Monday, October 17, 2011

Week 6 Postmortem: Ravens 29 - Texans 14

Here are my observations from yesterday's game between Baltimore and Houston, in no particular order:

  • This is not last year's team
The 2011 Baltimore Ravens actually know how to finish out a game.  They didn't panic after the Texans took the lead in the 3rd quarter, and they didn't go into a scramble like they did against Houston last year when the Ravens blew a 15 point lead and had to win the game in OT.  All they did was take the ball back down the field and take control of the game back.  This might be the biggest positive that we can take from this week.  This is a team with a good mix of veterans and younger players.  The young guys keyed off of the older guys and there was no hesitation.  When the Ravens offense took the field after the Texans scored to take a 14-13 lead I saw a team that was confident that they would win.  Not that they COULD win, but that they WOULD win.  It wasn't arrogance, it was faith in their abilities and in each other.
  • Or Brian Billick's team
Houston started off the game trying to intimidate the Ravens offense.  They tried to goad them into making stupid mistakes because they knew they were outgunned (the best offensive and best defensive players for the Texans - Andre Johnson and Mario Williams - were both out/injured).  The Ravens did not take the bait.  The teams run by Brian Billick, the ones with Bart Scott and Derrick Mason and a younger (and football acumen dumber) Terrell Suggs would have probably taken the bait.  John Harbaugh has instilled a sense of discipline and purpose to this team, and it showed.  After a couple attempts to get Baltimore off of their game plan (extending that opening drive all the way to a TD) the Texans just got down to playing the game.
  • You have to be bold, but you don't have to be stupid
The overriding fundamental philosophy of the Coryell offensive game plan (of which Cam Cameron is a disciple) is that the quarterback's reads go from deepest route in.  It is predicated on the big play, or at least the threat of it in order to keep the middle of the field open for the mid and short range passing game and the running game.  And there is something to be said for the offense dictating the game plan to the defense.  But with all of that said, when a defense is giving you something you take it.  The Texans were bringing the heat (trying to compensate for 1/3 of their sack production in M. Williams being out).  The middle of the field was WIDE open.  The one time I can remember Flacco going to a hot read of Anquan Boldin running a slant it got something like 12 yards.  Why the Ravens were not flooding the middle of the field and letting Flacco throw to one guy while the other 2 or 3 guys became blockers is absolutely beyond me.  I cannot figure it out.  And it isn't like the Texans were working overtime to disguise their blitzes.  It was obvious and there is no way that Flacco didn't notice that.  So why didn't he audible out of the plays that were being called and into something that would bring about a bigger chance at success?  Because...
  • I don't care what anybody says, Joe Flacco is not in charge of that offense
Cam Cameron and John Harbaugh both came out this year and said that Joe was going to have the handcuffs taken off, that he was going to be given the keys and he was going to drive that offense.  After 5 games I say 

