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Dime Coverage: Post-Game Thoughts on Browns vs. Ravens

Ngata Continues to Play at a High Level.

Blech.

That’s the feeling I had after watching the conclusion to a grey and rainy Thursday night battle against the win-less Browns.

At least they’re still winless after last night. Not that the Ravens didn’t give them chances to pull off the upset and due to their overall lack of talent simply couldn’t make enough plays to make Baltimore pay.

Still I can’t be too hard on them. Last night’s game was their fourth in eighteen days and considering the emotional and physical toll of a home win over the Patriots just four days earlier it certainly could have been a lot worse.

This wasn’t a particularly impressive game for the home team but it still counts the same in the Win column.

Here are some more of my thoughts about last night’s victory:

  • Anquan Boldin. Q had his best game to date hauling in 9 catches for 131 yards. He dominated the second half and found soft spots in the zone and made solid grabs near the sideline. He seems fully healthy now after playing hurt all of last season. Torrey Smith was also very effective using his superior speed to stretch the defense catching 6 passes for 97 yards. This is the 1-2 punch that many people had envisioned with Smith’s emergence last season. Boldin, the strong sticky fingered vet who can make the tough catches over the middle while Smith would be the speed merchant on the outside. As the Ravens continue to experiment cranking up the passing attack both of these players will be expected to factor heavily into the game plan.
  • Joe Flacco put up big numbers last night yards-wise, 28 for 46 (60%) for 356 yds, 1 interception and a touchdown. He also ran one in for a score off a play fake but I wouldn’t consider last night his best effort. His one pick was ugly and a rare mistake for him in the red-zone. His footwork was sloppy at times and a better defense would have picked him off twice more during the game. It seemed like the pressure got to him and he was anticipating getting hit. He was also tenative to tuck the ball and run with it when he had open field. On the plus side he made some really great throws too (The TD to Smith in traffic was a LASER) and did enough to get the win against a divisional foe. Some people may question how smart it was to throw 46 times in a steady rain but get used to it fans. 2012 is the year of Flacco and when you toss it around that much you have to expect some mistakes from time to time.
  • The Offensive Line was terrible all night long. The tackles, Kelechi Osemele and Michael Oher couldn’t contain the speed rush of the Browns. Oher was penalized multiple times and came close to an ejection after arguing a holding call against him. Ramon Harewood, who has been a nice surprise in this young season had trouble establishing much push as did Matt Birk. Again just way too many penalties from this group. After singing their praises several days ago this was definitely a step back from them as a unit.
  • Ray Rice didn’t have a lot of success on the ground 18 carries – 49 yards but the rookie Bernard Pierce had his best game of the season in relief getting the same production as Rice in less than half the carries.(6 for 48yds.) I’m a bit surprised that we didn’t see some more rushes from both in the second half but the line had issues most of the night opening up holes in the Browns defense. Even though Rice was slowed in the running game he was very active as a checkdown receiver catching 8 for 47.
  • The defense was better, or at least it seemed that way for the first Three Quarters. They had only given up ten points at that stage. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees seemed to call blitzes every other down and had his group in attack mode most of the evening. That mentality only yielded one sack and I was left wondering just how Brandon Weeden threw for 320 yards when the night was through. The rush seemed better but the results simply were not there. The Ravens simply have to get better production up front where only Haloti Ngata seems to play at a consistently high level. If you can generate a rush from your front four you can life for your secondary much easier.
  • Cary Williams. To say he’s struggled the first few games would be a huge understatement and he even let up several big gains last night as well but his interception for a touchdown was huge. Here’s hoping that it gives him a shot of confidence after it was discussed this week  in the media that maybe it was time for Jimmy Smith to take his spot. Lucky for him Smith hasn’t been much better at finding his man. A few months ago I wondered why Williams turned down the Ravens 15 million dollar contract extension last August, maybe he is too at this point.
  • Thank God Cleveland returner Josh Cribbs survived that devestating hit from Danell Ellerbee and walked off the field without assistance. As Mike Mayock correctly pointed out, it was a rough hit but not an illegal one. Ellerbee appeared shaken while Cribbs lay motionless for several minutes on the field.
  • Paul Kruger. He had a pretty solid game last night, he had a few passes defended, a sack and he unvieled a new sack celebration which included conducting an imaginary orchestra. However I was cursing his name in the waning moments of last night’s contest. It was not until Weeden chucked his final pass into the stands that I exhaled a sigh of relief. Kruger’s unsportsmanlike penalty on Joe Thomas was in a word – stupid. Sure Thomas flopped like Vlade Divac but why was Kruger putting his hands on him to begin with. The game was over. This brings me to a larger point the composure or lack thereof that has been shown by various players and even the head coach in games this season. Cary Williams squaring off with DeSean Jackson, Lardarius Webb’s late flags last week and Harbaugh referee bump all come to mind. These events will be dismissed because the Ravens are 3-1 but I see this as an area of concern. How you handle adversity defines you as a team. The Ravens still have a long way to go in 2012.
  • It seems only natural to dwell on the negatives from last night’s game instead of the fact that the Ravens did win again and extended their winning streak over the Browns to Nine. They just didn’t play as well as they were capable of and whatever the reason it causes us to worry about the future. The Offensive line was rough, the Defense made plays when it had to but often made Weeden look better than he was, and there are Nine Pro Bowl Quarterbacks left to contend with on the schedule. The glass seems half full. However, the Ravens still are the cream of the AFC and have a legitimate shot to finally get to a Super Bowl. I just think that with last year’s failure still at least in the back of our minds we realize how fragile all this can be. Just one play away from glory or heartbreak.
  • The NFL network’s broadcast last night runs a solid second next to the Sunday Night Crew of Michaels/Collinsworth. Mike Mayock is interesting to listen to, once you get past his lisp, and is often on point with analysis and criticism. Brad Nessler is unspectacular but a steady performer next to his color man. I liked the pre-game show as well, though do we really need so many former players at the table? Deion Sanders throwing on an O’s hat was a nice touch too.
  • (Extra point) Justin Tucker missed his first Field Goal – a 47-yarder that sailed wide. Not a huge deal at this point but after watching vet Phil Dawson boot 50-yarders with ease it brought me back to Matt Stover. He was such a great kicker. I’m also trying to figure out what happened on the missed Extra Point too – bad snap, bad hold, either way all bad.

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