Monday, January 02, 2012


At the beginning of any season the number 1 priority for all NFL teams is to win their division. The Ravens can now cross that off their list of objectives as they are the newly crowned AFC North Champion and today they sit just 2 more wins removed from the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance. And they did that by slaying another monster yesterday in Cincinnati – the road.

The road hasn’t been kind to the Ravens nor has the Queen City (1-5 during last 6 visits prior to yesterday) and consequently many, me included, didn’t think there would be a happy ending on Sunday.

THE GOOD: Terrell Suggs has always found the sledding tough against Bengals’ stout offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, one of the league’s best and probably its most underrated. But Suggs kept working and battling and eventually he made 2 key plays: the forced fumble on Jermaine Gresham and the sack of Andy Dalton. One paved the way for no less than a 10 point swing; the other helped to hold the Bengals to 3 when they ventured deep into the Ravens red zone…Haloti Ngata was disruptive with a strong interior push to move Dalton off his throwing mark plus he made a couple of athletic plays as a pass defender, one nearly resulting in a diving interception…One of the knocks on Bernard Pollard when he arrived was said to be his limited skills in pass coverage. That was not the case on Sunday as Pollard was not only physical as usual but he also broke up 2 Dalton passes and he recovered the Suggs forced fumble…Lardarius Webb also broke up 2 passes and did a very nice job on Pro Bowl rookie WR A.J. Green, helping to limit him to 2 catches for just 26 yards...Cary Williams was active with 6 tackles and 3 passes defended in his first outing since recovering from a concussion. His efforts along with those of Chris Carr were key, particularly after Jimmy Smith was knocked out of the game with concussion-like symptoms of his own.

Joe Flacco was efficient and could have been even more productive if not for the ultra-conservative play calling of Cam Cameron and the butterfingers of Lee Evans. Flacco QBR on the day was 112.7…Dennis “American Express” Pitta is beginning to look more and more like Todd Heap. The second year TE chipped in with 6 catches for 62 yards and a score. He was strong with yards after catch…Despite fighting off the pain of separated rib cartilage, Marshal Yanda was a force in the running game. His key block on Rey Maualuga on the team’s first possession paved the way for Ray Rice to go 70 yards untouched for the score…Vonta Leach is paying huge dividends and as the season wears on he only seems to be getting stronger…Props to Ricky Williams for cracking the 10,000 yard barrier and providing solid relief of Ray Rice, chipping in with 28 yards on 6 carries…Excellent challenge by John Harbaugh on a Cedric Benson run that was initially ruled a first down. The challenge overturned the call on the field and forced a Bengals punt. The Ravens responded during the change of possession with an 11 play, 80 yard drive that ended with a 9 yard scoring toss from Flacco to Pitta.

THE BAD: Either Ray Lewis is still hurt and no one is saying or the aging process has accelerated tremendously down the back stretch of his 16th season. He looks stiff and slow particularly in open space and he shouldn’t even be on the field when the Ravens are in the dime... Another seemingly injured Hall of Fame player on the defensive side, Ed Reed looks forward to tackling the way a star of HBO’s True Blood welcomes a sunny day at the beach. Although it’s difficult to see on television one would hope that Reed had a big hand in limiting A.J. Green. Otherwise this All World player is more of a liability than the playmaker he once was…With each passing game Lee Evans draws closer to being labeled a bust. His drop of a deep pass from Flacco is akin to a slumping hitter in baseball swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. He seems to be pressing… John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron have to be held jointly responsible for the Ravens lack of a killer instinct. They just seem afraid to go for the kill shot despite the Bengals selling out to stop Ray Rice. The game should never have been as close as it was. Maybe both should watch a few Patriots’ games or better still, maybe they were tuned into the Giants v. Cowboys game, when despite a 10 point lead with under 4 minutes, Eli Manning was taking shots at the Dallas secondary and eventually one landed for the kill.

THE UGLY: Outside of their kickers, special teams for the Ravens are just flat out awful. We regularly witness their inability to cover punts and kicks now they’ve added poor punt blocking to their woes.

THE MEGAN FOX: Is there any doubt? With 191 yards on 24 carries and 2 big touchdowns (70, 51), his 14th and 15th of the season Ray Rice, despite Bengals’ resources deployed to prevent him, carried the Ravens to victory. Somewhere John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron should be doing Rice’s laundry and even clipping his toenails – and doing so happily. He bailed out their lackluster game management which prevented an unwelcomed trip to Denver.

MEGA(N)BYTES: The Ravens are 5-0 this season against all teams still alive in the AFC Playoffs, 6-0 against all 12 playoff teams in the NFL…According to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley the Ravens non-divisional opponents in 2012 are: HOME: Denver, Oakland, Dallas, NYGiants, New England… AWAY: KC, San Diego, Philadelphia, Washington, Houston.


Jerry B said...

"Spot" on, TL! Actually, I thought Lewis looked a little better yesterday, but still think it's more of a toe issue than age. He was playing at a very high level before the "turf toe" injury, which has been known to shorten careers. Except for the fact that QBs probably still stay away from Reed in coverage, he is an absolute liability when it comes to tackling! The Ravens appear more balanced than any of the other playoff teams, but Green Bay has proven that running games and defense are no longer needed to win championships. It's just a shame that, given those qualities, Cam Cameron's need to "control" Flacco and the offense will likely play into the hands of the teams with prolific offenses and, as you point out, the lack of a "killer" instinct is a hindrance as well......