Monday, November 29, 2010

The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox: Ravens v. Bucs

The Ravens faced off yesterday against a Tampa team with an identical 7-3 mark prior to kickoff. Not long thereafter it was clear which team was more talented. It just took a while before the disparity in skill level showed up on the scoreboard.

The 17-10 win keeps the Ravens technically in first place over the Steelers (also 8-3) given their victory in Pittsburgh in Week 4. As if this rivalry needed more drama, this Sunday Night sets up as a pivotal brawl - for all intents and purposes a divisional championship game.

It's difficult to predict what you will get from the Ravens. They seem to do only what they need to do to win and last night was no exception. After staking a 17-3 halftime lead, the Ravens failed to score again and once more they failed to put a team away.

Let's get to it...

THE GOOD: Joe Flacco was 25 of 35 for 289 yards and 2 scores. His only interception was a clear case of waiting far too long to deliver the ball to a wide open TJ Houshmandzadeh. If not for Derrick Mason successfully wrestling one pass away from Bucs CB Aqib Talib the game could have turned in Tampa's favor. But give Flacco credit for some beautiful throws (particularly threading the needle on the Mason score) and for recognizing a break down in the Bucs coverage on the 65 yard connection to Todd Heap...Mason had a solid effort save for one drop but let's give him his due for a productive evening (8 catches for 87 yards and a TD) and a clutch "defensive play" on Talib...Ray Rice had a productive night and was one bad officiating call away from a 200+ yard outing...Despite looking lost at times in coverage Jarret Johnson turned in a very solid game holding down the edge and penetrating the Tampa backfield fairly regularly. Johnson had 10 tackles...Josh Wilson is about as sure a tackler that the Ravens have. He was solid in coverage when tested and supported both the run and the bubble screens very well...The defensive front did a nice job containing LaGarrette Blount for most of the game, limiting him to 55 yards on 13 carries...Chris Carr is a quietly steady performer and Sunday was no exception...The Ravens continue to get plus performances from Sam Koch and Billy Cundiff. One leads the league in punts inside the 20 while the other sets the pace with touchbacks.

THE BAD: As mentioned the Ravens lack a knockout punch and they allow teams that they should put away to hang around. Unless that changes it will haunt them in January and the brunt of the blame here goes on the coaching staff, particularly Cam Cameron who notoriously eases off the throttle and for John Harbaugh who allows it to happen. It's borderline criminal that Cameron doesn't involve Boldin more in the passing game...The pass protection from Le'Ron McClain and Ray Rice needs to improve. Their failures led to two sacks...Sacks were an issue. Some of the blame falls on Flacco for holding the ball too long. Perhaps that's why play-by-play TV announcer Sam Rosen referred to Flacco as Joe Sacko during the broadcast...The officiating crew seemed lost at times. Despite Raheem Morris' meltdown over a pass interference call against Myron Lewis, the officials got it right. The same can't be said for a very questionable "Blocking Above the Waist" penalty against Anquan Boldin negating a 76 yard catch and run touchdown from Flacco to Rice and Barrett Ruud's mugging of Todd Heap that should have produced another first down and helped keep another second half drive alive in Tampa territory.

THE UGLY: Injuries to Michael Oher and Le'Ron McClain could be very costly to the Ravens if either or both are unable to go Sunday night against the Steelers. Neither had a particularly effective game prior to their respective departures. Dawan Landry suffered what appears to be a mild concussion. Time will tell if the hard hitting safety will be able to go against Pittsburgh.

THE MEGAN FOX: Tough to come up with a truly standout performance in this rather boring game but let's give this week's nod to Todd Heap for hauling in an extremely timely 65 yard TD pass, something you rarely see from a tight end.

That was an invisible piano he was carrying on his back while plodding down the field, wasn't it?


Jerry B said...

Great Blog as alsways, TL! This coaching staff leaves much to be desired from top to bottom. I know it's hard to argue with success, but it appears as though the team is talented enough to be winning in spite of, not because of coaching. Sense of urgency on offense is a concern; tackling continues to be a concern; and using your ONLY fullback/blocking back on special teams is plain nuts! The same could be said of Ed Reed fielding punts! And, playing the unecessary waiting game with Gaither as long as they did has only exacerbated the "O" line problems where they do not have adequate reserves. This group has struggled in pass protection all year and, if Oher is lost for any amount of time, the struggles will accelerate! And, count me as getting fed up with Harbaugh's now infamous "doghouse" where personal issues may be depriving the team of talent, Ellerbe apparently being among the latest to run afoul of the headcoach!