line coach Clarence Brooks. It’s clear how much of an impact this guy had on everyone in the organization and it showed in the locker room postgame when Harbs dedicated the game ball to him. Cancer sucks.
– Special teams gets an A+, no doubt. We’re used to Justin Tucker making his kicks and Sam Koch pinning the opposition deep, but the coverage teams were exceptional too and Devin Hester had a couple good returns to set up good field position. Best of all, two blocked kicks were truly the difference in the game. A block and return for 2 points is basically a 3-point swing, and they got a piece of another FG attempt later in the game too. That’s a 6 point swing in a game that came down to one last possession. Special teams is always going to be a strength of a John Harbaugh football team, and yesterday was a great example of that.
All in all, can’t do better than 2-0. Yes they caught some breaks late in that game, especially the taunting flag, but the Ravens have been due for some good fortune for a while now. I refuse to apologize for that. The Browns were lucky enough to recover all 3 of their fumbles and got the benefit of the replay on Coleman’s first TD, but nobody’s gonna be talking about them catching a break there. Hell in week 2 in Oakland last year, the Ravens were in almost the EXACT same situation trying to shut down a game-ending drive and Will Hill got called for a very questionable holding penalty on a pass he picked off. Shit happens. Luck is just a part of the game and we came out on the right side of the coin today. 2-0 and let’s go beat Jacksonville and come home 3-0.