Monday, November 22, 2010

The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox: Ravens @ Panthers

As a fan of the Ravens and as someone who covers the team, it was difficult for me not to take this game against the Carolina Panthers for granted. After all, John Fox & Co. were down to a journeyman quarterback who had been with the team for 11 days and up until yesterday had thrown only 5 more passes in the NFL than me and you. Where have all the quarterbacks gone? Brian St. Pierre? C’mon man!

The Panthers’ offensive backfield was so battered by injury that they were forced to go with a fourth string running back and their defense was among the NFL’s worst defending the run.

To put this all in perspective, think of the Ravens starting practice squad QB Hunter Cantwell and featuring Curtis Steele at running back.

Suffice it to say, this one seemed to be in the bag the moment the Ravens boarded their Baltimore bound flight from Atlanta two Thursday nights ago.

Don’t let the scoreboard deceive you!

This team along with just about every other team in the NFL has flaws and they were on display in Charlotte.

THE GOOD: Joe Flacco threw some very nice passes including his first connection with TJ Houshmandzadeh for a 58 yard scoring strike. He also displayed some nice touch particularly on couple of throws to Todd Heap. He also accurately diagnosed a blitz and hit his hot read Derrick Mason in stride only Mason didn’t finish the play, dropping a pass that had big play potential…David Reed showed explosiveness that has been sorely lacking in the return game and he also pursued well on coverage teams. He will be the reason TJ Houshmandzadeh is a one year rental for the Ravens…Terrell Suggs early on seemed like the only Ravens defender who wanted to make a tackle on Panthers’ RB Mike Goodson who had a career high 120 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Suggs had 7 tackles (3 for losses) a sack and a QB hurry…Todd Heap found open space in the intermediate areas and made the most of it with 69 yards on 5 catches…Dawan Landry was effective as a run blitzer dropping Goodson for a loss on one play and affecting short rushing gains on others.

THE BAD: The Panthers defense is probably an underrated one. When your offense is ranked 32nd in a 32 team league and they only stay on the field 27 minutes per contest, it’s tough not to watch your team defensive stats suffer. Despite it all the Panthers had the 14th overall ranked defense, just a few notches below the Ravens at No. 10. That aside the Panthers were 17th ranked on third down efficiency yet the Ravens did their best to help Carolina improve in that department, converting just 2 of 11 third downs. Equally disheartening is the offense’s inability to produce TD’s in the red zone, failing on all but 1 of 4 tries…The defensive front seven (except for Suggs) struggled to stop the run. Haloti Ngata was barely noticeable, Kelly Gregg mostly invisible and Terrence Cody unable to disengage from blocks. I was reminded of one practice during summer camp when John Harbaugh lost his cool and verbally assaulted the first team defense when Curtis Steele gashed them for first down after first down. Some blame also has to be given to the Ravens linebackers who were often out of position and failed to provide backside support…Tackling remains a problem, particularly on the kick coverage team…The Ravens were unable to establish any rhythm in their rushing attack. For the record, who is the starting back on this team?...It was a concern weeks ago and it remains a concern – this team on all sides of the ball lacks a killer instinct. While the team finally got off to a decent road start they were unable to sustain it.

THE UGLY: Flacco’s pocket presence at times is very Bolleresque. Sometimes the play just isn’t there Joe and you need to cut your losses and throw it away. Instead Flacco too many times takes a sack, loses control of the ball or makes high risk, low reward passes. And c’mon Joe, forgetting the play and dropping the ball on the floor?…Josh Wilson over the past couple of games has been the team’s best corner but he was torched by the Panthers’ rookie WR David Gettis for an 88 yard score.

THE MEGAN FOX: Billy Cundiff leads the league in touchbacks and if not for four more yesterday and 7 of 8 kicks landing in the end zone, who knows how this game plays out with the shoddy kick coverage tackling. Cundiff was also perfect on three FGA’s from 22, 33 and 49 yards.


Jerry B said...

As usual, TL, you "nailed it"! Yes, the Ravens, like every other team in the NFL today, have their share of flaws, chief among them the "O" line in pass protection, inability to pressure the passer and a total lack of a sense of urgency, particularly on offense until, well, it becomes...urgent! Their "D" is no longer dominant, but there really aren't any dominant "D's" in the NFL this year due, in part, to the abundance of rules favoring the passing game and new restrictive rules that prohibit/inhibit aggressive tackling. So, this is the year of, "on any given Sunday", that the NFL has longed for and it means that the Super Bowl trophy is literally up for grabs with no clear favorite. Maybe that's the way it should be as it certainly keeps fan interest at a high level....

Anonymous said...

The Ravens certainly have room for improvement just like every NFL team but I am really sick of all the whining from Ravens fans. The other guys get paid to. They held St. Pierre to 40 yards for the first 3 quarters. 40 yards in 3 QUARTERS.... Let that sink in. If Flacco had been that ineffective for the first 3 quarters, Ravens fans would be storming the stadium with torches demanding the backup take his place. The Ravens took their foot off the peddle a bit in the second half, SO WHAT. Perhaps it was because the Panthers QB had thrown for 40 yards and even though they were rolling up rushing yards, the Panthers were doing nothing but eating away at the game clock. Ultimately, the only thing going vanilla did was allow the Panthers a glimmer of hope in the 4th quarter which the Ravens quickly took away from them. We've got two big games coming up vs. playoff contenders. Why tip our hands more than we need to?

Heck jumping out to a big lead isnt always the best thing either. The Bengals had a 31-14 lead at home to a 1 win team and they still lost the game. Such is the NFL today.

Harryos29 said...

Harry OS 29 Nov 22nd
...Enough whinning; lets give props to the Fans who fought through the rigorous TSA pat-down searches, to fly to Charolitte to support our RAVENS.
...Mike Preston reported that the Carolina, DB's, held more than he had ever seen. Grabbing the backs of the jerseys of our wide-receivers.
... Where were the defensive holding calls... as an aside...when was the LAST time you saw a holding call on the Patriots or COLTS offensive lines, while Brady and Manning, have 5 or 6 seconds to sit back there and pick out a target. I know I'm getting of subject here, but this league is all about the BIG TV games and the stars of the league. I do not think that the Ravens and other teams are afforded the same, lax-officiating that the big teams are afforded. Maybe their lineman have mastered the art of HOLDING better than our linemen: I just don't know.
...I must agree with JERRY B about the "abundance of rules favoring the passing game and the agressive tackling", soon we will be reduced to the kind of, FLAG football that we all played for fun on Sunday mornings.
.. In closing, I think what we have here in Baltimore is a good team, but we do not have the excitement or explosivness that you see with a team like the JETS. Of course the JETS have 3 former RAVENS Defenders in Pryce; Leonard and Scott. Who knows if losing them made that much of a difference?
I think it did!