A weekly installment grading the performances by the Baltimore Ravens. Grading scale is A-F.
Joe Flacco was every bit as clutch this week against the New England Patriots as he wasn’t in last week’s one-point loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Flacco got better as the game went on and saved his best work for the fourth quarter. Flacco totally out-dueled Tom Brady in the finally stanza as he turned a nine-point deficit into a one-point victory. Two encouraging signs from Flacco were that he bounced back from an early interception, and he spread the ball around more evenly than he had in past weeks. Flacco found eight different pass-catchers for 382 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He averaged nearly 15 yards-per-completion and his passer rating of 117.7 was third-best in the AFC for the week. Flacco now leads the AFC with 913 yards passing and his season passer rating of 101.1 ranks fourth in the AFC. More importantly though , Flacco led his team down the field in the waning moments for a huge win over the rival Patriots.
Running Backs: A
Ray Rice had a big day against the Patriots, as he saw his workload increase. Rice didn’t disappoint with the added touches, as he finally was fed the ball 20 times. He churned out 101 yards rushing on those 20 carries including a 7-yard touchdown. Rice also had a nice day receiving with five catches for 49 yards. Rice was productive throughout the game and also did a great job on pass protection. Rice finally got 25 touches in a game and the positive results should reinforce that notion moving forward. The Ravens averaged 4.7 yards-per-carry overall and the run game was key to the Ravens’ offensive attack.
Wide Receivers: A+
This grade is mainly for the Herculean effort by Torrey Smith, some 15 hours after his younger brother suddenly passed away. Smith had a monster game in the face of his personal adversity, as he reeled in six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns. His 25-yard touchdown grab was a thing of beauty as he out-worked cornerback Kyle Arrington for the grab. Smith was extremely focused during the game and was very put together in his post-game press conferences as well as he put up a game for the ages. Elsewhere, Jacoby Jones and his big play abilities were also on display as Jones had three grabs for 86 yards. He also drew a huge penalty on the Ravens’ last drive that basically set up a chip-shot, game-winning field goal. Anquan Boldin chipped in with four catches for 48 yards.
Tight Ends: B
The Dennis Pitta show continued at tight end for the Ravens on Sunday night. Pitta was targeted the second-most behind Smith, as he reeled in five catches for 50 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown. Pitta was also targeted on Flacco’s lone interception. Ed Dickson did little as he has basically done all season. He had a mere five yards on two receptions.
Offensive Line: A+
The O-line was about as perfect as you can ask for. They blocked for a 100-yard rusher and a 382-yard passer. The unit allowed zero sacks while allowing only one tackle for a loss. They gave Flacco time to throw and created some big holes for the shifty Rice to work with. The only blemish was a failed fourth and one in which Bryant McKinnie came out of the backfield in motion, and proceeded to block no one as the Patriots had their only bit of success when bringing pressure. When the line was in tact, without McKinnie, it looked great. The line appears to be coming together after some last-minute switches before the opening game of the season. Michael Oher has really stepped up since taking over at the left tackle position and appears to be the anchor along with center Matt Birk.
Defensive Line: C+
Nose tackle Haloti Ngata was hus usual disruptive self as he registered a half-sack and two quarterback hits. The unit did a great job stacking up the Patriots’ rushing game, as they only averaged 2.3 yards-per-carry. They did a decent job at getting a push on the front line for the pass rush, but Brady still threw for 335 yards and a touchdown. The unit did a slightly above average job all things considered.
Dannell Ellerbe was a force with 1.5 sacks and eight tackles, and Ray Lewis co-led the team with 10 tackles. The unit did a great job on supporting the run defense and did a fantastic job on tight end Rob Gronkowski in coverage. The Gronk only had two catches for 21 yards and was basically non-existent. The unit could have done a better job keeping tabs on Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, but overall it was an above average day for the linebackers.
First the good, as the secondary only allowed one passing touchdown to a Brady-led offense. They were also a part of the total shutdown of Gronkowski. The secondary did however allow two 100-yard wide receivers as Welker and Brandon Lloyd surpassed the century mark in receiving yards and ran loose for portions of the game. The unit showed a pension for bending without breaking as the Patriots had three drives end in field goals, which was huge considering the one-point victory for Baltimore. The defense as a whole didn’t have one interception, but the secondary did have four passes defended. Cornerback Cary Williams co-led the team with 10 tackles, as Brady made it a point to throw Williams’ way often. The unit was pretty average in that they didn’t lose the game, but also didn’t do anything spectacular against Brady to warrant a lot of praise.
Special Teams: B
Justin Tucker was clutch with his 27-yard field goal as time expired, and he was also strong in the kickoff game, as he only had one kick that didn’t result in a touchback. The Ravens won the punting war by a small margin, as neither the punters nor punt returners had much of an impact on the game. Deonte Thompson had another solid day on kickoff returns, averaging 27 yards-per-return. It was a clean game on both sides in regards to special teams, as both kickers made all their kicks and he special teams battle had little impact on the outcome of the game.
The grade gets an immediate drop down a notch after coach John Harbaugh‘s 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for inadvertently bumping an official nearly ended a Ravens’ drive. That was just one play though and most importantly, Cam Cameron finally succumbed to his senses and gave Rice the minimum rushes he deserves. The Ravens are now 12-2 when Rice has a 100-yard game rushing, and19-3 when he has a minimum of at least 20 carries. You would like to think Cameron has turned a corner and is aware of those staggering numbers, as the Ravens must continue to give Rice ample touches. The Ravens still threw 60 percent of their offensive snaps, but part of that was because they trailed by nine in the fourth quarter and had to make up chunks of yards. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees had a solid game plan as the Ravens’ defense totally shutdown the Patriots’ running game, while not getting totally carved up by Brady. Overall both coordinators had an above average day and their game plans set their players up for success.
Game Ball: Torrey Smith
There aren’t any words to describe the anguish Smith was going through during the day on Sunday. To come out and have a breakout game against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football under those horrendous circumstances really speaks to both the player and man Torrey Smith is. Smith had a mediocre first two weeks, so we’ll see if both this game and this life event will be the catalyst for a big season the rest of the way.