Sunday, September 21, 2008

Postgame Report Card: Ravens 28, Browns 10

The word of the game is... vintage. Vintage Ravens football, that is. Utilizing strong defense, a power running game, and capitalizing on turnovers. Certainly there were differences from the old formula, after all the quarterback didn’t lose his composure and the team didn’t rack up stupid penalties. This was a fantastic game if you were a Ravens fan, as they were able to rebound from a 10-7 halftime deficit to land a convincing 28-10 victory. The defense shut out and shut down the Browns offense in the second half, picking off Derek Anderson three times and harassing him constantly. The Ravens successfully rode their momentum to steamroll the Browns in a game that the Ravens very well could have lost considering the lackluster first half performance and failure to capitalize on early drives. This team showed a fire and passion that hasn’t been seen in Baltimore for some time.

Offense - Overall Grade: B
Quarterbacks: C+
Joe Flacco finished the day 13-19 for 129 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Don’t let that line fool you into thinking Joe Flacco had a terrible game; he only made one truly terrible decision, and the other interception was on a flea flicker (although he should have run with the ball or thrown it away because the defense didn’t bite). At the end of the day Joe still showed excellent poise under pressure and had a command of the offense. The yardage and attempts are limited because Flacco was asked to do very little in the second half as the defense and running game took over.
Running Backs: B+
Perhaps I’m being generous in this grade, as this unit struggled to gain consistent yardage in the first half. The running backs get a B+ grade primarily from their dominating performance down the stretch. La’Ron McClain has burst onto the scene as an outstanding power runner who can dominate the fourth quarter. As with the Cincinnati game, he was the closer in the fourth quarter. This unit also accounted for three touchdowns, the most impressive of which McGahee’s five yard touchdown in the first half to put the Ravens on the board.
Wide Receivers: B-
The receiving corps was not involved much at all in the game past the first quarter, and non-existent after half. This was significantly dictated by the flow of the game, but the lack of production sticks them at B-.
Tight Ends: C+
Another lackluster game from Todd Heap, although he was able to catch a couple of balls for 32 yards in total. Ravens fans have to wonder when Todd is going to break out of this uncharacteristic slump, as he still left a number of plays out on the field.
Offensive Line: A-
I thought that this unit did a very impressive job, especially in light of the Browns’ impressive defensive front. The Browns were desperate for a win and threw a lot at the Ravens, and the offensive line did an excellent job by and large of containing the Browns’ pressure. Joe Flacco had good time in the pocket throughout the game and they dominated the Browns up front in the second half. It looks like this young and talented line might be starting to gel.

Defense - Overall Grade: A
Defensive Line: A

Get used to this letter; I’ll be using it a good deal for the defense. The line seemed to get stronger as the game progressed, freeing up the linebackers and steadily shrinking the pocket for Derek Anderson.
Linebackers: A
Each of the linebackers contributed something of their own to this game. Terrell Suggs had two sacks; Jarrett Johnson blew by Joe Thomas for a key sack on third down; Ray Lewis had the hit of the day on Kellen Winslow leading to an interception. And I left out Bart Scott who is more and more looking like the ’06 Bart Scott, shedding away last season’s disappointment.
Defensive Backs: A
To explain how good this unit was, I need to only read one stat line: Derek Anderson – 14 of 37 (37.8%) for 125 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions, and a 22.9 quarterback rating. Braylon Edwards was held down to only three catches for 27 yards, and Anderson’s lone touchdown came on a screen pass to Jerome Harrison. Jim Leonhard stepped up big-time for Dawan Landry, who is in all of our prayers after his on-field collision.

Special Teams - Overall Grade: B

Kicker: C
Stover was 0-1 on field goals, and although he did successfully kick away from Josh Cribbs, some of his kickoffs were too short and led to excellent Browns field position.
Punter: B+
Sam Koch averaged 48.7 yards on three punts, and did an excellent job of directional kicking to limit Cribbs’ opportunities for a big return.
Returners: A-
Jim Leonhard. What can you say. This backup strong safety earned his paycheck today, not only in filling in for the injured Dawan Landry at strong safety, but in returning punts and kicks all game for Yamon Figurs (inactive (hamstring)). He averaged 26 yards on three kick returns, and 21 yards on a punt return. That’s pretty special.
Coverage: A
The coverage team contained one of the best returners in pro football, along with opening up big lanes for Jim Leonhard. Another plus; only one holding penalty for the game, keeping Leonhard’s excellent returns intact.

Coaching - Overall Grade: A

Offensive: A
Cam Cameron continues to impress with this offense. Like in Week 1, Cam managed his rookie quarterback very well while not coddling him and allowing him to make plays. There was a very good use of in-game adjustments, and the choice to go for it on a couple of key fourth downs helped to give the offense confidence and put the game away. The coaches also recognize that they have a ‘closer’-type running back in La’Ron McClain and they know when to put the game on his back in the fourth quarter. This coaching staff has given the offense a killer mentality for the first time in Baltimore history.
Defensive: A
Vintage Rex Ryan yet again in both drawing up and managing the defense throughout. Although not quite as impressive as Week 1 against Cincinnati, the defense wore down the offense in the second half and not the other way around. Rex Ryan is showing what he can do with some healthy starters.

And for my MVP/LVP...
MVP (Most Valuable Player) – Ed Reed
– There are many choices, but the vote goes to Ed Reed for his interception return for a touchdown which broke Cleveland’s back in the third quarter.
LVP (Least Valuable Player) – Joe Flacco – Egh, it’s terrible for me to say this, because he didn’t have a terrible game and he showed good poise. However, he did give the ball away twice and was unable to capitalize on a couple of long drives. For a rookie quarterback in his second game he played fine, but if I have to choose an LVP, I have to choose someone.

Bonus grade:
Intangibles: A+ - The fire and camaraderie that this team showed was absolutely inspiring. Keep in mind that the team was trailing at the half, and the Browns had capitalized on opportunities while the Ravens could not. After Dawan Landry went down at the end of the first half, the group could have lost its composure. Instead this team came out with immense passion and showed something special. Harbaugh has this team in excellent shape.

(Photo Credit: AP)

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