Ravens Week 1 Recap: Defense Is Back In Baltimore

Screenshot 2017-09-10 at 5.05.42 PM - Edited

 

Man that was fun. The Ravens went out there and played a complete 60 minutes of football, basically dominating in all facets. They won the turnover battle, they controlled the clock and moved the ball on the ground, they moved the chains on key 3rd downs… it was a masterful performance. It was all set up by their ferocious defense. They were constantly getting to the backfield and putting pressure on Andy Dalton. And when they weren’t they were getting their hands up in passing lanes and tipping balls to get the guys behind them a chance to make a play. The team stats may not show a picture of complete dominance in some areas but rest assured, the Bengals were never in this game in the 2nd half. More thoughts on yesterday’s big opening day win…

 

OFFENSE

– Joe Flacco played every snap and was pretty meh. 9/17 for 121 with one TD and one INT. Not spectacular. But that’s the funnest thing about this year’s team. He doesn’t have to be any more than “meh” for this team to win a lot of football games. Sure enough, there will be a few times this year where we’re gonna have to saddle up and ride on Joe’s back for a key late game drive… but I don’t expect he’ll have to go out and light the world on fire in any given game. The defense is that good. He’ll be a game manager and that’s fine. It suits him well. He went out there and made the easy throws, and didn’t put us in much trouble. The pick early in the 2nd half was less than ideal, but it was hardly gonna sink us anyway. Plus the defense bailed him out in a big way with a takeaway anyway. Today he did the bare minimum and a couple of times looked bad, but we know that he’s relatively healthy and we know that he’s better than Ryan Mallett. I have no gripes with Joe to this point and I don’t expect he’ll have to really elevate his game until week 4 against Pittsburgh.

 

– The audible into the slant to Maclin was by far the biggest offensive play for either side. To that point, the Ravens had been clinging to a 3-0 lead for a while and really hadn’t taken advantage of the turnovers Andy Dalton had been gracious enough to provide us. It felt like we were letting them linger a bit too long. Joe switches the play at the line, Ben Watson runs a good rub route and 2 Bengals defenders run into each other… next thing you know Maclin is waltzing into the end zone. It’s the type of play that I feel like I watch every other NFL team run, but we never take advantage of ourselves. The Bengals were sloppy and we cashed in. Just a play or two like that a game can be the difference. Great to see Maclin make his mark in his first game in purple and black.

 

– The offensive line really did an outstanding job. They were one of the biggest question marks on this team coming into the season, and they did a relatively good job in pass protection. He was sacked once, and there were a handful of other hits that Joe took, but they weren’t the massive liability that some may have thought. They got good push in the run game, which was key to keeping the clock moving in the 2nd half. Time of possession was 34-26 in favor of Baltimore, and that was a testament to the offensive line.

 

– Credit should also be given to Marty Mornhinweg and the commitment to the run game. Like I mentioned, time of possession was a big win for the Ravens and helped them maintain control of the game in the 2nd half. He did a good job of keeping the playcalling simple and not getting too cute. We also balanced our RB usage pretty well. Terrance West got 19 carries and surprisingly Buck Allen got 21 carries on his own. Both were effective and we rotated them well to keep them fresh. 42 runs vs 18 dropbacks was the perfect ratio given the game at hand. That won’t be the ratio every week, but ya gotta tip the cap to Marty for staying committed to the run.

 

– Really sucked to see Danny Woodhead go down with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. He was COOKIN on that drive, including a ridiculously casual one-handed catch for a key red zone first down. It was a small sample, but he looked like the kind of pass-catching weapon that we haven’t had out of the backfield since Ray Rice. Hopefully the injury isn’t season ending, fingers crossed there.

 

DEFENSE!!!!!!

– Okay I’m ready to talk defense. Oh boy am I ready. They made Andy Dalton look like he’s never picked up a football in his life. It was takeaways galore. It all stemmed from a ferocious pass-rush that pretty much started from the first drive. Z’adarius Smith got in there on the first drive with a 3rd down sack and it was on from there. There were moments where the Bengals started to move the ball, but on multiple occasions it came to a screeching halt with a takeaway in Ravens territory.

