Sunday was a tough pill to swallow as the Ravens fought their rear-ends off and came up just short of getting one of the biggest regular season wins in franchise history. The Ravens showed that they are one of the elite teams in the NFL and a very real threat to win the AFC this season. After such an amazing game I have decided to make this weeks NFL notes a Ravens-Patriots edition. Seven things really stood out for me as I watched the game Sunday.
1. The beginning of the game was a horror-show with Chris Carr fumbling the opening kickoff and giving Tom Brady and the Patriots offense amazing field position to begin the game. I have been yelling to whoever would listen that Chris Carr is not an upgrade in the return game. Carr has average speed, elusiveness, vision, ball security, and seems to run directly into groups of tacklers. Carr has done nothing through four games; he is the 28th ranked kick returner in the league, averaging just 24.5 yards per return and has fumbled the ball twice on just twelve attempts. Carr is maybe even worse returning punts averaging just seven yards per punt return and a long of just fifteen yards. The Ravens will eventually have to replace Carr with someone who can give the Ravens better field position and give the team a spark every now and again with a long return.
2. One thing that really struck me was the fact that the Ravens completely abandoned the run from the opening snap. I love the fact that we have a superstar in the making under center but we must maintain balance on offense. Yesterday the Ravens threw the ball 47 times while only running it 17 and it wasn’t as if they weren’t effective on the ground. Ray Rice had over 100 yards on just eleven carries but Cam Cameron seemed to have no interest in even attempting to establish any type of ground game. Willis McGahee had been running the ball as well as anybody in the NFL through three weeks but for whatever reason he only got five carries on Sunday.
3. Our secondary has continued to be exposed as the weakest link of our defense. The Ravens are doing an outstanding job of shutting down the run and making teams’ one dimensional; but we have been exposed as very beatable in that dimension. Dwan Landry is really struggling in pass coverage and has given up quite a few big plays to opposing tight ends early in the season.
4. It made me sick to my stomach to see Jared Gaither lay motionless on the field for well over five minutes. Losing Gaither for any extended period of time could be very detrimental to the Ravens; especially with Antwan Odom and Jared Allen coming up in the next two weeks. On a humorous note did anyone notice the CBS announcers say Joe Flacco was the injured player when Gaither was on the ground? How do you confuse Joe Flacco with a 6’9”, 330 pound, black offensive lineman?
5. I almost never blame or attack the officials after a game but there were a lot of questionable calls that went against the Ravens. I think what may have been more ridiculous was how clueless and lost they seemed as they were making the calls. During Football Night in America even Keith Olberman noticed how absurd the calls Brady was getting were calling each one a “Roughing the Brady” penalty.
6. Not everything was doom and gloom, Joe Flacco continues to prove he is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. He did make a few ill-advised passes (most of which seemed to be in the vicinity of safety Brandon Merriwether); but he almost always seems to make the right decision with the ball. Perhaps the thing that impresses me most is Flacco’s ability to feel the rush and move around in the pocket with his eyes downfield looking to extend the play. In just 23 NFL games Flacco has proven that no stage is too big for him and he is a player that the Ravens can begin to build an elite offense around.
7. Mark Clayton’s drop on fourth down was heartbreaking but it is indicative of his career as a whole. Clayton is one of the streakiest receivers I have ever seen; he can have 140 yards one game and then go without a catch the next. I saw some very inflammatory comments about Clayton after his drop yesterday and I guess it is prudent to remind everyone it is just a game. Clayton seemed contrite after the game and didn’t make any excuses admitting “Joe made a good throw, I just dropped it”.
There were a few things that this team will have to improve if they want to make a run deep into the playoffs this year but they are a team that has a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. Overall Baltimoreans must remember that the Ravens are 3-1 and lost to one of the best teams in football on Sunday. This season is going to be one of the most exciting in the history of this franchise and as Mercury Morris would love to remind you every team loses at least one game.