Well thank God that one’s over.
Back to Baltimore and on to the playoffs!
I’ll admit that this is going to be a tough one to review. It had all the intensity of a pre-season game as the Ravens very smartly gave many key players the afternoon off as they prepare for an emotionally charged Colts team in the opening round of the playoffs. Still I have a job to do and so it shall be done.
On to the game:
- I know that John Harbaugh doesn’t like to reveal anything about his gameplan but it was clear after today’s inactives were listed what the Ravens most important goal was for today – stay healthy. Ray Lewis, Bernard Pollard, Marshall Yanda, Anquan Boldin, and Haloti Ngata all didn’t play while Joe Flacco and Ray Rice played brief cameo roles and were out by the third series. The question was brought up during the week how the Ravens should play today and considering that very little was on the line I think Harbaugh and staff played it the right way. This a largely vet group that can use the extra rest and be prepared to defend their home turf in the opening round of the playoffs without too much worry.
- Two starters did leave the game due to injury, Pro Bowl Fullback Vonta Leach and Right Tackle Kelechi Osemele. Leach has had ankle problems for the last few weeks and seemed okay as he walked off to the sidelines under his own power. Osemele was taken to the locker room after a lower body injury. Both don’t appear to be serious ans shouldn’t affect either for next week.
- One area of concern that really bugs me about this team is penalties. They were flagged 10 times today for 102 yards. They now lead the NFL with 35 personal foul calls. They must do a better job in this area in the playoffs. If I would have cared more about this game I would have been more upset about Ray Rice’s silly personal foul that pushed the team out of Field Goal or Bobbie Williams terrible flop attempt or Terrence Cody’s roughing call. Emotion is a big part of the game but I expect more control from an experienced group like this.
- Tyrod Taylor. This was Taylor’s first major NFL action in his career and I was interested to see how he’d play today. What I got was what I expected. He showed great speed and elusiveness in the pocket (9-65 yds, 1 TD) and also inexperience throwing a pick six that sealed the win for Cincinnati. It wasn’t a bad first showing but it should also keep fans quiet who were calling for Taylor to start a few weeks ago. He’s not quite ready.
- Bernard Pierce. I figured that he’d get a pretty heavy workload this afternoon and he delivered with 89 yards on a season high 22 carries. Pierce provides a nice compliment to Rice in the running game and I’d hope that he and Rice will get plenty of touches against an Indianapolis defense who is one of the league’s worst at stopping the run.
- I hate the “Tuck rule”. Bryan Hall made a swift inside move and knocked the ball loose from Andy Dalton which was recovered by Paul Kruger. After review it was overturned the Bengals punted instead. By rule the refs got it right so there’s no complaint there I just hate the rule and how it favors the offense.
- The Ravens defense continues to improve even with mostly backups holding down the fort. As a unit they were very effective. They limited the Bengals to 189 Total yards, 3 for 13 on Third Down and only 47 yards on the ground. The defense has taken a step back this year but they seem primed to play solid football as long as the offense can score points and put them in situations to succeed.
- Budding superstar A.J. Green was held in check by the Ravens defense yet again as he only had two catches for 26 yards.
- Ed Dickson. He’s had some injury problems this year and today he had one of his best games in recent memory. 6 catches on 8 targets for 64 yards while picking up first downs on many of them. The Double Tight End set of he and Dennis Pitta could be a valuable weapon in the Ravens arsenal. Maybe they can break it out against the Colts.
- Justin Tucker has had an excellent rookie season kicking for the Ravens but his miss from 45 yds. turned the tide for the Bengals who regained the lead on a Josh Brown Field goal on the next possession. Let’s hope that Tucker’s miss is the exception and not the rule as they will need all three phases to make a deep run in the post-season.
- (Extra Point) I don’t think there is any question who unaffiliated fans will be rooting for next week as Baltimore hosts Indy. The Colts are a great story but I’m a bit annoyed that after enjoying over a decade of success with Peyton Manning the fanbase endured only one losing season before being back in the playoffs with what appears to be another very good quarterback in Andrew Luck.