 

– The first takeaway was on a tipped pass by UDFA Patrick Onwuasor, which was easily picked off by Brandon Carr. Onwuasor has really been pushing Kamalei Correa for playing time at inside linebacker, and only furthered his case yesterday. The one play that stuck out for Correa was the play where Gio Bernard came into his gap and Correa completely whiffed, costing us about 20 yards and a first down. Things could change on Correa, but I don’t think anyone in Baltimore has any faith in the guy. I’m all for undrafted guys taking a 2nd-round guy’s spot if they earn it, and Onwuason certainly seems to be earning it.

 

– Turnover #2 was a beautiful end zone interception by CJ Mosley. I feel like I’ve seen him make that same leaping interception about a dozen times at this point. Sure, maybe Dalton shouldn’t have thrown that ball, but I just don’t think NFL QB’s are accustomed to seeing an inside linebacker with those kinds of ups in coverage. That CJ Mosley is something special, and I don’t think enough people in the NFL appreciate it yet. Freak.

 

– Interception #3 was a backbreaker for the Bengals. It came right after the Maclin touchdown, when Sizzle read Dalton’s eyes and got a hand up to bat a ball roughly 5,000 feet into the air. Few had a clue where the ball was, but it was Lardarius Webb who found it and ultimately grabbed it and took it down to the 2. Huge huge INT inside of 2 minutes in the 1st half. With T-West punching it in on the next play, the Ravens suddenly had a commanding 17-0 lead as opposed to a relatively modest 10-0 lead. You never really feel like you’re out of a 2-score game, but 3 scores is such a huge difference to go into halftime with. Game was pretty much over at this point.

 

– Takeaway #4 was a great strip sack by Suggs on a key 3rd down. This came right after Flacco opened the 2nd half with a pick in his own territory, and it kept the Bengals from putting points on the board. Suggs had a really great game between tipping the one for a pick, this strip sack, and adding a key late sack on a 3rd down in the 4th quarter. I believe that Suggs’ ability to fend off Father Time will be a huge difference between the Ravens being a good and a great team this season. He certainly looked as good as ever on Sunday.

 

 

– Takeaway #5 was just a great play by Jimmy Smith to turn around and find the football on an out route. The ball was poorly thrown, but a lot of inexperienced corners won’t turn their heads and will end up drawing an interference flag on that ball. It really did encapsulate what was a great day by Jimmy to keep AJ Green relatively under wraps, which is something I don’t think the Ravens have ever been able to say. 5 catches for 74 yards isn’t a terrible day, but it was more than enough yesterday. “If Jimmy Smith can stay healthy” is a phrase we’ve been muttering for years here in Baltimore, so hopefully he can keep it up.

 

– Between all these turnovers, the Ravens did a pretty solid job on 3rd down, and were pretty stout against the run too. There was a drive there where Gio Bernard was running rampant, but it didn’t really translate over to the next drive. We made some adjustments and went back to stuffing the run the rest of the game. Run defense has been the strength of this defense for years, now they’ve got the secondary to back it up.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

– Special teams was pretty much status quo. Justin Tucker made his kicks as he will do…. Sam Koch pinned a couple of good punts, and there were no lapses in kick coverage. Since the Bengals didn’t score, we only had one kickoff in our direction and that was a touchback…. Campanaro wasn’t given a ton to work with on punts, and he kinda scared us all on a punt in front of him, but really nothing else to note here. There will be days when our special teams will make big plays, that’s just a John Harbaugh staple… today just wasn’t one of those days and it didn’t need to be.

 

I’m so fucking jacked up about that win. We wait for months on end for week 1 and it did not disappoint. I chewed up a lot of info, read a lot of quotes, watched some preseason ball, and my instinct was that the Ravens would have a really special defense this year. I was confident they were top 5 and wanted to believe they could be the best. There’s no reason after Sunday’s win to believe otherwise. There’s even reason to believe that this could be an all-time defense. It’s still just one week, but the Bengals offense isn’t exactly one to shake a stick at. Some of their dudes can BALL, and we goose egged em. I expect nothing less against Cleveland at home next week.

 

Gonna be a great year of football in Baltimore y’all. Let’s roll.

 

 

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