Joe Flacco had a rough day in his homecoming to Philadelphia, as the native of nearby Audubon, New Jersey played progressively worse as the game went on. Whether it was the nerves of playing in front of 45 friends and family in attendance, the deteriorating offensive line protection, or the horrendous play calling from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Flacco’s play dissipated as the game went on. It appeared that Flacco had blinders on as he targeted tight end Dennis Pitta 15 times. That was 10 more targets than any other wide receiver or tight end had for the Ravens, as Flacco-to-Pitta became almost expected as the second half went on.
Flacco threw an awful interception into triple coverage looking for Pitta on the first drive of the second half, and that interception was foreboding as the offensive attack sputtered more and more as the game went on. The two brutal numbers that really stand out are Flacco’s 5.5 yards-per-completion and his passer rating of 66.8. Flacco was 8-for-25 with no touchdowns and one interception in the second half. Considering Flacco was the AFC offensive player of the week last week, this game was a significant step backward.
Running Backs: A-
The Ravens’ rushing game was punishing in the first half despite its limited use, as Vonta Leech had a 5-yard touchdown and Ray Rice had seven carries for 78 yards for a gaudy average of 11.1 yards-per-carry. Inexplicably, Cameron chose to only give Rice nine carries in the second half, as he used Rice in predictable situations and refused to use Rice on the Ravens repeated failed third-and-short situations. Like the rest of the offense, the running game became as stale as year-old milk, as Rice was habitually stuffed the more the game went on. The Ravens’ stagnant offense crippled any chance for the rushing game to get back on track, as Cameron called exactly twice as many pass plays as rushing plays. Despite being put in repeated bad situations in the second half, the Ravens’ running game still averaged 5.5 yards-per-carry for the game. Maybe Cameron will realize what a beast he has in Rice next week in a monster game against the New England Patriots, as Rice has a mere 26 carries through two weeks.
Wide Receivers: D
It was a brutal day statistically for the Ravens wide receiving corp, as the entire unit totaled a meager 85 yards. To put it in perspective, Torrey Smith led all wide receivers with 51 yards, which was surpassed by both Pitta and Rice, making the leading wide receiver third on the team in yards, which is usually a formula for a poor passing game. Albeit only two games have been played, Smith continued an alarming trend of doing little else besides one big grab and nothing else. Smith had a clutch 40-yard grab, but had only one more grab for 11 yards.
Jacoby Jones had a beautiful 21-yard touchdown grab as he burned Nnamdi Asomugha on a slick double-move and reeled in the best ball Joe Flacco threw all game. However, that grab was the only reception Jones had on the day, as he also had a costly offensive pass interference penalty that penetrated Eagles’ territory. Anquan Boldin was a complete non-factor as he had a paltry seven yards on the day. With Pitta getting the majority of the looks, predictable play-calling and the pass protection getting progressively worse, the Ravens wide receivers were basically set up to fail, and they basically did.
Tight Ends: B
The good news is that despite being listed as the second tight end on the depth chart, Pitta has become Flacco’s go-to guy, almost to a fault (see Flacco’s grade above). Pitta had 15 targets and eight catches for 65 yards, but many of his targets were forced and he became a focal point for the Eagles’ defense. Ed Dickson, the first tight end on the depth chart, reeled in Flacco’s first completion of the game for 23 yards. Dickson then proceeded to have no more catches the rest of the game as he was targeted only three more times. Dickson has to be frustrated as Pitta has become Flacco’s security blanket, and his lack of productivity has only contributed to the dysfunctional nature of the Ravens offense through two weeks.
Offensive Line: C+
The offensive line was solid in their run blocking despite being put in predictable situations in the second half. As stated earlier, the 5.5 yards-per-carry was the feather in the cap for the offensive line. The pass protection was adequate at best, as the Eagles’ defense caught onto the Ravens’ offensive play calling. Despite Cameron’s attempt to sabotage his offense, the O-line only allowed two sacks for 18 yards. Michael Oher got blown up on the Ravens’ second play from scrimmage, as a Trent Cole sack and forced fumble led to the Eagles first seven points of the day. The unit had its rough patches like the rest of the team, but neither blame nor praise can be put upon the unit as a whole.
Defensive Line: B-
The unit played slightly above average as they did not give Michael Vick habitual time to make plays, either passing or running. The way the D-line stacked up the Eagles running game was a big positive for the defense, as the Eagles averaged a mere 3.1 yards-per-carry. LeSean McCoy only averaged 3.2 yards-per-carry, as he had to earn every inch of his 81 rushing yards. The game appeared to be tilting in the favor of the Ravens’ D-line, as the Eagles’ offensive line lost two starters during the game and was a patchwork unit as the second half went on, with Vick repeatedly peeling himself off the ground. However, the Eagles O-line bent without breaking as Vick was only sacked twice for a combined loss of 14 yards. A recurring theme was the Ravens’ defense being on the field for more time than they deserved, which led to the unit not being as effective late in the game. Had the Ravens’ offense been more balanced and chewed up more clock, the D-line would’ve been in a much better position in the fourth quarter.
