Egg Man: Reviewing Eagles-Ravens Week 2
I hate to say I called it, but I called it.
The Baltimore Ravens went going home with egg on their face.
Not a week ago in this very space I feared an unfocused effort against a talented but unfamiliar opponent. I feared a trap game before a showdown Sunday night home game against New England. And that’s just what we got Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Ravens were Admiral Ackbar and the Eagles were the Empire.
After no bulletpoints last week, we’re going all bulletpointy this week.
--- The first half, the Ravens were uneven, particularly on defense as Mike Vick drove the Eagles down the field pretty easily. The only thing stopping the Eagles was themselves, as they turned it over three times in the red zone in the first half.
The first drive of the game set up how the rest of the game played out, with Vick scrambling around to buy time and with tight end Brent Celek finding wide open holes over the middle.
This was not Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain or Dannell Ellerbe’s finest hour in terms of pass coverage. The fact that the Ravens linebackers had so much trouble covering Celek does not bode well for covering Rob Gronkowski this week.
Another concern with the defense that flared up this week was the pass rush, which, like the rest of the team was uneven. Granted, Vick produces a unique challenge to defenses with his scrambling ability, but the Ravens were unable to make him play in a phone booth, so to speak. Vick was able to either move within the pocket because of a lack of push up the middle or scramble to the outside where he could outrun everyone.
While I liked what I saw out of Courtney Upshaw this game, the Ravens need somebody to step up and create a consistent pass rush, something they have not been able to do without Terrell Suggs.
If this team can’t get heat on the passer, facing former Pro Bowl quarterbacks 13 out of 16 weeks, the Ravens are going to need to outscore people to win. Yes, the Ravens got four sacks on Andy Dalton in Week 1, but remember, half of that came late in the game when the Ravens were up three touchdowns.
The secondary had its moments. Lardarius Webb was a tackling menace who earned a forced fumble with a perfect hit on LeSean McCoy to snuff out an Eagles red zone chance. Ed Reed had a pick, but also had the indignity of being hurdled by Celek in the open field.
The Eagles routinely picked on Cary Williams, usually with DeSean Jackson. Reed and Williams had a serious miscommunication on Jeremy Maclin’s touchdown. Reed went to the flat while Williams turned Maclin loose, thinking Reed was behind him. By Williams’ stomping mad reaction, clearly thinking he had help over the top, methinks Reed may have freelanced on that play, guessing where the ball was going.
The back four lost its enforcer when Bernard Pollard was forced from the game with an injury. Veteran James Ihedigbo was brought in to fill Pollard’s shoes, and while the Ravens are just fine with him back there, he’s not the same intimidating presence that Pollard is. The Ravens need Crushboy31 in there against New England, if for no other reason than he scares the bejeezus out of Pats fans.
--- Joe Flacco looked like he was picking up right where he left off against Cincinnati in the first half, completing 14 of 17 passes, including a tremendous throw to Jacoby Jones for a 21-yard touchdown. In person, the throw to Jones was incredible. Under pressure, Flacco lofted a pass to Jones that looked like it came out of a Jugs machine.
Jones later said he could have caught that ball blindfolded it was so perfectly thrown. It showed you why John Harbaugh played the role of Teddy KGB after Week 1, telling Ozzie Newsome and Steve Bisciotti to “Pay dat man his money!”
And then in the second half, Flacco lost his mojo. He was off to say the least. After the game, he said his ribs got rolled up, whatever that means, but downplayed being hurt. I don’t know, but whatever it was, an injury, the amped up pressure from the Eagles or what, Flacco was not good. He was inaccurate, which is rare for him. Flacco is normally money on outside passes and here he was sailing them over receivers' heads.
I go back to the 40-yard pass Flacco threw to Torrey Smith in the 3rd quarter. Smith was at least five yards behind his defender, and with a perfect throw, Smith walks in for a touchdown. But Flacco’s pass was underthrown, and Smith had to slow down and make a difficult catch. When he’s on, Flacco hits that pass every day.
In addition, I thought Flacco got way too locked in on Dennis Pitta. Not knocking Pitta at all, but Flacco has to do a better job of spreading the wealth. Anquan Boldin was invisible and Smith only had two catches. The Ravens need to get Smith the ball in space and let him run loose because he's deadly in the open field.
--- The Ravens playcalling was as bad in this game as it was good against the Bengals. Why on earth did the Ravens consistently line up in the shotgun and throw on 3rd and short? The last two plays of the game, 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1, with two timeouts, the Ravens lined up in the shotgun and threw, eschewing a run with Ray Rice.
It was a classic case of a coordinator getting too cute with his playcalls. In those situations, you just gotta say, “Ok, I have the best fullback in the league and arguably the best running back in the league, let’s just pound out that yard.” I understand sometimes you want to give the D another look, but especially with those two plays at the end, just get the first down and give yourself four more plays instead of trying to get it all at once.
Cameron is like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper: just when you think you have the answers, he changes the questions.
--- The replacement officials in this game were, in a word, awful.
Certainly, this was not the only game where you could say that. Jets-Steelers, Redskins-Rams and Broncos-Falcons were just a few of the games where this charade the NFL is passing off was exposed for all to see.
Flacco had every right to rip these guys after the game.
Where to start? How about the two two-minute warnings? Not knowing how to spot penalty yardage? Not having any control of the players? Or having varying definitions of pass interference and illegal contact?
Look, the Ravens didn’t lose this game because of the refs. The offensive playcalling, a bad performance by Flacco and uneven defense had more to do with that. And I’m not saying it would have been any better with the regular refs in there.
What I think it is, as Flacco and Harbaugh said after the game, is that with the regular refs, there is a certain standard. The players know what they can get away with and what they can’t.
With the scab refs, as Harbaugh said postgame, what is the standard for pass interference or illegal contact?
Two examples: at one point in the game, the Eagles Nnamdi Asomugha was flagged for illegal contact on a play where it looked like he had perfect timing to break up a pass. What’s notable about this call is that not only was it bad – Asomugha did have perfect coverage – but it was the wrong call. If you were to call it, it would be pass interference, not illegal contact.
But at another point, Philly’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hooked Torrey Smith’s arm and literally rode him 10 yards down the field. Yet, no call from the refs.
That the NFL is willing to go forward with this charade into the future, all so the owners can break the referees union, is a disgrace. The NFL practically prints money. The damn league has more money than 3/4 of the countries on earth. So why are Emperor Roger Goddell and the owners nickel and diming the refs over $1 million bucks?
The scab refs are in over their heads. Goddell pays a lot of lip service to player safety, yet is willing to let scab refs, who have no control over the players, ref games so the owners can pinch pennies on the refs’ pension. Just watch the games and see how many fights break out. The players don’t respect these refs. Goddell and the owners need to pay the real guys or someone is going to get hurt.
--- The only thing worse than the scab refs was the Philly traffic around the stadium. The less said the better. Let's just say that if I ever need someone to park their car in the middle of the turn lane and shoot the bull while doing nothing to help traffic along, I'll call the Philly cops.
--- Finally, with the AFC Championship Game rematch against the Patriots coming up Sunday night, what is the over/under on shots of Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff narrated by a somber sounding Al Michaels? I put it at roughly 100.