After watching Michael Vick shred the Baltimore Ravens‘ defense for 371 yards on Sunday, it seemed there was something missing from the defense.
Well, there was a big piece missing after strong safety Bernard Pollard exited the game towards the end of the first quarter. Pollard injured his ribs on a punishing sack of Vick and never returned to the game, as the Eagles offense did the majority of their damage in the second half.
Pollard was the best player on the field for either team in the first quarter, as he single-handedly kept the Ravens in the game after a slow start. He intercepted a Vick pass in the end zone on the Eagles’ opening drive to go with four tackles. He then had the big sack on Vick, which put the Eagles out of field goal range on third down.
After the interception, Pollard writhed around in pain as both him and Vick were slow to arise from the crushing hit. Pollard clutched his midsection and he never returned to the game.
After Pollard left, the Ravens defense seemed out of sync. The run defense was more consistent than it was the prior week against Cincinnati, but the pass defense completely broke down.
The breakdown in the secondary was best exemplified on Jeremy Maclin’s 23-yard touchdown grab, when cornerback Cary Williams and safety Ed Reed both allowed Maclin to run down the field unmolested. Maclin’s touchdown grab brought the score to 17-14 Ravens and proved to be a critical momentum change in the middle of the game.
DeSean Jackson contributed throughout the game and ended up with 117 yards receiving, but the real problem for the Ravens’ defense was Eagles’ tight end Brent Celek.
Celek ripped off 157 yards on eight catches for a staggering 19.6 yards-per-catch. I personally can’t remember watching a game where the same player was left that wide open, time after time.
The disappointing thing about the big day Celek had, especially after Pollard left, is that Maclin also left after he re-injured his hip. The second Maclin left, Celek became Vick’s second option, yet the Ravens’ defense habitually left the tight end open in space.
After two games, the Ravens’ defense ranks 26th against the pass and 27th overall. They are allowing 8.6 yards-per-catch, and don’t look now, but an angry Tom Brady and the New England Patriots come rolling into Baltimore this Sunday night.
With the Patriots coming off an extremely disappointing, last-second loss to the upstart Arizona Cardinals you know they will be a hungry team as both teams look to avoid an unexpected 1-2 start. The Patriots offense scored only 18 points last week at home versus the Cardinals and they also lost tight end Aaron Hernandez to an ankle injury. They signed tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. and wide receiver Deion Branch to help offset the loss of Hernandez.
With a 1-2 start hanging in the balance for the Ravens, a healthy Pollard will be the x-factor for the Ravens’ defense. Pollard told the media today he is ready to go, which is paramount for the struggling Baltimore defense. With such a high-power offense coming to town, also looking to avoid a 1-2 start, the Ravens will need all hands on deck, and the hands of Pollard may be the most important set on Sunday night.