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Dime Coverage: Post-Game Thoughts on Cowboys/Ravens

Whew.

I’m not sure I was ready for yet another game to go down the final seconds especially after the Orioles/Yankees playoff series which was filled with extra innings and tight scoring. Still the victory moves the Ravens to 5-1 and it gives them a two-game lead in the division. The Bengals (3-3) fell to the formerly winless Browns (1-5) and the Steelers (2-3) lost on Thursday night. Looking ahead Baltimore might need the extra cushion as four of the next five are on the road, away from the friendly confines of M & T Bank stadium.

Baltimore has been winning by the closest of margins these past few weeks and let’s emphasize the word winning here. I’ve read plenty of sites and blogs that claim Baltimore could just as easily be 2-4 but the fact is, they aren’t.

Do the Ravens have problems? Yes. In fact I’ll outline a few for you but welcome to today’s NFL. A team that hoists the trophy in February doesn’t have to excel in all three areas to do so. They just have to score more points than the opponent before the final whistle sounds.

On to my thoughts about today’s game:

  • There were two reasons why I thought the Ravens would win today. First, the game was at home. Today’s win gave Baltimore the longest current winning streak in the league when playing host. The crowd was a major factor today especially in the Fourth Quarter as the Cowboys clearly had some communication issues due to the noise. Second, the Cowboys always seem to find a way to sabotage their own cause. Today was no different as Dez Bryant (who had 7 drops) let a two-point conversion that would have tied the game fall through his hands. Then there was Dan Bailey’s potential game winning field goal that sailed left. Tony Romo threw a costly interception in the Second Quarter that the Ravens converted into a touchdown to lead 17-10 at the break. In all the Cowboys finished with 13 penalties for 82 yards seemingly coming up with that drive killing miscue at just the right time for Baltimore. They have plenty of talent but they can’t seem to bring it all together to produce winning football.
  • Baltimore gave up 227 yards on the ground, the most ever given up by the Ravens in a game. This isn’t an anomaly fans. While it may pain me to type this next point it’s true – the Ravens just aren’t a very good defensive team. There are multiple reasons for their fall from from the league’s elite. Let’s start with fundamentals – this team doesn’t tackle well. Too often defenders are looking to lay a shoulder in to cause a turnover instead of wrapping up at the point of contact. This unit just isn’t as talented as those in the past. The free agents losses of Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding are proving to be bigger than expected (unavoidable cap casualties but still) while the injury to Terrell Suggs hurt more than just the pass rush. All of these players were solid run stoppers while their replacements have produced mixed results at best. The truth is I don’t see how this group can improve all that much and certainly not with a possible season ending injury to Lardarius Webb, a sidelined Ray Lewis and gimpy Haloti Ngata in the mix. This defense is a shell of its’ former self right now. Teams are simply lining up, playing power football against the front seven and essentially having their way. If the defense has any hope of righting things they will need to start there. You must be able to stop the run.
  • Ray Lewis. Of course nothing has been confirmed yet about the injury that forced him to the sidelines in the Fourth Quarter today. We know it was a torn tricep, whether or not it ends his season we should know by sometime tomorrow. But after watching another rough showing by the defense I finally came to the realization that this season should be Ray Lewis’ last as a pro. It’s difficult sometimes for fans to admit when one of their greats begins to show signs of decline and it’s even harder to admit when “losing a few steps” turns into something even larger. Lewis has still put up decent numbers this season but his misses and inability to shed blocks has led to bigger plays than in the past. He said at the start of last season that if the Ravens won the Super Bowl then he’d retire. I think that’s a more telling statement now than it was then. No one can play forever and for a sure first ballot Hall of Famer like Lewis it might be time to seriously consider this season as his final lap.
  • Jacoby Jones. Jones continues to prove that Ozzie Newsome is a genius. I wasn’t totally sold on getting a guy who’s poor hands helped us advance in the playoffs last year. He’s done nothing except give Joe Flacco another option in the offense (2 catches 15 yards) and speed in the return game. Jones’ 108 yd. kickoff return for a touchdown wasn’t just a record tying feat it proved to be huge in helping the Ravens win today as it gave them an 11 point lead at the time. My only question is why hasn’t he been back there all along? And please Coach spare me the “it’s a competition” double talk. Jones was brought in to boost an anemic return game and to date he’s only occasionally returned punts. He only started as the kick returner today because Deonte Thompson was inactive due to his fumble in Kansas City last week. Let’s hope this big play keeps Jones where he belongs.
  • Ray Rice. Rice continues to be among the league’s best talents with the football. He totalled 106 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns. Today was the 35th career game in which he went over 100 total yards which is the most in the NFL since 2009.
  • Lardarius Webb. The early reports are that the Ravens top corner back has suffered a torn ACL and if that’s the case then it’s a huge loss. It also means that the Ravens will continue to go deep into their secondary rotation as they did this afternoon with even Chykie Brown seeing some late action. I only remember that Brown was out there because he was flagged for a crucial pass interference penalty that could have been devastating. Next man up?
  • Cary Williams got his third interception in as many weeks after not getting any his first four years in the league. That doesn’t mean he’s played well though. Dez Bryant dominated him most of the day (13 for 99 and 2 TDs). It’s clear that teams see him as the weak link right now and go after him on a regular basis. He needs to play better – now.
  • Bobbie Williams filled in fairly well in his first start as the Offensive Line did a pretty good job opening holes in the running game and keeping Flacco protected when we wanted to throw.
  • I have nothing but praise for the Fox telecast. Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick both did a great job in their respective roles. If I were Billick I’d stick to doing this for the rest of my life. Plus he sounds like he’s having a lot of fun.
  • Next week is a huge road game against the Texans that could have tie-breaker implications for the playoffs. As of right now I don’t like the Ravens chances, at least until they show they can stuff the run consistently.
  • (EXTRA POINT) The Ravens are one of the most penalized teams in the league. Of course when you win most people could care less but it still bothersome to me. Clean it up Coach.

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One Response to “Dime Coverage: Post-Game Thoughts on Cowboys/Ravens”

  1. Gene says:

    I think Ravens fans have really high standards for their defense. They do have to get better and as you point out, it first starts with fundamentals…tackling. Second they need a bit more creativity. They look too stationary before the snap. I’d like to see them with more presnap movement and do a better job at disguising blitzing. In other words they need to attack instead of react.

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