The word of the game is... suffocating. Both defenses were, for the most part, brilliant on this afternoon and suffocated the offenses. The Eagles consistently strangled Flacco’s movement in the pocket and choked the running lanes for Willis McGahee and Ray Rice, while the Ravens suffocated every aspect of the Eagle attack for just about the entire game. The difference was that the Ravens, aided by key takeaways, were able to get off the mat and put points on the board which quickly turned the game into a blowout.
But… what really can I say? It was a brilliant showing by the Ravens defense and the Ravens offense did what they had to do; namely, holding onto the football. But the Eagles, the Eagles are the national story. I mean, benching Donovan McNabb, the man who has guided your team for years and been one of the winningest quarterbacks in the NFL for the past several years?
OKAY, this is a Baltimore blog, so let’s talk Baltimore. The Ravens needed this win badly, especially after last week’s debacle in the Meadowlands. Sure, Philadelphia is no pushover but, based on the remaining schedule this really was a must-win for the Ravens. They have a wounded Philadelphia team at home with a loaded schedule against teams such as the Steelers, Redskins, and Dallas down the road. Flacco is happier than anyone to be out of these past two games; he has faced the two best pass rushing teams in the NFL and has kept his composure. Trial by fire, and he’s passed – not brilliantly, but he’s passed.
Offense - Overall Grade: C
His numbers were not great, and his first half performance was pretty terrible as he got away with an easy interception which was dropped by a Philadelphia defender. Still, otherwise he made very good decisions with the football and never lost his composure. The touchdown throw to Mark Clayton was something special.
Running Backs: C+
La’Ron McClain was a horse. He was the only running back of the three who was able to get any success whatsoever on the ground and finished with 88 yards and a touchdown on only 18 carries. Rice and McGahee combined for 15 yards on 15 carries. Not all their fault, but they did have some opportunities for success. But, that’s the beauty of the ‘hydra’ running attack – you only need one of the three.
Wide Receivers: B
Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton made some excellent moves after the catch and accounted for 113 of Flacco’s 183 yards passing. It was hard to tell, but it seemed as if this group did not help out Flacco as much as it could when things broke down.
Tight Ends: B
Wilcox’s touchdown catch was one of the prettiest I’ve seen in Baltimore for some time, and I would like to personally say welcome back to Mr. Wilcox. Heap did a decent job in pass blocking and run blocking – there’s a reason he hasn’t caught many balls, and the Philly pass rush was a good reason today. The Ravens needed his blocking on the line – remember, the primary blocking tight end was Quinn Sypniewski. With his loss for the year (back in last spring OTAs), that moved Heap’s responsibility towards blocking as Wilcox is far more a receiver than a blocker.
Offensive Line: C
The blocking up the middle was OK, but the performance of this unit left much to be desired. They had trouble pulling on the outside runs, and the Philly pass rush gave them fits all game. The sack total could have been much worse if not for some nifty plays by Joe Flacco.
Defense - Overall Grade: A
Defensive Line: A
Controlled the line of scrimmage, shut down the run game. A decent push on passing plays, but not great.
Jarrett Johnson said hello to the world. Johnson was outstanding, but the rest of the group held up their end as well, getting a good pass rush and making strong tackles in the run game.
Defensive Backs: A+
Clearly you’re doing something right when you chase out one of the best quarterbacks of this century and then embarrass his young replacement. Four picks; one by Fabian Washington, one by Samari Rolle, and two by Ed Reed (who, incidentally, returned the pick 108 yards for a touchdown, a new NFL record). Most impressive about Washington and Rolle’s interceptions was that they were both on deep pass patterns in which the cornerback was on an island. Brilliant.
Special Teams - Overall Grade: D
Stover continues to set the NFL consecutive extra point record, clearing the 373 mark. Hauschka barely missed a 53-yard field goal, and Stover converted a 44-yarder.
Sam Koch was the hardest working man in football today. Yeah, he made one very poor punt, but I’m not gonna be the one to mark him down for it.
Figurs was decent, although he got away with one return in which he should have called a fair catch.
Terrible blocking for Figurs, and they made Quentin Demps look like Devin Hester. On Demps’ return, he didn’t have to make a single move, and that’s troubling from a coverage perspective.
Coaching - Overall Grade: B-
The Eagles pass rush was able to get to Flacco early, but for some reason they did not compensate by moving to faster developing routes. There was very little use of dump-offs, screens, draws, or quick slants in this game which only emboldened the Eagles to blitz more. The Ravens passed to one slant route all game; it resulted in a 53-yard touchdown because the Eagles were bringing (again) a blitz. Smart move by Cameron going with the hot hand in La’Ron McClain in the second half.
When you do that to Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and company, you’re doing something right. In fact, you’re doing a good number of things right. I was convinced De’Sean Jackson would burn the Ravens for several big plays, and thanks to Rex Ryan’s defense I was proven very wrong.
And for my MVP/LVP...
MVP (Most Valuable Player) –Ed Reed– This is what big-time players do. Two interceptions, one for a 108-yard touchdown. When Philly was driving late the door was opened just a little bit. Ed Reed slammed it shut.
LVP (Least Valuable Player) –Willis McGahee– This is what big-time players don’t do. 7 rushes for 8 yards won’t cut it for your starting running back.
Andy Reid – F
I know, this is a Baltimore blog, but as an NFL fan I cannot believe what he did. This was a huge game for the Eagles, an absolute must-win, and he benches his quarterback who has led the Eagles to four NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. And who does he having coming off that bench? Kevin Kolb. A second year player with next to no NFL experience. You’re asking this kid to come off the bench, on the road, against the Baltimore Ravens, to lead your team from behind? Absolutely unbelievable. If you want to make a change next week, fine, but don’t do it mid-game down by only three.
(Photo Credit: Corey Ivy (George Bridges/McClatchy-Tribune), Daniel Wilcox (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun), Ed Reed (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun))