A win is a win is a win but this team is really struggling right now and a lot of it has to do with injuries.
When Mike Flynn and Adam Terry went out with injuries (hopefully not serious) the Ravens O-line became Marshal Yanda (Rookie), Ben Grubbs (Rookie), Chris Chester (2nd year), Jason Brown (3rd year), and Jared Gaither (Rookie- still should be a junior at Maryland).
Steve McNair is still clearly not 100% and it seems to take his groin at least a quarter to loosen up each week. Todd Heap and Dan Wilcox did not play. Derrick Mason was ABSOLUTELY GREAT playing through an ankle injury that he re-injured during the game. Mark Clayton does not look 100% either.
So to hold the ball as long as they did (the Ravens are really dominating time of possession) and not turn the ball over on offense I’ll will take it. Yes, I would have liked to have seen at least one of those drives end in a TD but outside of the field position after Ed Reed’s INT the Ravens didn’t have much of that (Was that Niners punter good or what? Note: Yamon Figurs is obviously hurt too). Willis McGahee had another very solid game at RB.
The Ravens offense right now is basically band-aid after band aid and they have ZERO explosiveness due mainly to the health of McNair and the receivers. They did do a nice job once again in the 2 minute drill in the first half getting a crucial 3 points but when they had a chance to put the Niners away they just couldn’t get the TD they needed.
On the defensive side of the ball Trevor Pryce and Samari Rolle are still out. When they had to put 3 corners on the field they were Corey Ivy and Derrick Martin to go along with C-Mac. Now I know the Niners had Trent Dilfer at QB so this should have been a shutout but for some reason the defensive coaches decided to not have Ed Reed playing center field with a 9-0 lead in the 3rd quarter and it cost the Ravens dearly and put them in a position to lose the game (luckily Joe Nedney missed badly on a 52 yard FG try late). The decision to move Ed Reed to the line of scrimmage faking blitz and then having him drop into the middle of the field on 3rd and 9 boggles my mind, especially after Reed already had one INT on an errant Dilfer overthrow. I had just said to my friend Mark, who was watching the game with me, that we should keep Reed back on every play to prevent a long gain. Granted Dilfer made a perfect throw but if Reed is playing center field on that play he likely has a chance to break it up or intercept it. Then on the very next play the Niners run a post and instead of Ed Reed back helping in coverage you see Ray Lewis scrambling to get into the play to help McAlister?? They only showed a quick replay so I don’t where Reed was on the field but this play is something the defensive coaches need to look at and correct. This is a very good defense but each week they manage to give up big plays that really hurt this team. Sometimes they get too aggressive but all in all it was a very good defensive effort but with the offensive injuries and problems there is very little margin for error.
Btw, it was nice to see the real Matt Stover back this week after 2 FG misses last week.
The big positive in this injury situation is that SEVERAL young guys are getting significant playing time and that will help this team long term. I mentioned the O-line guys already but I also noticed Antwan Barnes on the field more today on defense. Hopefully he can help bring pressure on the QB.
Next week we get the winless and badly banged up Rams. Because of the Ravens injury situation I just can’t see them blowing anyone out right now so I’ll gladly take another ball control, no turnover game that results in a win. It isn’t pretty and it is very hard to watch but it is what it is right now and if this team can keep winning into the bye week and then get healthy then hopefully we’ll see a team that starts to resemble the team that got hot last year coming out of the bye week.
One final thought: Kudos to Mike Nolan in SF. He is doing a great job turning that franchise around much like Marvin Lewis did in Cincinnati (although I still don’t like that turnaround!).