“Rating the Ravens” after 37-7 victory over Rams

September 26, 2011 | Ryan Chell

“Identity”.

That was the word of the day that Glenn Clark used earlier this afternoon on “The Nasty Purple Pre-Game Show” before the Ravens took the field against the 0-2 St. Louis Rams.

And while the Ravens may still  not know what they are offensively after their 37-7 blowout of the Rams, they have one thing in certain.

If they throw the ball to Torrey Smith, he will catch it.

And he will score.

Coming into the third game of the season, Smith-getting his first career start with veteran Lee Evans injured with a foot/ankle injury-had only been targeted once on the season so far from quarterback Joe Flacco.

Sunday took only two plays for Smith to finally get that first catch, as he caught a 74-yard touchdown from Flacco to help the Ravens jump out early 7-0.

And he wasn’t done.

Smith grabbed two more  end-zone passes in the first quarter to help the Ravens jump out to a 21-point lead, becoming the first NFL rookie since 1991 to have his first three passes be for six points apiece.

His 41-yard grab with 3:49 left in the first made it a two touchdown game, while his third grab-a 18-yard strike from Flacco-made it 21-0 in favor of the Ravens and put the Rams in hurry-up mode.

Overall, he finished with five catches for 152 yards.

Torrey Smith

Anquan Boldin-who has torched the Rams in his career (he has 1,064 career yards against STL coming into Sunday-most versus any opponent) when he was with the Arizona Cardinals-finished with 7 catches for 74 yards, and was the short option for Flacco in the passing game.

Ed Dickson also rebounded from a poor Week 2 showing against Tennessee to grab five balls for 51 yards.

Rating: A-

Quarterback

Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco started 2011 on a great note in the Ravens’ week 1 victory against Pittsburgh, but no question took a step back in last Sunday’s loss to the Titans, completing 15-32 passes for only 197 yards and two interceptions.

Much like Torrey Smith’s inconsistency to start the season, Flacco found the rookie early for a 74-yard strike on his second pass of the game. He appeared to grow rhythm with Smith as the game went on finding him twice more for scores, but he also had several throws where he took advantage of Smith’s speed a little too much.

He also overthrew passes to Tandon Doss and Boldin, but that was usually with a defender in his face being forced to make a throw on the move or off his back foot.

He set career highs in passing yards and his longest touchdown pass Sunday. But again, like Torrey Smith, let’s see if Flacco can do it two weeks in a row-and next week versus Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie of the Jets.

Flacco had two fumbles on poor decisions on the run outside the pocket. Luckily, only one was a turnover. He might have more of those scenarios next week versus the Jets’ pass rush.

Rating: B+

Running Backs

Despite the big lead, Ray Rice was not used as much as you would think, only carrying the football eight times for 79 yards. However, he still had a good day adding 83 receiving yards to his total. Props to Rice for making the most out of limited touches.

Ricky Williams

After only contributing a turnover last week, backup Ricky Williams showed a lot rebounding and running the football versus the Rams. He finished with five carries for 42 yards, highlighted by a 28-yard run with 2:23 in the first quarter that set up Flacco’s third touchdown pass that made it 21-0 in favor of Baltimore.

Rating: B

Offensive Line

This was a unit that struggled last week with Pro-Bowl caliber guard Ben Grubbs out of the lineup, and the Ravens found themselves in a similar situation Sunday. However, instead of putting Mark LeVoir in place of Grubbs, coach John Harbaugh and the recently re-instated Andy Moeller decided to put C/G Andre Gurode at left guard and deactivated LeVoir.

While Gurode had issues early versus former Ravens DT Justin Bannan, he and his mates in Matt Birk and Bryant McKinnie held down the Rams aggressive defensive line for much of the game. Give credit to the Ravens “hogs” for making blocks down field and helping open up the running lanes for the running backs and the wide receivers in the short passing game.

And for giving Flacco the time to hold onto the ball and find Smith down the field three times for six.

However, Michael Oher continues to struggle even at the right tackle position. Rams DE Chris Long and LB Chris Chamberlain had their way with Oher for two sacks and a fumble on back-to-back plays on the Ravens second-to-last drive, and Oher was flagged for both a holding and illegal hands to the face in pass protection.

Oher will have more leeway on the right side as opposed to Flacco’s blindside, but he can’t be this vulnerable every game otherwise opposing defensive coordinators will continue to pick on him.

Rating: B-

Defensive Line

Terrell Suggs

This unit feasted on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, and with good reason being up 21-0 early after the first quarter. With banged up running backs in Steven Jackson and Cadillac Williams coming in as game-time decisions, the game fell on the 2nd-year quarterback and the Ravens realized this.

The Ravens had five sacks of Bradford, three of them coming from Pernell McPhee, Terrell Suggs, and Cory Redding.

Interesting to note were the leading tacklers in linebackers Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, and Suggs. Both Arthur Jones and Terrence Cody got significant snaps, and allowed the linebackers to flow to the ball-carrier.

Haloti Ngata-fresh off his new contract-showed that the Ravens put their money in the right place, manhandling former Ravens center Jason Brown for much of the second half, and he even topped it off with a touchdown off a forced fumble/sack from Ray Lewis.

Rating: A

Linebackers

Ray Lewis

As previously noted, Sunday was the first time this season that cornerback Lardarius Webb did not lead the team in tackles. Ray Lewis finished with ten tackles and a sack/forced fumble. Fellow ILB Jameel McClain was second in tackles with five and also recorded a sack of quarterback Sam Bradford.

After struggling versus Tennessee in coverage from short yardage to the intermediate passing zones, the Ravens linebackers did a good job of making sure running backs Cadillac Williams and Steven Jackson didn’t make contributions in the passing game. They patrolled the middle well versus the versatile tight end Lance Kendricks and receiver Mike Sims-Walker, but they will be tested much more next week versus the Jets.

Rating: B+

Secondary

Cary Williams

In a way, this unit struggled a bit. Rams receiver Brandon Gibson got behind CB Cary Williams for the Rams’ lone score in the third quarter-34 yards. Williams was also flagged earlier in the second quarter for pass interference on 6’5” Danario Alexander, but the drive ended after Lardarius Webb’s “fair catch” interception with 6:21 left in the quarter.

Webb played better in coverage by playing on top of the receiver, and safety Ed Reed played within the realm of the defensive scheme after jumping routes versus Tennessee in Week 2.

Haruki Nakamura’s injury-which is rumored to be a torn PCL-ligament in his knee-could be devastating to a unit already thin at the cornerback and safety positions.

Rating: B+

Special Teams

Billy Cundiff missed two 51-yd field goals-one of which came with a high-snap from center Morgan Cox. He did bear down after the two early misses, connecting on his next three attempts. This was the second game of three without David Reed, who suffered a shoulder injury last week vs. Tennessee, and the Ravens only got two looks out of LaQuan Williams at the kick return position.

Tune into “The Reality Check” with Glenn Clark Monday as we look at the plays that made a difference Sunday! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!




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