I could see that Joe Flacco could see what was coming.  You could see it in his eyes, in his actions, in his pocket presence.  He would take the snap and start almost running backwards.  At the first sign of pressure he was looking for an escape route from the pocket (except for that strip sack and that horrible choice to flick the ball in the direction of Dennis Pitta while he was being sacked).  He wound up missing a wide open Pitta in the end zone for a touchdown because he had to run for his life (but in reality him not seeing Pitta was probably for the best.  In order to make that play he would have been forced to throw across the field, across his body, AND against his momentum.  He would have had to put a LOT of air under that ball to have any hope of getting it to Pitta, and that is like a signed request to have a CB intercept the pass and have a whole lot of open field in between him and the end zone).  This game was proof positive to me that Flacco is still not allowed to audible whenever he wants.  Either that or Joe Flacco is the most clueless quarterback since a drunken Joe Namath tried to put the moves to Suzy Kolber.
  • Joe Flacco is not Brett Favre, but sometimes I think he is trying his best to be just like him
The aforementioned ball flick and the not yet mentioned until now completion to Ray Rice when Ray had to jump in the air while contorting to his right in order to catch the ball both scared the heck out of me.  Even though one resulted in an incomplete pass instead of a sack and the other netted positive yardage both were extremely bad decisions on Flacco's part (I think he is actually overcompensating a bit for the lack of control on scripted plays so when the play breaks down he tries too hard to show he can handle the job).  He is finally starting to learn when to throw the ball away instead of trying to force it and always make a play.  Now he needs to learn when to tuck the ball away and take the sack.  It wasn't a 4th down, 4 point deficit with 3 minutes on the clock play.  Eat the ball and come back on the next play, Joe.  We won't think any less of you for it, I promise.
  • The thing that scares me the most going forward
Billy Cundiff is a gift from the football gods.  I think if he was really trying he probably could have put half of those kickoffs through the uprights.  But the Ravens should not have a game where they only get 2 touchdowns out of 7 total scores.  Now more than ever the NFL is a league driven by offense, and offense is driven by touchdowns.  This isn't 2000 and tallying more 3s than 7s is going to come back to bite you in the end and probably when you can least afford it (like in the playoffs).  Whatever this team does it needs to figure out how to get the ball in the end zone.  The offense is better than it was but it is not where it needs to be, and this is something that needs to be fixed before Monday night in Jacksonville.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Michael Oher Puts His Foot In His Mouth But Keeps It Less Than 140 Characters

Oh Michael Oher...

Just in case you have been living under a rock that only has Windows 7 for an operating system, I will be the one to break the news to you that Steve Jobs has sadly passed away yesterday.  This was Mr. Oher's response to that...

My favorite part of this is that he posted that on an iPhone.  I was hoping that he was attempting to channel Steven Wright's essence in a tweet.  But he wasn't.  And I know this because this was his response...

Yes Michael, there are fake people on Twitter.  I am two of them.  But maybe, just maybe, you can do a quick Google search or maybe watch a little news before you go out there and go full Simple Jack

Monday, October 03, 2011

Week 4 Postmortem: Ravens 34 - Jets 17

I would never claim to be at the level of Keith Van Valkenberg, but I have no problem stealing his idea and running with it (and unlike Jamison Hensley, I won't take a post concept, change the name, and then not acknowledge what I am doing *cough* *cough* Wake Up Call is just Matt Vensel's Coffee Companion *cough*).  And so, without further ado...

  • Sometimes bad offense is a result of good defense
Neither offense looked like they could play their way out of a paper bag with a map and a sherpa for most of the game. 51 points were scored, and there was only one TD scored by both offenses.  Combined.  Everything I was seeing both during and after the game was attacking the offenses, especially the quarterbacks, for inept play.  But sometimes you have to tip your hat to the defenses.  Both teams came in with something to prove both professionally and personally.  The Ravens wanted to prove that they could play well after a big win after the stinkbomb they set off in Tennessee two weeks ago.  The players wanted to prove that they were more than Rex Ryan and his mad schemes.  Last year under Chuck Pagano the defense was embarrassed by their performance.  And don't think that Ray Lewis didn't have extra motivation, even if the two teams did play each other last year.  Lewis said all of the right things when he was asked about Ryan deciding to go hard after Bart Scott and not at all after him when both players became free agents the same year that Ryan left Baltimore to coach the Jets, but it hurt him that Ryan didn't want him to build around and teach.  Lewis looks at the defense over the last 12 years of dominance and he is the one constant.  Other players have come through, they have learned from him, and they have used the success he has made happen and they have been signed to big contracts and been the big splash.  And to a man they have all failed when they left (how'd that Ed Hartwell deal work out for you guys, Atlanta?).  This was Ray's chance to show that it HAD been all about him, through all the coaches, through all the turnover, through everything Ray Lewis was the reason.  But to do that he would have had to go somewhere else and then this defense would have had to fail.  It didn't happen, but he has never forgotten the snub.  The Jets had the opposite issue.  There are quite a few players on that team that have been either lost to free agency (Scott and Jim Leonhard from Baltimore) or have been discarded (Aaron Maybin and Antonio Cromartie to name a few) and picked up off of the scrap heap.  The Jets are dangerously close to being the Oakland Raiders of the new millennium, with Ryan playing the Al Davis role of the outspoken "Bring it!" mouthpiece grabbing the players nobody else wants and telling them "we're your last chance to show the league that they're wrong about you".  And Ryan wants to show Steve Bisciotti that he picked the wrong guy in 2008.  Don't think that year that he didn't get the Baltimore OR the Atlanta job aren't still stuck in his mind as revenge opportunities.  It is an angry motivation that can burn you if you let it get out of control.  I wonder if we saw a little bit of that last night.
  • That said, what the hell was Cam Cameron thinking?
Yes, we all saw the passing game look like The Greatest Show On Turf last week against the Rams.  But a smart coach knows to look at what his team is going up against, and while it was fun to watch, that St. Louis game could have easily cost the Ravens a "W" last night.

