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Offense, Not Defense, Carries the Ravens to a Win

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Post Game Analysis:
Joe Flacco answered the criticism and played a fine game, connecting with Anquan Boldin for 3 TDs. The offense looked good, but the defense had a lapse— giving up giving up 144 yards rushing to the Browns Peyton Hillis.  However, let’s not overlook the performance of a much improved Cleveland Browns team. The Browns did not want to go 0-3, so they played like it was for their season.

OFFENSE

The good news was that Joe Flacco and the offense clicked. Flacco answered all the questions of doubters and looked much better in the pocket. His footwork was good and he was able to step into his throws. He was decisive and seemed confident. When the running game got going, Flacco did a much better job selling the play-action. And when the defense fell behind, the offense answered.

Offensive Line:
The pass protection was much better this week as they picked up blitzes well. That‘s a good sign considering how they will have their hands full against the Steelers next week. LT Michael Oher had a good game with the exception of a 15-yard personal foul penalty. RT Marshal Yanda also played well and the interior of the line did a superb job run blocking.

Running Backs:
Ray Rice looked great; he was elusive and averaged 5.3 yards per carry (80 yards rushing total). But the bad news was that Rice reportedly sprained his knee in the fourth quarter. So we’ll have to see how that plays out during the week.  Willis McGahee did a nice job, and LeRon McLain was consistent with a catch on a screen for a good gainer.

Receivers:
Anquan Boldin looked amazing, catching 3 TDs. Thank you GM Ozzie Newsome!

Derrick Mason, who had 4 receptions for 30 yards, looked frustrated, but he may have to get used to it with all the weapons that Flacco now has. Todd Heap had a few key receptions as well, finishing with 4 catches for 46 yards. Also, it was nice to see T.J. Houshmandzadeh get a key third-down reception. In time, ‘Housh’ will become more involved with the offense.

DEFENSE

The defense looked flat in general, but the run defense was just plain bad— giving up 144 rushing yards to RB Peyton Hillis.  He was tough to bring down and the Browns offensive line helped him further by opening up some holes. It wasn’t until the second half the Ravens defense started to slow down Hillis. The defense better tighten up the line since the Steelers will be counting on their running game.

The team finished with 2 sacks, but one of which was due to a botched hand-off by the Browns. So overall, the pass rush was not effective.

Secondary:
The Ravens secondary gave up only 141 passing yards, which was another good performance considering how the pass rush was less than stellar. They gave up a few long passes, but again coverage was good.  They didn’t let WR Joshua Cribbs beat them, achieving their main goal.

Special Teams:
In general, the Ravens special teams played well. They held back Cribbs with good special teams tackling. Notably, rookie WR David Reed made a spectacular tackle in each game he has played.

Billy Cundiff did an excellent job on kickoffs. Cribbs was forced to down the ball a few times for touchbacks. Although K Billy Cundiff missed a 51-yard field goal (hitting the left upright), he made up for it with 49-yarder.

P Sam Koch was consistent; he dropped a snap once, but was able to get it off in time. He continuously pinned the Browns deep and kept Cribbs in check with good hang times.

PENALTIES

-Michael Oher lost his cool and drew a 15-yard penalty, but you have to like the fire he had in defending his teammate. Still, that would have been a costly penalty if the team failed to convert on third-and-long.

-Tom Zbikowski’s late tackle out of bounds was out of complete frustration.

-Mason’s delay of game penalty was “ticky-tac,” but rules are rules. The veteran was frustrated, but he should know better by now.

-Lardarius Webb had an illegal contact penalty, but it may have saved the defense from giving up a TD.  Some penalties are smart. Webb was not in position covering Cribbs, which caused him to take a smart penalty.

NOTABLES

-Jarret Johnson played his 100th consecutive start.

-WR rookie David Reed has been great on special teams; he makes great tackles in coverage.

-NT Kelly Gregg can still bring it!

GRADING THE GAME PLAN

Defense:  Final grade C-
The goal of this game was neutralizing WR Joshua Cribbs, but they forgot about RB Peyton Hillis. Fortunately, the secondary limited big plays in the air.

But where were the blitzing schemes? Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison played a vanilla defense today, unlike the first two games where the defense showed different looks and blitz calls. Browns QB Seneca Wallace looked way too comfortable in the pocket.

The defensive line could have probably used the assistance of DT Terrence Cody and DE Paul Kruger— let’s get these guys on the field!

Offense: Final grade A
Let’s give Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron some credit; he established a running game and took advantage of mismatches. He had the offensive line much better prepared for this game.  And you have to like the idea of the trick play where Boldin tried to throw back to Flacco.

Flacco successfully utilized all of his receivers, and it’s apparent that he is developing a rapport with Boldin.