Wow, what a game. One of the least entertaining encounters I’ve ever seen was one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever seen at the same time. On a night where we saw more rain than Singapore gets in a decade and Joe Flacco was severely nearsighted, pulling out a win seemed like the least likely thing to happen for the Ravens. But it did, and that’s all that matters.
If you know any Jets fans, I feel sorry for you. The game ended ten minutes ago, and I’ve already heard things like this:
- “The Ravens only put up 10 points. Their offense is terrible.” Way to put up nine points, that worked out well in the end.
- “You guys should’ve blown us out.” Great defense of your team there. Top analysis on your part.
- “Our secondary wasn’t that bad, they forced Flacco to make a lot of bad throws.” Well there’s two things I can say to this. One is that half of those bad passes looked terrible because Antonio Cromartie had hugged the receiver 15 yards away from the ball while it was in the air, and the second is that your secondary probably put in the worst performance of any unit in any football game ever. Revis was above-average, but that won’t fix the atrocious play of Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson. Without Cromartie and Wilson feeling like being overly touchy tonight, I’m blasting everything about the Ravens right now. That comes a little bit later…
We’ll have our first full batch of player ratings tomorrow, but here’s the guys I was most impressed with tonight, with my thoughts as to why.
- Anquan “God” Boldin: Wow. Talk about a good trade. Boldin was an absolute stud tonight. Not only is 7 receptions and 110 yards a big night stats-wise, his catches couldn’t have come at bigger times. Two catches on that long 10-minute drive that led to nothing helped Flacco settle in, and then after that, the awesome started oozing out of Boldin’s skin. On third downs, he was the guy. Making catches over cornerbacks’ heads and catching balls with about an inch of free space to work with were just a few of the several awe-inspiring things Boldin did tonight. Imagine when Flacco plays well, and then you’ll understand why I’m so excited by Boldin’s performance tonight.
- Matt Birk: Birk did not miss a block tonight. Flacco never had to worry about pressure coming from the inside, and that turned out to be big as the game went on. I was keeping my eye on Birk to see just how good he was, being that I usually keep an eye on the tackles and fullback, and not the center, and I was amazed. He’s as All-Pro as they come.
- Ray Lewis: Papa Ray really stepped it up tonight. You won’t see it on the stat sheet, with the face of the franchise only racking up four tackles, none of which were for loss, but anybody watching the game should be able to tell you that he was beyond great tonight. He busted through the line repeatedly, which wreaked havoc on Mark Sanchez and the Jets’ running game. Most, if not all of those times he just plowed through the Jets’ offensive line, were on key third down plays. Then, add in the fact that he completely decked Dustin Keller to prevent the Jets from getting much closer to field goal range, and realize his impact on the game. He was all over, was getting the defense focused on the sidelines, and it was just vintage Ray Lewis tonight. Also, to be perfectly honest, his big hit probably knocked Dustin Keller’s brain back a down, and told him to run out of bounds on 4th down.
Now for the fun part. The Ravens did not play well tonight, and that’s pretty obvious. Some of the key players did not step up whatsoever, and I could go on for a while about that. For time and sanity’s sake, I’ll pick four:
- Joe Flacco: He was nearsighted, that’s the nice way of saying it. Overthrows every other pass and a terrible overthrow to Le’Ron McClain in the end zone were just a sampler of the many mistakes Flacco made tonight. He didn’t have the poise that he usually does, and he looked more like Kyle Boller than I’m comfortable with. Hopefully it’s just a product of the loud crowd, the MNF environment, and the crazy blitzing packages the Jets have that the ESPN guys are so giddy about. With all the weapons around him, Flacco should have no excuse to play as badly as he did tonight. To be fair though, he was incredible in 3rd-and-long situations.
- Willis McGahee: He didn’t even look like he wanted to be out there. Minus the touchdown, he ran with no power, and looked like he was just going through the motions. I said he needed to have a big game tonight, and he didn’t come anywhere close to doing that.
- Michael Oher: I’m concerned about Oher playing left tackle. My concerns were validated tonight. He can’t move side-to-side well, and speed rushers get by him without much difficulty. He wasn’t terrible tonight, but Jason Taylor was pressuring Flacco on almost every single play, and if you watched film, you’d see him just making quick moves and blowing right by Oher on those plays.
- Tom Zbikowski: Ugh. After singing the praises of Zbikowski all Summer, I was excited to see what he could do as the undisputed starter in Ed Reed’s place, and the featured punt returner. Needless to say, I was disappointed. His returning was bad, and I don’t even want to get into that. That warrants a 2,000 word post some other day this week. Take that terrible returning effort, and add it to the fact that Zibby was a non-factor on defense for most of the game, and I’m eating my words one week into the season. While he can’t come close to replacing Reed, he needs to fill into the same role, and he was not doing that. Instead of reading Mark Sanchez’s eyes, Zibbz was following his instincts, which were not correct at most times. His support in the run game was terrible, and the fact that he had four tackles actually surprises me, considering that he managed to keep himself out of the fireworks for most of the night.
Overall, I’m happy. A win is a win, and there were definitely some signs of brilliance against a very good team. They were balanced out by some negatives, of course, but a 1-0 start is a million times better than an 0-1 start, especially when you’ve got as many tough games on the schedule as the Ravens do this season. Most of all, the Ravens showed the NFL that they can win ugly. Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson lost this game for the Jets, and the Ravens took advantage of that. If Flacco doesn’t forget to put his contacts in, and the offensive line decides to run block, tonight’s score is something like 24-9. Of course the team should’ve played better, not turned the ball over, and moved the ball more effectively on offense, but there’s only so much you can ask for. It’s Week 1, after all. Let’s just sit back and enjoy this one for a few days, as Rex Ryan devours cheeseburgers like it’s nobody’s business.