Much like the D-line, the linebacking corp withered away as the game went on. Dannell Ellerbe registered the only sack for the linebackers, as the entire defense had only two sacks on the day. Also similar to the D-line was the effort the linebackers made against the run game. The linebackers cleaned up a lot of McCoy rushes as the D-line was stellar in making the Eagles’ rushing game go east-west as much as they went north-south. Negatively, the linebackers and secondary were repeatedly burned by tight end Brent Celek, as there was a communication breakdown on who was exactly covering the habitually wide-open Celek. Ray Lewis was not nearly as noticeable as he was in week 1, as he tallied only five tackles.
Through one quarter, the secondary looked like they would be a force to be reckoned with. Safety Bernard Pollard was a maniac in the opening stanza as he registered four tackles, a sack, and a huge interception in the end zone. However, on the sack, Pollard grabbed at his midsection, left the game, and did not return. That injury proved costly, as with the recurring defensive theme, the secondary got worse as the game went on.
Ed Reed did have a clutch interception as the Eagles drove into Baltimore territory in the second half, but the pick and subsequent good field position was wasted on another Ravens’ three-and-out in which they threw on third-and-two. Conversely, there was a total communication breakdown between cornerback Cary Williams and Reed, as Jeremy Maclin reeled in a wide-open 23-yard touchdown on an Eagles third-and-two. The grab by Maclin was his only in the game, as he left in the second half after appearing to re-injure his hip. Opposite Maclin was DeSean Jackson, who had a big day with seven grabs for 114 yards.
Many of Jackson’s grabs resulted in clutch first downs, and the secondary was also victimized by the aforementioned Celek, as he appeared to be wearing a cloak of invisibility. Celek tallied eight catches for 157 yards as he gashed the Ravens’ secondary throughout the game. Lardarius Webb was very active and all over the field as he led the team in tackles, but his efforts were all for naught as the secondary as a whole allowed too many big plays at inopportune times.
Special Teams: A-
One of the lone bright spots for the Ravens was the play of their special teams. The kicking and punting game for Baltimore was superb as kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch were possibly the Ravens’ two best players outside of Rice. Tucker had ice water in his veins as he nailed clutch field goals from 56, 51 and 48 yards. All of Tucker’s conversions came at high-pressure times and he also did a solid job in the kickoff department. Koch meanwhile averaged 50.1 yards on his five punts, with two of those downed inside the Eagles’ twenty-yard line.
Wide receiver Deonte Thompson had three kickoff returns for 100 yards. His first return went for 49 yards and gave the Ravens’ momentum after the Eagles took an early 7-0 lead after a Flacco fumble. The only blemish for the unit was a botched fake-punt, as Sean Considine seemingly had an easy first down, but tripped over the leg of teammate James Ihedigbo as he took a direct snap up the middle and was tripped-up short of a first down. The Eagles’ special teams did nothing to garner attention as the Ravens clearly won the battle of the special teams despite the unsuccessful fake-punt.
Call the grade harsh, but the Ravens coaching staff was the most to blame for Baltimore snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. This game was 17-7 at halftime with the Ravens getting the ball to start the second half. Ray Rice was averaging 11.1 yards per carry at the half, yet the Ravens continuously and inexplicably went away from Rice in situations where he is usually at his best. Throwing an interception , then going three-and-out three straight times in the first four second half possessions while neglecting Rice’s first half success is inexcusable.
Cam Cameron’s fascination and borderline arrogance with his passing game may be the death of the Ravens’ offense if he continues to stray away from the team’s bread and butter; Ray Rice and the punishing rushing game. Rice’s 26 carries through two games is an alarming trend as Cameron continues to be cute with the pass-heavy play calling.
Coach John Harbaugh needs to reel in his offensive coordinator before he becomes the next coming of Mike Martz late in his coaching career. The Ravens had no business losing this game, especially considering they were driving to possibly go up 24-7 to start the second half. The defense did its job forcing four turnovers, while bending without breaking when put in bad situations by the offense. However, they couldn’t make up for the offensive play calling continuously putting the offense in predictable and compromising situations, and the result was a crushing last-minute, one-point defeat.
Game Ball: Justin Tucker
It’s usually not a good thing when the kicker is the player of the game, but Tucker was the most consistent player on the field for the Ravens. The rookie kicker did everything he could to both keep the Ravens ahead, while also giving them momentum with each of his long field goal conversions. His 56-yard bomb that ended the first half tied the Ravens’ franchise record for longest field goal set by Wade Ritchie, and gave the Ravens a 17-7 halftime lead.
Another 50-plus yard field goal gave the Ravens a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, while his third field goal conversion gave the Ravens a 23-17 lead, forcing the Eagles to score a touchdown on their fateful, and final, game-winning drive. Tucker was also stellar in the kickoff department and has been the Ravens’ most pleasant surprise through two weeks.