Baltimore Ravens: 3 Up 3 Down
It wasn’t the prettiest of games for the Baltimore Ravens, but a win is a win nonetheless, as the Ravens escaped Arrowhead Stadium with a 9-6 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. The low point totals were a bit deceiving for both the offense and the defense. Both teams had a field day on the ground, but nearly set football back a few decades in the passing game. Joe Flacco was sacked four times for the second straight game, and Flacco threw an interception in his fourth straight game, which is a large reason the passing game struggled so mightily. Meanwhile, Jamaal Charles gashed the Ravens’ defense for 140 of the Chiefs’ 214 rushing yards. With that being said, the Ravens never trailed at any point in this game, as the Chiefs have astonishingly not lead for a single second this entire season. However, the Chiefs gave the Ravens all they could handle as the Ravens kept a concerning trend going. That trend is the Ravens playing down to their competition, and this alarming trend dates back to last season. All four of the Ravens' regular season losses last season came on the road to non-playoff teams, and that trend nearly continued with the so-so effort against the Chiefs. If the Ravens duplicate the effort they had against the Chiefs again this week against the Dallas Cowboys, the result won’t be so lucky. However, before we look ahead to week 6, let’s take a look at three positives and three negatives from week 5 at Kansas City.
Rice failed to hit pay-dirt again, as he has only one touchdown in his past four games. However, Rice has been averaging the seventh-most yards-per-carry for running backs with at least 20 carries. The problem has been getting an ample amount of carries, as Rice ranks tied for 15th in rushes-per-game. Despite his low number of carries, Rice eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the second time in four games, with one of those games being a 99-yard rushing game. Rice has eclipsed the 90-yard all-purpose mark in every game, and should have some monster games on the horizon as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will eventually come to his senses and give Rice at least 25 touches a game.
The Ravens’ secondary had by far its best game of the season as they completely shutdown Matt Cassel and the Chiefs passing attack. The Chiefs threw for a mere 124 yards as the Ravens defense had more takeaways than the Chiefs offense had scoring drives. The ever-opportunistic Ed Reed came up with a game-changing fumble recovery in the Ravens’ end zone after Deonte Thompson fumbled away the Ravens’ kickoff return to start the second half. Cornerback Lardarius Webb had his first interception of the season, as teams have been shying away from him. The other end of that equation is cornerback Cary Williams, as teams have been staying away from Webb and focusing on Williams. Williams had an interception in his second straight game as the Ravens improved their passing defense rank by seven spots. After a shaky start to the season, this unit appears to be rounding into form and should be a menace to opposing quarterbacks the rest of the season.
Tucker has been one of the most consistent players for the Ravens all season and that trend continued on Sunday as Tucker supplied all of the scoring for the Ravens. Tucker was 3-for-3 in field goal attempts against the Chiefs and the rookie has converted 11 of his first 12 attempts. Tucker is third in the AFC in points scored and his long field goal of 56 yards is the longest any AFC kicker has drained all season. With the Ravens propensity to throw the ball instead of feeding Rice once the offense reaches opposing territory, many drives have stalled and Tucker has stepped in and made sure those drives don’t come up empty. The Ravens definitely made the right choice keeping the undrafted free agent out of the University of Texas over the incumbent Billy Cundiff, as Cundiff has struggled mightily and was released by the Washington Redskins this past week.
The NFL has become a pass happy league, and the posterboy for the infatuation with throwing the ball is Cam Cameron. Cameron has stubbornly neglected Rice while throwing the ball an eye-popping 61 percent of the time. That percentage may not be terribly surprising for a team with a stud quarterback and no running game like the Green Bay Packers, but for a team featuring an elite back like Rice, Cameron’s play selection must be questioned. The game against the Chiefs was a perfect example of Cameron idiotically forcing pass plays while Flacco and the passing game were completely out of sync. Rice gashed the Chiefs for six yards-per-carry, yet Cameron kept forcing the pass. The Ravens went 3-for-11 on third down, as Cameron has refused to run the ball even in third-and-short situations. The Ravens now rank 24th in the league on third down and much of that blame lays in the hands of Cameron as he has habitually made bone-headed calls and set the Ravens up to fail, especially on those third downs. Evidently Cameron also doesn’t know that the Ravens are 20-3 when Rice has 20-plus carries, as Rice has only one 20-carry effort this season. It kind of feels like the Ravens are 4-1 in spite of Cameron’s play-calling.
Things started out great for Dennis Pitta this season, as he separated himself from Ed Dickson early on as the go-to tight end. Not only was Pitta the go-to tight end, but he appeared to be Flacco’s go-to guy, as he led the team in targets through three weeks. Then the last two weeks happened, as Pitta has only 22 yards receiving and was fourth on the team in targets. Maybe it’s only a couple bad games, but Pitta is not established yet in his career so his play of late is a little concerning. A least Pitta has had a few big games, as Dickson has been a non-factor all season. Dickson has a mere six catches for 61 yards on the season and has taken a backseat to Pitta. Considering the third-year tight end came into the season as the Ravens’ first tight end on the depth chart, his season thus far has been a total nightmare.
Big things were expected from third-year nose tackle Terrence Cody this season, but thus far, the 341-pound second-round pick from 2010 has been basically invisible. Cody has regressed this season and his numbers across the board are down. He is on pace for only 22 tackles, which would be a 35 percent decrease from last season. Cody is currently ranked 15th on the Ravens defense in tackles and has no other contributions to speak of. With the loss of Terrell Suggs, the Ravens needed everyone on their defense to step their game up, but Cody has taken a step backward, and as a result the Ravens’ defense hasn’t been as ferocious. When you consider that Cody has been playing next to Haloti Ngata who demands so much attention, Cody’s struggles are even more magnified.