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Dime Coverage: Post-Game Thoughts on Patriots/Ravens

Pitta and Jones Celebrate!

Wow!

Just wow.

This was another interesting chapter in the quest for AFC dominance between these two teams. It had high scoring, penalties (24 combined), emotion, bad calls (shocker) and this time finished with the Ravens kicker coming through in the clutch (just barely).

The Ravens won’t have time to enjoy this one too long as they play divisional foe, the Cleveland Browns this Thursday night.  However, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. It’s Week Four already?!

Here some of my thoughts about last night’s thrilling victory.

  • Torrey Smith. His performance last night under the weight of his younger brother’s death was an impressive sight to behold. Smith, who was working on several hours sleep after returning  from Virginia, was understandably emotional during the moment of silence for his brother Tevin and he could be seen wiping a tear or two from his eyes. He then went out an annihilated the New England secondary and finished the game with six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns. It would have been totally understandable for Smith to have sat out of this game if he wanted. Instead he chose to come back to work to most likely get his mind off of organizing the details of laying one of his family to rest long before his time. It was a courageous effort and it’s safe to say if he didn’t play I don’t think the Ravens walk out a winner last night.
  • Joe Flacco shook off a tough First Quarter to outduel Tom Brady once again, except this time he was directly responsible for the win. He finished 28 for 39 (71.8%) 382 yards and three touchdowns for a QB Rating of 117.7. He worked the two-minute drill to perfection setting up Justin Tucker with a very makeable Field Goal to seal the win. A lot was made about Joe Flacco’s comments over the off-season about him being “the best” quarterback in the league. In the pre-game interview Bob Costas asked him to clarify his statements and Flacco didn’t back off of them. He said that he thinks he is the best and certainly on par with his opponent tonight Tom Brady. Commentators Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison bristled at Flacco’s confidence, especially Harrison (former Pat) who was indignant at Flacco for making such a claim. Personally I have no problem with it, I appreciate the confidence but as they say you have to back it up. Now that Flacco is in more control of the offense he’ll get more opportunities to prove to critics that he has what it takes. Consider last night another point in his favor to add to his resume.
  • There’s been a lot of talk about the Ravens using the No-Huddle this season. So far it’s been pretty successful and the numbers don’t lie. Currently the Ravens rank second in the league in scoring with 98 points, one fewer than the Washington Redskins. But with the offense becoming more Flacco-centric people wonder just where Ray Rice fits in with this new approach especially after his lack of carries last week in Philadelphia. Against the Patriots,Rice was heavily involved. He rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on a season-high 20 carries many of which came during the No-Huddle series. So last night proved what we knew all along, that the Ravens offense is best when balanced and unpredictable. There are few teams who can boast one of the league’s best running backs, a strong armed quarterback, plenty of speed on the outside and a young tight end who seemingly catches everything thrown his way. When everyone is involved this offense is tough to stop.
  • It was another rough night for the secondary as Tom Terrific racked up 335 yards passing and both Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker had big days receiving. At least they kept big Gronk quiet. Of course they shouldn’t shoulder all the blame as the Ravens pass rush did very little to help the cause. I’d like to think that the Ravens defensive woes were the cause of facing three Pro Bowl quarterbacks in the first three games, which may partially explain the problems with the defense. I think it’s deeper than that and talent level is a part of it. It’s still early but it would quite a turn of events to see the defense slip out of the top ten and have the rest of the season turn into asking the offense to score thirty points a game in order to win. I will give the D credit for turning it up when they needed to in crunch time. Brady completed just five of his 10 fourth-quarter attempts for a total of 41 yards after having his way most of the evening.
  • It will sound like hindsight but I would have liked to seen Justin Tucker get a shot to hit a 50-yarder on 4th and 1. In my opinion when you are behind, you take the points when you can get them. Still his decision to go for it was not a terrible one, just badly executed. Jerod Mayo blew the play up as the blocking was over-matched. There were some questions as to why Bernard Pierce was given the ball and not Ray Rice in that situation and I think that’s fair. But given the lack of push by the line it would have hardly mattered. Still you have to be worried about the Ravens struggles with short yardage situations so far. Last week, the Ravens failed to convert six short yardage situations, ones in which they passed each time. Blame the play calls, the design, the execution or maybe all three either way they need to improve in this area or it will bite them later in the season.
  • Aside from that particular play the Offensive Line was very solid last evening and with the exception of greybeard Matt Birk they are all young. The line was able to overpower New England several times last night running the football. In fact, the ability to run effectively got the Patriots out of their Cover Two which then opened the passing game. They also kept Flacco clean as he did not take a single sack. Oher and Osemele did a nice job on the edges while Marshal Yanda had his most penalized game in recent memory. Still the future looks bright for this unit.
  • I’ll say it for the third week straight – please, please, please bring back the regular officials. If this game didn’t convince “The Ginger Hammer” that its’ time to strike a deal then nothing will. The nation saw how subpar these men were at doing what is admittedly, a very difficult job. The first flag wasn’t thrown until Ten minutes into the First Quarter and by then we’d had seen at least six “skirmishes” by my count between different groups of players. Then the officials began calling everything or at least what they thought to be everything and finished with 24 combined accepted penalties. Again, it was a mess.
  • Of course the game winning kick did not escape controversy either as New England players and Bill Belichick complained that the officials got it wrong or at the very least should have reviewed the play. Only problem is that  field goals are not reviewable. So we are left to draw our own conclusions. For what it’s worth I thought it was good just getting inside the bar and then rising above it. By the way, the mighty Hoodie will be a bit lighter in the wallet this week. No matter how angry you are you can not grab the official Billy.
  • The defense had a pretty ugly game but one of the bright spots was Dannell Ellerbee who finished the night with 9 tackles and was in on both Baltimore sacks for the evening. Ellerbee has had his struggles, from staying healthy to staying out of Coach Harbaugh’s doghouse. Many of us here have talked about his talent and that if he could ever start putting things together he could be a fine player. Let’s hope to continues to build on this. I’ll also note that Courtney Upshaw made his first NFL start last night and he made a few plays as well.
  • Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth are the best announcing tandem in the game. Professional and smooth they offer insight when needed but also step back and let the action speak for itself and don’t overanalyze. Unlike the CBS duo from last week they didn’t hold back about the chaotic nature of the officiating and were honest in their assessments and really that’s all you can ask for.

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