Let's face it, Ravens QB Joe Flacco had an awful game. Absolutely. He made some bad decisions and some bad throws. But overall, Flacco will be fine. As someone else pointed out, even the Great Peyton Manning had a horrendous game early in his third year –it happens, to the best of them. This talk of Bulger is nonsense. If Flacco lays an egg against Cleveland, then maybe there can be a discussion about the prospect of bringing Bulger in. But short of a meltdown, and I mean a serious meltdown, that is insane.
There are three aspects to the Ravens defeat- 1) the Bengals played better –yes, they beat us. They made plays when we did not –give them their props; 2) Flacco’s performance and 3) the rest of the Raven’s performance.
No need to say anymore about 1). And Amp in one his posts did nice job breaking down Flacco’s four picks. For 2), Amp did a nice job of pointing out that for each pick, it was not entirely Flacco’s fault. In fact I would also contend that our O-line was almost equally at fault. Yes, Flacco, needs to "play quicker" to someone else’s point it did seem that it would take Joe a longer than usually time to setup –maybe "Joe Cool" is a little too cool… It also seemed like Flacco was playing very stiff, not much fluid movement. I think one of the announcers was commenting how Flacco was not bending his knees enough –I never knew a QB needed to bend his knees but whatever; maybe he was noticing the same thing I was but just articulating it differently. It almost seems like Joe could never get into a rhythm. It always seems like good RB’s and good QB’s get into a rhythm after a few plays, even with pressure. Maybe the Bengals pressure was constant enough to keep Joe out of a good rhythm. Which leads me to 3) other Ravens performance…
First, our O-line was pathetic. How can five guys be so ineffective while blocking four rushers, even with the occasional stunt? Zimmer did not lie when he said the Bengals lost to the Patsies because he over complicated things and paralysis by analysis and all that; and he said he was going to simplify things against the Ravens. And he did. They ran a very basic defense. Yes they stunted occasionally, blitzed occasionally (and when they did, you could see it coming a mile away –no exotically disguised Rex Ryan specials), but it was a pretty basic defense. As someone posted, they rushed four and dropped seven. I think the dropping of seven was why Rice was pretty effective. With really only a front four, Rice was able to gain some yardage on his own (he had very little effective run blocking).
Yes, I know the right side of our O-line is a mess right now. But that does not let them off the hook completely. They have to block somewhat. Gosh, all it would have taken would have been one big play, just one (besides the TD completion to Mason which was a thing of beauty- in stride and everything -perfect), starting with the O-line blocking and game over.
But that is where Cam needs to step in and implement a game plan that can mitigate those deficiencies. Cam also has to be willing to adjust on the fly such as if Rice is effective, feed that dog the rock some more… Eight carries each half, are you effing kidding me? Where were the outside pitches? Where were the fake pitches to the outside counter inside runs? With four rushers and dropping seven, quick inside slants and a shuttle pass or two may have worked splendidly. Someone else pointed out our lack of attacking the middle of the field –bingo! Cam has to recognize earlier what the defense is doing and adjust accordingly. And I go back to the most we were ever down by was five, and that was late in the game –no need to abandon the run. Shoot, if we had a sustained an eight minute, twelve play drive, with mostly running plays in the fourth quarter, even if it only results in a field goal, Cincy probably does not have enough time to kick their fifth field goal.
Our special teams are bad right now. Except for Cundiff’s kickoffs, we are scrapping bottom. That needs to improve. You would think with Harbaugh being a former Special Teams Coordinator, they would be better. Maybe it is a case of "Cobbler’s children go shoeless" or Billick-syndrome, but there has got to be improvement there –players, coaching, blocking, tackling, lane assignment et al. That long return which resulted in a field goal for Cincy was a killer.
And the other area of the 'Other Ravens' poor performance was clock management. This has been discussed before so I will not delve into except to say c’mon guys, you are all NFL head coaches/former head coaches/NFL coordinators –clock management is basic stuff.
Now, to bring this all back around to perspective, it is week two. Defenses are still ahead of the offenses and probably will be for another week or so. The Ravens passing game has been upgraded (which also means retooled) which means it is going to take some time, maybe even longer than usual due to the "upgrades" to iron the kinks out. It is obvious the timing is not there yet between Flacco and Boldin and certainly not Housh.
Which brings me to what irritates me the most and that was Cam’s performance. We are still a "run-first" team, but with a much upgraded passing attack. Take advantage of that, but do not lean on it. There is no reason why the Ravens should not be a fifty-fifty pass-run team, but with a much more efficient and effective passing game. By that I mean when we do pass, our completion percentage should be higher and our average passing yardage should be higher, but with roughly the same number of attempts as in the past.
Joe averaged roughly eleven and half yards per completion his first two seasons but increased his completion percentage from sixty to sixty three percent from his rookie season to last year. If he attempts roughly the same number of passes as last year, five hundred, but raises his completion percentage to say 66 or 67 percent, that translates to 15 - 20 more completions for the season. If he, with his upgraded receiving corps is able to raise his completion yardage average by just one yard per, that would equate to 4,100 – 4,200 yards total passing (from last year’s 3,600). Hopefully, the extra yard per completion and the increased completion percentage is what a Boldin, Housh and Stallworth buy you. My point is, Cam does not need to fall in love with a high-powered passing game to take advantage of his new toys. Just tweak the existing and let the superior talents of the new additions do the rest of the work. Oh and the Boldin end-around is a non-starter –Boldin just is not fast enough. Even with Clayton and his speed it was, at best, an iffy proposition. Just pass Boldin the ball seven or eight times a game and let him do his thing.
I will end with this: as Bruce I think pointed out, we still have eight home games left, we are 1-1 after playing two playoff caliber teams on the road –we are fine. And feed Rice the ball until the opposing defense is able to stop him!