I’m not extremely excited about it, but this is the NFL and a win is a win – I’ll take it. It was a tough game to watch, but at the end of the day the Ravens stepped up when they needed to step up and put themselves in a position to take advantage of the numerous Chiefs’ mistakes to walk away from the ever hostile Arrowhead with a win.
So what, if anything can the Ravens’ faithful take away from such a disconcerting win? Let’s start with the positives:
1) The Ravens’ running game remains strong. Based on the prattling of the announcers, one can be forgiven if they thought Jamaal Charles was the only running back in the stadium, but let’s not forget that Ray Rice racked up 102 yards on 17 carries. In addition to his 6 yard per carry average it was encouraging to see Cam Cameron go to the former Rutgers standout on the important 3rd and 2’s.
2) The passing game is not a dead letter. At first glance, Flacco’s stat line of 13 for 27 with 187 yards is abysmal. It’s hard to put a pretty face on such an outing, but let’s not forget the four major dropped passes. If even three of these passes are caught, Joe’s stat lines increases to a more palatable 16-27 and probably 210 yards. Not Pro-Bowl numbers to be sure, but each of those passes would have resulted in first downs, more momentum, and less time for the defense to have to chase Jamaal Charles.
3) The Ravens’ offense and defense made the plays they needed to make to survive in a very loud venue. In the ultra-competitive NFL there is very little that separates those who excel and those who don’t. When all’s said and done it comes down to the making the 1-2 decisive plays per game. Ed Reed’s fumble recovery in the end zone, Flacco’s 16 yard first down run at the end of the game, and Lardarius Webb’s interception are notable examples of Ravens being at the right place at the right time. Others might attribute this to pure luck, but I’m a firm believer that luck is merely a manifestation of excellent preparation.
Not all learning points need be positive, so let’s now turn to the negatives.
1) The run defense needs to tighten up. Charles is certainly a good running back, but short of the 233 rushing yards he put up on New Orleans (a team not normally associated with a strong defense) in week-3, the 140 he racked up on the Ravens was almost a soul crusher. Not only did the Chiefs’ running game keep them in manageable 2nd and 3rd down situations, but it also kept the Ravens’ defense on the field for over 34 of the available 60 minutes of competition. The Ravens will face better backs in the near future (Arian Foster anyone?) and defensing the run should be a priority.
2) The pass rush was basically nonexistent. I’m willing to throw a bone to the KC offensive line, but, like above, we will face better squads in the future.
3) On the other side of the ball, our pass protection was very weak. KC continuously rushed only their front four, but this caused much havoc for the Ravens’ offensive line. We can argue about Flacco’s mobility, but four sacks by the front four is not a pretty site.
Don’t take my criticisms to mean that the Ravens should fold their tent for the year. This couldn’t be further from the truth. At the quarter-season mark, the Ravens have a 4-1 record and the skills to be contenders. That said they need to learn from every game and continue to improve. Coach Harbaugh and the Ravens’ veterans are the right people to ensure these improvements happen.
Now for my week-6 predictions:
Pittsburgh at Tennessee (Thur, 8:20pm EDT, NFL)
What Vegas says: Pittsburgh by 5 and ½.
What I think: Even though the Titans are coming into this game with something to prove they just don’t have the personnel to match up head to head against the Steelers. As much as I’d like to see Pittsburgh lay an egg in Nashville and walk away with a loss, I just don’t see it happening that way.
Steelers win 27 – 20.
Cincinnati at Cleveland (Sun, 1:00pm EDT, CBS)
What Vegas says: Cincinnati by 1 and ½.
What I think: The odds accurately reflect how close this game will likely be. Trent Richardson should have some success against the Bengals run defense, but the uni-dimensional nature of their attack will be their undoing.
Bengals win 27 – 23.
Dallas at Baltimore (Sun, 1:00pm EDT, FOX)
What Vegas says: Baltimore by 3 and ½.
What I think: I expect the Ravens’ offense to make a statement during this game. The performance will be led by Ray Rice and the running game which should also open up the play action pass opportunities for Flacco and company. The Ravens’ defense will continue their new “bend but don’t break” philosophy and should be able to take advantage of Romo’s proclivity to throw to the opposing squad. If the Ravens can effectively control the line of scrimmage, establish the run, and minimize penalties, they should be able to keep their M&T Bank Stadium win streak alive. I’ll be at this game. Hope to see you there.
Ravens win 34 – 27.
Upset of the week: Seattle takes down Tom Brady and the Pats.
– Last week: 0/0 (no picks made due to travel…)
– 2012 Season: 12/16