Happy Purple Monday everyone!
To start, I’d like to sincerely thank the NFL scheduling department for having the foresight to schedule the Ravens bye week to coincide with my birthday. It’s not often they look out for the little guy, and it was very much appreciated. Good on ya, lads.
Now, to get right in to the nitty-gritty (without the need for a dirt band). Baltimore Ravens over the Miami Dolphins 26-10 in a game I saw described as weirdly enough not being as close or as decisive as the score suggested, which I have to agree with in principle.
Road Warriors Can’t Get Beyond Thunderdome
Yup, that just happened. In my good mood I managed to reference both the Mad Max franchise and MST3K.
But the main point is the Dolphins won all their away games coming in to The Bank. The Ravens had been perfect at home and they were coming off a bye week. The game was touted enough to draw the CBS team of Gumbel/Dierdorf. The game opened up looking like it would become a shootout with the Ravens scoring on their opening possession (first time this season) and the Dolphins answering right back. Then, things got more interesting. Ultimately, and this is hardly a spoiler since I already told you who won, the Dolphins perfect away record was felled. And after watching the game, I actually am wondering how they pulled it off up to yesterday… the Ravens squandered a few opportunities themselves in frustrating fashion that could have made the score even more indicative of a blow out.
I Take Two Steps Forward, You Take Two Steps Back
The most obvious of said opportunities was after Ravens CB Lardarius Webb picked off Dolphins QB Chad Henne and did his best interpretation of his idol (Webb absolutely idolizes Ravens FS Ed Reed, and actually admits, humorously, that he may actually annoy Reed because of this) by weaving all over the field, returning the INT for 32 yards. This set the Raven’s offense up at the Miami 4 yard line. Then in probably the worst offensive series I’ve personally seen in the NFL in a while, the Ravens systematically moved backwards, losing a total of 16 yards. To put the lemon on top, Ravens P Sam Koch couldn’t keep a handle on the snap on a field goal attempt by K Billy Cundiff, and the Ravens ended up with nothing to show for the turnover. Reminder, gents, the object is to move the ball forward and to get points on the board.
And that wasn’t all. In the 3rd quarter, the Ravens would stall on a drive, and sent out Koch and the punt unit. Quickly, the Ravens sideline noticed that the units gunner, DB Cary Williams, was completely by himself, no one was covering him. Amidst confusion, Koch quickly made the decision to capitalize, and threw the very first pass of his career (not only NFL, folks) for 13 yards to Williams, resulting in a huge first down. Which, on the scoreboard, wasn’t capitalized as Cundiff missed a 37 yarder. Though this one is a lot more forgivable as the Dolphin error was obviously a dagger to the team who can’t quite seem to beat the “good teams” when they need to the most.
No matter what, though, the Ravens settled for quite a few field goals on Sunday.
That’s About As Funny As A Screen Door On A Submarine
For years and years, starting with the Matt Cavanaugh Offensive Administration, I’ve clamored for this team to utilize designed screens more and more. It’s the change up to the fastball and slider, to mix sports metaphors. Back when Former Ravens RB Jamal Lewis was punishing D-Linemen, and the passing game was limited to mostly West Coast Offense-type plays, screen passes would have made us think some of those QBs were better than they were, and with the amount of play action that was run off of the widely known ground attack, a screen would not only possibly be its own herald, but would keep defenses honest and force them to rethink stacking the box, the obvious defense against a North-South rusher the Ravens favored. The main argument against that was Lewis and the other rushers of his ilk were bruisers, who pounded the lines and didn’t have the same lateral movement as some backs, and Lewis especially didn’t have the greatest hands.
So now, with the two primary rushers being more all-around, I thought for sure screens would become a part of the Cam Cameron offensive game plan. For the most part, no, and most things that might look like a screen were really just checkdowns, though RB Ray Rice feasted on those last year.
On the first offensive series of the game, the Ravens marched right down the field methodically, with precision and efficiency. Set up at the Miami 32, Ravens QB Joe Flacco took the snap, rolled to his right, then floated a screen to RB Willis McGahee, who had a proper wall of blockers in front of him. A little weaving through the crowd later, and Baltimore had a TD. This screen was pretty much the perfect example of why I had been clamoring for more of them in the game plan for almost a decade.
Call it a little more, Cam. You’ve got plenty of ways to set it up and many players who can both block or be the receiver. You mix that in with a variety of targets through a game, and defenses will be forced to account for it on obvious running downs, opening up holes elsewhere.
We Can’t Let Him Beat Us
All through the broadcast, Gumbel/Dierdorf would keep bringing up Dolphins HC Tony Sparano’s words that Miami couldn’t let Ravens RB Ray Rice beat them. By the end of the game, Rice had 83 rushing yards, 97 receiving yards, and he absolutely carved up the ‘Phins defense. Not only that, but for the first time this season, Rice was open consistently on the checkdown, one of the main reasons for that 97 yards receiving. So, it begs the question, did Sparano actually tell his team his desire to not let Rice beat them?
(interesting study in polar opposites during the game: Ravens HC John Harbaugh and Sparano couldn’t be more different on the sidelines. Harbaugh has his moments, but is generally collected. Sparano looked like he drank about 50 Red Bulls before the game, and had that unique anger that comes from passion, over-stimulation, and a very full bladder)
Very Lateral Thinking
Ed Reed, you are a dangerous, dangerous man. The instinctive ball-hawking nature you possess makes opposing QBs squirm. The instinctive need to lateral the ball during a return (any return) makes your fans squirm. Yesterday, after picking off Henne, he attempted to weave his way through traffic as he always does. I don’t know about you, but my brain was screaming in terror as he kept trying to force the issue. Then, what we all knew was coming started to happen, as Reed clearly was looking to lateral the ball to a teammate, as he was being hoisted in to the air from behind to get him off his ever-churning legs. Luckily, he’s not completely reckless, as no teammates were open enough to try, and he managed to get the ball back to his body. But, man, Ed, what a risk you took there. How many times do you have to get burned on a lateral attempt to learn? Has anybody pointed out the success to failure ratios to him? How close was he to basically (and pretty much literally) handing the ball back to Miami there?
It’s too late to teach that old dog new tricks, but I sure wish he would turn off that portion of his brain and protect the ball during his returns. I can’t blame the guy for always looking to make something happen, but sometimes “making something happen” is a negative thing.
Now, some quick hits to close us out.
- CB Fabian Washington, you probably lost your starting job yesterday.
- Yes, the front 3 are impressive, DC Greg Mattison, but you have to rush more than only the three of them.
- In a telling tidbit about the game, Koch’s decision to throw to Williams made it so that he didn’t have a punt all day.
- Even if Raven’s FB LeRon McClain did spit on you, Channing Crowder, you need to shut up already. The Miami LB has managed to show off his complete ignorance on anything that isn’t Channing Crowder numerous times this season, and yesterday managed to confuse Anne Frank with Helen Keller as he raged. Congratulations Channing, you’re Randal Graves in Clerks II. Bonus that when he was corrected he actually said something to the effect of “I’m not as sharp as I normally am.” Keep in mind this guy said he couldn’t find London, England on a map unless it was pointed out to him.
- The Ravens D bounced back after that humbling Buffalo game, although it did look quite dicey there at the beginning.
And that’s all I have for this edition, but not for this week. The ink will have barely dried on this piece before the Ravens head down to Atlanta for a very short week, as they take on QB Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night. A short week for them means a short week for The Hangover.
See you soon!