Ravens Pound Bengals
The Ravens whipped the Bengals today using a great running game, a physical and intimidating defense, and a high energy effort – something that surprised many fans and media in this town, including myself. However, watching the way the Ravens players went at it today I don’t think they were surprised with their performance and that bodes well for this team going forward, if they can stay healthy. Confidence is a huge thing in sports and this football team has to have that after dominating Cincy today with a young offensive line, a rookie QB, and a rookie RB. The Bengals were a team that had given the Ravens fits the last several years but today the Baltimore Birds put a beat down on Marvin Lewis’ gang.
Here are some of my thoughts on the game today:
– So just how hurt are Ed Reed, Chris McAlister, and Samari Rolle because they looked pretty healthy today? The Ravens are clearly a different football team when those 3 guys are on the field. Is it possible the Ravens were just being overly cautious with each of them this pre-season or are they really on the verge of being knocked out for several weeks this season or their careers (as we’ve heard about Reed)? I hope our man Casey Willett can get the scoop on this because a healthy secondary is definitely the difference between this team contending for a playoff spot versus the team likely playing for a high draft spot. Reed’s coverage on T.J. Houshmandzadeh early in the game that led to C-Mac’s interception is the type of play that turns a game around.
– It was great to see the Ravens power running game back. Baltimore got most of their yards behind the strength of their offensive line in center Jason Brown and guards Marshal Yanda and Ben Grubbs. Ray Rice had a very good game except for his costly fumble, but he is a rookie and we’ll let him slide on that one. Le’Ron McClain was outstanding dragging tacklers all day for significant yardage. Bottom line: the Ravens offensive line teed off on the Bengals defensive line all day something we hadn’t really seen around here since 2003 when Jamal Lewis almost broke the NFL single season rushing record.
– The play of Joe Flacco in total was very good. His TD run was just incredible but we can’t expect him to do that very often (btw, what a great block by Jason Brown on that run!). As for his pocket presence, it was superb! Fellow blogger Chris Pika pointed out that Joe only got hit 1 time in 75 plays meaning the o-line did a good job of blocking and Flacco did a very good job of feeling pressure when it came and moving away from it. As for his throws, I can only think of a couple that were off. #5 under threw Mark Clayton in the first half on a deep pass that if made properly would have been a TD and another time while scrambling out of the pocket he badly overthrew an open Clayton in the flat. Overall I have to give Flacco an A for his performance today.
– The receivers stepped up today! It was great to see Mark Clayton back and playing at a high level. He can be a dangerous player and he was very good today. Derrick Mason was his usual solid self and he is a great leader for the younger guys. I’ve never met Mason but he seems like a real class act. Another thing the receivers did well was with their run blocking. You can’t run the ball that well without help from the WR’s.
– I still think that the block in the back call on Yamon Figurs punt return was a very borderline to bad call. It appeared that the Ravens player (I think it was Frank Walker) hit the Bengals punter in the shoulder although from the referees angle he probably saw one of Walker’s hands on the punters back so he threw the flag.
– Bart Scott and the rest of the Ravens linebackers were phenomenal today. I singled out Scott because he had a tough season last year and he looked more like his 2006 form today. Terrell Suggs, Jason Johnson, and Ray Lewis were all over the field all day and Rex Ryan has to be very proud of that crew.
– Biggest disappointment of the day: TE Todd Heap. He dropped an easy TD in the second quarter that would have put the Ravens up 14-0 and his fumble in the opening minutes was reminiscent of some of his past ones. That fumble reminded me of the one he had in the Indy playoff game in January 2007 and someone has got to get Heap to stop leaving his feet with the ball under him because it is getting knocked out too much by the opposing team. Luckily for Heap the defense rose to the occasion and shut the Bengals offense down without any points after that turnover (I also think they ended up breaking Carson Palmer’s nose).
– Coaching: WOW! Clearly the players were energized and how cool was it to see the offense run a “no huddle” sequence? That clearly confused the heck out of Cincinnati. The double reverse was a major risk/reward play so with Clayton going to the house Cam Cameron looks like a genius on that call.
Overall, it was a great day for the purple and black and the doubters have to be re-thinking their pre-season prognostications after this performance (myself included). As I said in the opening, if the Ravens stay healthy this team can contend for a playoff spot based on what I saw today. But this is only week one and right now this team needs to focus on just getting better each week. Next week will be a tough game going to Houston to face a Texans team that had their jocks handed to them by the Pittsburgh Steelers today. As our old coach told us time and time again: “Winning on the road in the NFL is one of the toughest thing to do in sports.”