Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Baltimore Ravens: A Season in Review, Part II of V

To be considered among the top five plays of 2009 I coupled the excellence of the achievement together with the timing of its occurrence. In other words the play needs not only to be a top highlight it must also have a significant impact on the game or possibly the season.

As for the worst plays, the thought process is similar. The level of the physical failure is paired up with the play’s negative effect on the team.

Let’s start with the positive, the Best Ravens’ Plays of 2009…

Ray Rice v. Patriots, Wild Card Playoff Game

It isn’t often that a running back can go 83 yards untouched on the very first play from scrimmage after taking a handoff designed to run straight up the middle. What makes the play even more amazing is that the Patriots entered the game hell bent on stopping the Ravens’ best offensive weapon, Ray Rice. That is Bill Belichick’s M.O. And when you consider how often the Ravens started games in 2009 with a Rice run, the excellence of this play cannot be overstated. To a man every Raven did what they were supposed to do and the results prove it.

Willis McGahee v. Raiders

The Ravens took a dreaded west coast road trip to the Black Hole in Oakland to take on the Raiders, a team that had a better record against winning teams than the Ravens. Leading 7-3 in a must win game to assure the Ravens’ post season berth, Cam Cameron’s unit struggled. Joe Flacco was anything but crisp and the team’s passing attack was flat out anemic. With 4:27 left in the first half the Ravens were pinned in at the 5 yard line. After a Flacco completion to Todd Heap who beat Hiram Eugene for 18 yards, the Ravens had some breathing room and could now get back to the running game. Eugene would again play the victim.

On the ensuing play McGahee would take the handoff, weave his way through traffic and take on Eugene in the open field. It was no contest as McGahee hit Eugene with a left cross stiff arm then rambled 77 yards for the score to provide the Ravens a much needed spark. McGahee would gather 167 yards on the ground in total on a very economic 16 carries, including all three Ravens’ touchdowns in their 21-13 win which punched the team’s ticket to the playoffs.

Terrell Suggs strips Tom Brady

After jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead at Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots and a place that had yet to witness a Tom Brady playoff loss, the Ravens’ defense took the field. Hoping to answer the Ravens’ score, Brady faced a third and 11 from his own 26. Dropping back to pass, Terrell Suggs beat Matt Light off the edge and not only stripped the ball from Brady, but recovered the fumble giving the Ravens a first and 10 from the Patriots 17. Five plays and 2:44 later the Ravens held a 14-0 lead. The beat down was on.

Lardarius Webb 95 Yard Kickoff Return v. Broncos

The Ravens were fresh off their bye week and they desperately needed a win. After starting the season 3-0 the team dropped three straight and lost their comfortable perch atop the AFC North. Making the challenge even more daunting the Ravens hosted the 6-0 Broncos on a sunny November 1 afternoon. Leading 6-0 at the break and struggling offensively, the Ravens needed a spark. They got one when Lardarius Webb took the second half opening kickoff 95 yard to stake the Ravens to a 13-0 lead – one they would not relinquish.

Ray Lewis’ game saving tackle v. Chargers

The Ravens were clinging to a 31-26 lead during the waning moments of this shootout. Philip Rivers had torched the Ravens secondary for 421 net yards passing. Faced with a fourth and 2 from the Ravens 15 with 37 seconds remaining, the Chargers inexplicably opted to run Darren Sproles instead of throwing. Ray Lewis saw something familiar and moved into position to make the play pre-snap. There was little that Sproles or the Chargers could do but walk off the field as losers.

And now the worst plays of 2009…

Hauschka misses field goal v. Vikings

After trailing 27-10 with just over 10 minutes to go in the game, the Ravens behind Joe Flacco and Ray Rice rallied to take the lead 31-30 with 3:37 left in the game. Brett Favre and the Vikings answered with a field goal to put Minnesota back on top 33-31. After the ensuing kickoff the Ravens took over at their own 33 with 1:49 to go. They moved the ball down to the Vikings 26 before sending Steve Hauschka out on to the field to attempt a 44 yard field goal. The miss marked the beginning of the end for the young placekicker here in Baltimore.

Mark Clayton’s drop v. Patriots

The Ravens looked to take their record to 4-0 and win on the road against a second consecutive quality opponent. Trailing 27-21 with 3:32 remaining Joe Flacco & Co. had the unenviable task of marching 80 yards for the go ahead score. The Ravens seemed up for the challenge. After maneuvering their way to the New England 14 the Ravens faced a fourth and 4 with 32 seconds left in the game. Joe Flacco hit Mark Clayton between the numbers for what would have been a first down but Clayton in his angst to add on some yards after the catch forgot the football. Game New England.

Derrick Mason drops TD v. Steelers (3:10 mark of video)

Despite so many missed opportunities and costly penalties against their archrival Steelers, the Ravens were deadlocked at 20-20 as the fourth quarter began. On the very first play of the quarter, Derrick Mason was sent on a stop and go down the right sideline from the Steelers 21. The ball was delivered perfectly by Joe Flacco for what appeared to be an easy touchdown. Instead it was an embarrassing drop by the normally dependable Mason.

Joe Flacco’s interception v. Green Bay

This was a painful game to watch, one marked by 23 penalties in total for 310 yards. Yet the Ravens had a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Trailing 24-14and with the momentum beginning to swing in favor of the purple and black, the Ravens faced a second and goal from the Packers’ 3 yard line with 9 minutes left. Flushed out of the pocket, Joe Flacco rolled right and then committed the cardinal sin of quarterbacking – he threw against his body. Result: Packers’ interception and a Ravens’ defeat.

Joe Flacco’s interception v. Colts (4:25 mark of video)

The (5-4) Ravens hosted the undefeated Colts (9-0) and all observers wondered how the Ravens secondary could contain Peyton Manning. Yet the difference in this contest was the Ravens inability to score a touchdown, having to settle for five field goals. Trailing 17-15 the Ravens faced a third and 7 at the Colts 14 yard line with 2:49 left in the game. Well within field goal range, the last thing the Ravens wanted here was to force a play resulting in a costly turnover. Unfortunately Joe Flacco didn’t get that memo – he did exactly that and tossed a short pass intended for Ray Rice into the waiting arms of Gary Brackett. The Colts killed all but 28 seconds of the clock before punting. Ed Reed in an attempt to pull off a miracle fumbled attempting to lateral to Lardarius Webb during the punt return. The Colts took back the ball and the win.


Jerry B said...

I would add some of "goal line" play calling against Indinapolis at home, when three straight running plays failed to produce a needed TD and, Cameron's failure to incorporate the so-called, "Suggs Package" into the offense as he had done so successfully the preceding year as part of this "best and worst plays" segment along with Mattison's failure to pressure QBs throughout the season.........