Obviously, this loss really stung. Before we get too down, let's remember who has the dominate, young quarterback, the dominate, young running back and the dominate, young offensive line. The future is very bright. Yesterday proved that the Ravens have many issues but also showed that they have no quit in them. Right now, the Vikings are a better team. They came out firing on both sides of the ball and really deserved the win.
Offensively, the fact that the Viking's veterans dominated our young players early in the game shows immaturity. I don't believe that the Vikings "let up" or "let us back in it." Sure, they dominated early, but late in the game, the Ravens kicked the door in and blasted away with guns blazing. Rookie tackle Michael Oher dominated Jared Allen in the second half, and Joe Flacco and Ray Rice went off. The Vikings had no answer. The slow start hurt and shows immaturity. They will get better and need to start having success early. The Vikings had great field position during the entire first half, and Favre was given too many shots at the Ravens defense on short fields. 14-3 is hard to overcome on the road, but you do need to give the offense credit. They never quit and game the team a real chance to win.
Defensively, it's easy to panic. Statistically, there were no positives. Favre threw at will, and Peterson was making big plays. As hard as this is to believe right now, I actually believe that the Raven's defensive core is still very good. There are several players that are struggling and being picked on. The schemes are also very bad at times. However... when the Ravens can get a team to actually play against our entire defense instead of picking on one guy, the defense is still solid. Ultimately, that is what the Ravens need to do. They need to find ways/schemes to protect the guys who are struggling and lean on the guys that are solid. That is why our red zone defense is still fairly successful. It naturally covers one of our biggest weaknesses. I understand fundamental football and know that offenses are going to force one-on-one match-ups with our worst players. That's football, but there is not a defense in this league that is perfect at every position. That is where scheme comes in. It's all about playing to your strengths, and it seems to me that the Ravens aren't doing that. The secondary wasn't the Raven's strength last season either, but they made it work somehow. Greg Mattison needs to step up.
- Ray Rice is amazing! Everyone here knows that I love Willis McGahee, but Willis needs to take the back seat from now on. Rice is turning out to be one of the best backs in the NFL. I'm most impressed with the way that he ran between the tackles. His first touchdown was beautiful. When you watch it the first time, it almost looks like he ran through the hole untouched since he didn't really slow down, but if you watch closer, Rice actually gave E.J. Henderson a nasty stiff arm and ran through an arm tackle by Madieu Williams. He is running with power and vision now. Obviously, he has always been a great receiving threat, but after scoring two rushing touchdowns yesterday against a defense that hasn't allow one all season, Rice proved that he is a complete running back and one of the Raven's best weapons going forward.
- Joe Flacco is a stud and truly unflappable. How many times is Flacco going to set career highs this season? We are witnessing the emergence of a great quarterback. It's almost too good to be true, and I've been waiting for Flacco to come crashing down to earth. His performance yesterday put all of those fears to rest. He is the real deal. Under pressure and hit all game, Flacco stood in the pocket and made every throw. He was injured and still led a comeback from seventeen points down. I know this is sounding like a homer-ish rant, but I can't help it. I think the guy deserves more credit than he's being given. Flacco really carried the team against the Vikings.
- Michael Oher had a good game. He struggled early in the game, and the crowd noise seemed to give him trouble. Later in the game, he was a force and effectively shut out one of the league's best pass rushers. On the first touchdown drive, he sealed off Allen on the long pass to Heap, and on the touchdown run by Rice, he blew Allen off the ball and paved the way for Rice. Obviously, it wasn't a perfect performance, and the false starts come to mind. However, he flashed greatness in a tough game against an elite pass rusher.
- Ray Lewis still has it. The Ravens defense was miserable, but it had nothing to do with the play of Ray Lewis. People, including myself, have criticized him recently, but Ray showed why he is still one of the great linebackers in the league. He stone-walled Peterson up the middle all game. All of Peterson's long runs were containment issues for the Ravens. Ray Lewis stayed home all game. On the goal line, Ray stopped Peterson twice and forced the team with the best running back in the league to score through the air. He did his job and played with an almost mystical anticipation all game.
- The coverages in the secondary were terrible and terribly executed. I could go on and on about this because I really believe that this is the biggest problem with the Ravens defense. On the touchdown to Berrian, Washington was playing about eight yards off Berrian, and Carr was playing up on Harvin in the slot. How can you play off the receiver in the end zone? On that play, Harvin crossed and ran to Washington, and Favre threw the easiest touchdown of his career to Berrian on the inside slant. Meanwhile, Washington and Carr were tripping over each other's feet. On the slant to Sidney Rice that was taken into the red-zone, Reed actually bumped into Washington who was trying to cover Rice. That miscue gave Rice about four steps on Washington. Seriously? Our guys are actually bumping into each other now? These are not bad players either. Washington was at least decent last year, and we're talking about ED REED here. There are serious problems with the coverages that the Ravens are running. Something needs to change.
- I hate to say it, but we may actually be missing Jim Leonard. I would usually flame someone for saying that, but let me explain. I saw Landry getting burned on several key plays all game. After Ray Lewis stopped Peterson twice on the goal line, the Vikings went to a play action pass. On that play, it was obvious that Landry was assigned to the strong side flat. No one was in the flat, so Landry stayed high. As Shiancoe ran to the back of the end zone behind him, Landry continued to gravitate toward the flat and let the tight end catch the touchdown. That was a simple play where Landry could have saved a touchdown if he had played with a little instinct. Instead, he simply stayed in his zone and allowed the play to be made. There was similar play to Rice in the red-zone. Landry had the underneath coverage, which is suppose to be played very aggressively, and Washington had the coverage over the top. Landry let the ball be throw right over his head and did not even contact the receiver on the play. The Vikings game was an embarrassment for Landry. Favre loves to move safeties with his eyes. That was a big part of it, but some of those plays were inexcusable. Landry is simply not playing with any instinct.
- Every player, including Reed, in the secondary has not been effective this season. Obviously, the secondary woes are not all Landry's fault. I singled him out because I've seen him play poorly all year and wanted to mark a difference between last year and this year. The corners have obviously played poorly too. They just seem to get more blame than they deserve in my opinion. Foxworth actually played a respectable game and seemed to be more physical, especially in run support. Washington was unbelievably soft. He play off the receivers, and I did not see him fight for a pass all game. Walker gets alot of blame but shouldn't be covering Sidney Rice one-on-one in the first place. I tend to give the corners more grace since I honestly believe our scheme is bad and the pass rush has rarely pressured the quarterback this season. That brings me to my next point...
- The Ravens defensive lineman cannot get off blocks. The interesting part is that they are still very good in run defense, but when they are rushing the passer, they are not effective. Trevor Pryce is a great lineman, but he has lost agility with age. It seems like all of the lineman are big run stuffers. The Ravens are trying to bring pressure with their front four but don't have a dominate pass rushing defensive end. Ngata is a great player but is only average at rushing the passer. Suggs and Johnson are also a great players, but they are not strong enough to challenge offensive tackles on every play. The Ravens do not have the players to effectively and consistently bring pressure with their front four. They need a defensive end like Vandenbosch, Allen or Peppers to effectively run 4-3 pressures and looks. To be successful right now, I believe that they need to start using more 3-4 looks.