The Rams went into that game w/the worst run defense in the NFL and everyone and their Aunt Petunia expected a heavy dose of Ray Rice and Ricky Williams, so Cameron mixed it up and opened the floodgates against a banged up secondary.  The Jets gave up 200+ yards to the Raiders the week before, but unlike the Rams the Jets have an excellent secondary.  So while you have to pass the ball to keep the defense honest, if you have the best blocking fullback in the league and a running back that creates mismatches every time he touches the ball you don't need to get cute.  It didn't help that Joe Flacco also had stars in his eyes and decided that throwing to his checkdowns was an admission that he cried while watching Barbara Streisand movies and just went deep, but the fault has to rest on Cameron's shoulders for calling all of those passing plays.  When the team finally went run heavy in the 2nd half they started moving the ball, ending drives w/two lost fumbles (one by Flacco and one by Ricky Williams) and one incomplete pass.  So it looks like Cameron finally got the message during halftime (although I have to wonder if John Harbaugh didn't have a say in the matter after his well covered statement that he was going to be more involved with the offense this year) the question remains: "What took you so long, man?"
  • Paul Kruger is a glory hound
I have seen Kruger active in two nationally televised games.  In one he had an interception in overtime that led to the winning score, and in the other he recovers a fumbled snap that leads to a field goal.  The lesson is obvious, if it is a nationally televised game, play him and good things will happen.  Any other game, any production from him is an added bonus.
  • Don't look now, but there was a Sergio Kindle sighting
He didn't do much, but he got on the field and he played in the game.  Little steps, man.  Keep on grinding and hopefully it will come.
  • I wasn't a big fan of the early bye week, but upon further review
The Ravens are a team that could use some time to lick their wounds and get their heads clear.  They go into the bye on a high note, in sole possession of first place in their division, and with any luck they will come back with Ben Grubbs (possibly the most underrated offensive lineman in a league that gives anyone who isn't a left tackle almost no recognition at all), Lee Evans (as much as I like Torrey Smith's potential, he needs to let the game slow down and come to him more than he is doing now.  Smith is a little too Tasmanian Devil for my tastes right now), and Jimmy Smith (it is amazing how quickly cornerback has gone from a problem of too many players to not enough warm bodies).  The last time the Ravens had a bye this early was in 2008, when weather conspired to make them have Week 2 off followed by 15 straight games.  They made it to the AFC Championship Game that year (and they played the AFC South that year too if you are the kind that looks for omens).  Add in the Thanksgiving night game against the 49'ers (at home, thank you very much) and it is like they have 2 byes this year.  It really couldn't have lined up much better for them, at least as far as it looks from here.
  • Ray Rice is a Bill O'Reilly meme

Let's hope Cameron realizes this while he has the next week "off".