It took me a couple of days to digest what I saw on Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium. I’m still not exactly sure what the Baltimore Raven’s offensive gameplan was, or what Joe Flacco saw when he looked downfield on 70% of his passes, but all I know, is that what happened on Sunday, was an animal that can not rear it’s ugly head again.
First of, let me give a TON of credit to the Raven defense. For the second week in a row, the defense played a brilliant game, even after constantly being put in horrible situations by an offense that reminded me of that dreadful 9-7 game against the San Francisco 49ers during the 2007 season. Once again, Ray Lewis, the heart and soul of this team, led an attack that constantly put pressure on Carson Palmer, and never allowed Cedric Benson, Chad Johnson (not calling him OC), or Terrell Owens to take over the game. And to be quite honest, had it not been for two of the most horrendous calls I have seen NFL officials make on a football field, maybe, just maybe, the defense pulls out a win the offense was destined to give away. But alas, and maybe even fortunately for the Ravens, the Bengals did just enough to win the game 15-10. Had the Ravens been able to win this game, with as bad as they played, maybe the heat wouldn’t be on them so much. Maybe the fans would use a line from a bygone era of Raven football, “as long as we win, I don’t care what it looks like.” Which is tru in some sense. I personally would always take an ugly win over a pretty loss…ALWAYS. However, an ugly win Sunday would have masked the fact that even at 2-0, this team would have a ton of question marks concerning this offense. What being 1-1 does, is allows everyone to speak the truth. “I’ll take it, two smash mouth games on the road against a pair of top 5 defenses in their respective home openers, 1-1 isn’t anything to be ashamed oh…However, the offense needs to get better in a hurry.”
And let’s look at it this way, the Cincinnati Bengals are a good football team. Some have said they will repeat as this year’s AFC North Champions. Their defense under coordinator Mike Zimmer is a top five defense, and they have one of the most talented secondary’s in football. And more importantly, they were coming off a B-slapping of an opening game loss in New England, in their home opener. And let’s not forget that during the first few weeks of an NFL season, the defense is always a little ahead of the offenses. The loss wasn’t surprising.
What was surprising was just how bad the Ravens’ offense looked. Let us count the ways…:
— Joe Cool’s four picks can never happen again on a team that fashions itself as a Super Bowl contender. Especially considering that all four were thrown right to Bengal defenders. There was no amazing Ed Reed-like catch on any of them. But for all those calling for Marc Bulger to start, you don’t know football. You don’t pull your third year franchise starting quarterback after one bad road game early in the season. Joe will be fine. If he winds up throwing for 3,900 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 13 picks, and the Ravens win 12 games, his Week 2 performance against the Bengals will be forgotten.
— The offensive line needs to find it’s 2008-2009 pass blocking form. Matt Birk and Marshall Yanda were terrible, and Chris Chester wasn’t that much better. I still think that first hit of the year in New York–which should have been a 15 yard penalty for a helmet to helmet hit on the quarterback by the Jet defender–may have had a short term impact on Flacco in that for the first time in his career, happy feet and confusion may have set in. Has to get better.
— RUN THE BALL! I agree all the way with Drew, that Cam Cameron has to keep his receiving corps happy. Boldin, Mason, and Housh, have to all feel appreciated in the offense. But you can do that, and still do what your football team does best…run Ray Rice. The playcalling has to get better. As the Vikings showed last year, as long as you’re winning, the receivers will be happy, the running back will get his touches, and all with be well. DON’T GIVE UP ON THE RUNNING GAME MIDWAY THROUGH THE THIRD QUARTER. Just my opinion.
— T.J. Houshmanzadeh. Look, I like the addition of Housh, and think as the season goes on and he becomes more involved in, and learns the offense, he is going to be a weapon, especially on third down. But for now, he just needs to make the catches an NFL receiver is supposed to make. Especially a 9 year vet. He’ll get better, but he was terrible Sunday.
The one bright spot in all of this, is that the Ravens have the perfect salve coming in next week…the Cleveland Browns. If this team has any hutzpah, they will come out and lay a 34-3 butt whooping on the Brownies on Sunday. Cleveland is terrible, it’s the Ravens home opener, and the defense is playing off the hook. I would hate to be wearing an orange helmet on Sunday, but this game rides on Joe’s right arm and the performance of the offensive unit. Anything under 300+ yards and 3-4 touchdowns, to me, would be a disappointment. They need to come out and destroy Cleveland, and I think they will.
At any rate, it’s early, they are 1-1, and Cleveland is coming to town…
GO RAVENS!!!!!! Let’s right this ship.