Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reed, Ravens' secondary stand out

Without question the standout performance in the Ravens v. Eagles game was that of Ed Reed. He is a gambler and he is a playmaker and sometimes when you put those two together, great things can happen. And on Sunday they did.

Everyone will remember the 108 yard interception return for a back breaking TD to put the Ravens up 29-7. At the time the game was still winnable for the Eagles – an unlikely win but nonetheless, winnable.

Facing a second and goal from the one foot line, I would have bet the house on Andy Reid calling a quarterback sneak in that situation. A touchdown and a potential two point conversion could have brought the Eagles to within seven at 22-15 with over 7 minutes left in the game. We all know now that he didn’t do that and the chalk bet every day of the week and on Sundays is Ed Reed over Kevin Kolb.

But that play aside, Reed’s other interception was just as impressive had he not capped his return off with a boneheaded play that could have been very costly. That said had the struggling Donovan McNabb taken over at his own 3 yard line, the Quintin Demps kickoff return probably never happens.

But Reed’s play on Sunday was about more than just those interceptions. He made a play on a blitz in Eagles territory when he tipped a McNabb pass that was nearly intercepted by Samari Rolle. Later, his inside penetration on a Sav Rocca punt forced a double team that cleared the way for Jameel McClain’s blocked punt.

Maybe Ed Reed is healing. Maybe he’s coping with the pain better. Maybe he’s figured out how to manage the discomfort and pick his spots. Whatever the case, if Ed Reed returns to form on a consistent basis, it bodes well for the Ravens’ ailing secondary.

Besides Reed and a standout performance from Jarret Johnson, perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the Ravens’ win was the improved play of the secondary. Samari Rolle and Fabian Washington were very good in coverage and even when the Eagles were able to make a catch, the two were in position to minimize the damage and help their team get off the field on third down. If they can continue that kind of play, it allows Corey Ivy and Frank Walker to do what they do best (be effective nickel and dime backs) and it also may boost Rex Ryan’s confidence to crank up the heat level on opposing QB’s with his exotic blitz packages.

The Ravens offense, especially the running game hit the wall a bit on Sunday against a tough Eagles’ defense. It seems that each week Cam Cameron has done a pretty decent job determining which of his backs is best equipped to exploit the weaknesses of opposing defenses. Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain have all had their fair share of success. It was apparent early on Sunday that the flavor of the day should have been McClain with battering mate Lorenzo Neal yet Cameron didn’t seem to pick up on it.

The Ravens ran often on first down and looking back you have to wonder why. On 21 first down plays the Ravens totaled 33 net yards. That is not going to get it done when facing a team like the Eagles who blitz regularly and get to the quarterback as well as any team in the league, particularly on second and third and long. With the running game not on all cylinders, maybe the approach should be to set up the run with the pass. I’m sure they can manage more than 33 yards total on all first down plays doing so.

I noticed that the Ravens were not as quick to the line of scrimmage this week and it could be argued that against a shifty, moving and aggressive Eagles defense, a premium should be placed on giving Joe Flacco more time to survey the field and get comfortable with his pre-snap reads. This game almost begged for the no-huddle Flacco is comfortable with to mitigate defensive coordinator Jim Johnson’s sub packages and unorthodox schemes designed to confuse the rookie.

This win was about as unattractive as a 36-7 win could be. But that said, we’ll take it.

On to Cincinnati…


Anonymous said...

a few things....first, nakamura predicted the pass based on the wo's alignment as the wing....if it had been a run, there would have been a tight end or tackle aligned.....great job by a rookie. second, so many injuries on the ol...they are bound to affect the tempo of the offense and the running game in particular. also, the fact that all three tackles are hurt really curtailed our ability to go unabalanced in this game....that would have been huge against the eagles undersized de's.....that affected our gameplan too.

Anonymous said...

Cameron also missed the mark terribly in the game against the Titans, when it was clear McClain was having a great game and McGahee looked like he was running with cement shoes on, yet Cameron chose to run McGahee 3 x's up the middle late in the game, and I believe it cost us that game. From what I've seen so far this season, there does not appear to be any clear rhyme or reason to Cameron's calls when it comes to which RB is being used and when.