BALTIMORE, MD –
Joe Flacco looked better than he did in New England, but not great. Flacco attempted 22 less passes than he did against the Patriots, and did a better job of evening out the distribution between the running backs and receivers. Flacco is still checking down more than you would like to see, but that’s his M.O. He threw two pretty touchdown passes to Steve Smith Sr. and Kamar Aiken, as well as a nice 54-yarder to Mike Wallace. He did throw a dumb interception in the fourth quarter that led to an Eagles field goal, but the Ravens should not have been calling a pass play in that situation.
Running backs: B+
The Ravens finally had some balance with their offensive play-calling, running the ball 24 times and passing 30 times. Terrance West finished the game with well over 100 yards of total offense – 77 yards on 13 carries and 45 receiving yards on four catches. West’s longest run was a 41-yard dash in the third quarter. Kenneth Dixon was not as involved as he was last week, only rushing nine times for 33 yards. He made the most of his playing time, rushing for a 16-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
The top three receivers on the depth chart – Smith Sr, Mike Wallace and Aiken – each finished the game with just two receptions apiece. It has gotten to the point where the receivers have been complaining about not getting enough targets, and rightfully so. Aiken found the end zone on the first drive of the game with a five-yard reception from Flacco. Smith Sr. hauled in a 34-yard reception that gave Flacco his second touchdown pass of the game, but he also dropped a few perfectly-thrown passes to him. Tight end Dennis Pitta caught two passes as well, and Breshad Perriman was once again a non-factor, with just two targets that included a drop.
Offensive Line: B-
It was an average game for the offensive line. At times, the line opened holes for the Ravens running backs, and other times the Ravens tried to run the ball but were stopped behind the line of scrimmage. For the most part, Flacco had enough time to drop back and throw without any significant issues, but he was also sacked three times and fumbled the ball while running from a collapsed pocket. For an offensive line that has featured the same starting five for five games in a row now, the Ravens will take what they can get after not having that stability earlier in the season.
Defensive Line: D-
For the second week in a row, the Ravens’ top-ranked run defense lost its mojo. Ryan Matthews finished the game with 128 rushing yards on 20 carries, which comes out to 6.4 yards-per-carry. That mark alone killed the Ravens, and the Eagles finished the game with 169 rushing yards. For a defensive line that has prided themselves in stopping the run all season, it was certainly a major disappointment to see the Eagles have as much success running the ball as they had on Sunday.
The linebackers did not fare much better than the defensive line, if at all. Philadelphia’s running backs ran all over Zachary Orr and C.J. Mosley. It got to the point where the secondary was just as involved with stopping the run as the front seven was. There was a lack of a pass rush, as the defense finished with just one sack by Elvis Dumervil. A lot of the throws by Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz were screens, and the receivers of those screens had decent YAC.
Even without Jimmy Smith, the secondary was arguably Baltimore’s defensive unit that put on the best performance on Sunday. The Eagles’ passing attack is mediocre, to put it nicely, but Wentz was limited to just 170 passing yards on 22 completions. The longest play the Ravens gave up on defense went for 24 yards. The secondary also made a game-winning stop on the goal-line as corner-back Jerraud Powers batted down a pass intended for receiver Jordan Matthews. Had that two-point attempt been caught, the Eagles would have had a one-point lead with four seconds left in the game. The return of Smith is crucial going forward, as the Ravens will be facing Antonio Brown and A.J. Green in the next two weeks.
Special Teams: B-
Even after releasing Devin Hester and activating Michael Campanero to return punts, the Ravens have not solved their problems returning kicks. Rookie receiver Chris Moore made two mistakes returning kicks; the first one being the decision to run the ball out of the end-zone before being tackled at the 12-yard line. The second mistake was fumbling the ball on a kickoff return. Luckily, the Ravens were able to recover the fumble, but Moore cannot be making those mistakes. Yes, he is a rookie and does not have much experience returning kicks, but come on. Hold on to the football, and kneel the ball in the end zone when the kick is halfway in the paint. Justin Tucker kicked two field goals, one being a 53-yarder that was his tenth kick of 50+ yards this season, which ties an NFL record.
The coaching staff had been calling a decent game, but blew it in the fourth quarter. The Ravens had a 10-point lead with six minutes to go in the game, and the offense was in the red zone. On 1st and 10 from the 11-yard line, the Ravens could have run the ball and run the clock down for about two minutes. Instead, the Ravens chose to throw the ball, and Flacco threw a horrible pass that was intercepted by Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks. Hicks returned the interception 34 yards, and the Eagles kicked a field goal before scoring a touchdown on the next drive.
That play call almost cost the Ravens the game and their season. They had a 10-point lead and could have extended that lead to at least 13 points if they had just run the ball. It is not rocket science. The heavy reliance on the pass has been an issue all season. It almost seems like offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg refuses to run the ball. Come on, man. Be smart. Run the football.
The Ravens may have been able to survive that mistake against Philadelphia, but it will cost them against teams like the Steelers, who they play next week on Christmas day.