Sunday, November 9, 2008

Postgame Report Card- Ravens 41, Texans 13

The word of the day is.....defense. Everything happened today because of the defense. Haloti Ngata's aggression pressured Texans backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels and got him a timely interception that prevented a score. Ray Lewis picked off two passes. Terrell Suggs's constant pressure forced many problems in the backfield. Not by any means a perfect day, but a very efficient one. It was a close game most of the time, but a dominating fourth quarter with 22 points put the game away for the Ravens over the Texans 41-13.

The Ravens have improved to 6-3, winning their last four contests. In all four games, the Ravens scored at least 27 points, and in three of them, the defense only allowed 13 points or fewer.

Offense - Overall Grade: A-
Quarterbacks: A
Joe Flacco looks better every game, today throwing 15/23 for 185 yards and two scores. Cam Cameron was allowing him to throw deep, but also in the flat when necessary. A few times he threw into coverage, but all quarterbacks do that. Troy Smith also got a few plays, including throwing a touchdown to Todd Heap.
Running Backs: A-
Willis McGahee is back to form after his injury, rushing 25 times for 112 and two touchdowns. It took him a while to get going, but he put it together towards the second half, where he got both of his scores. Ray Rice and LeRon McClain didn't have big or important days, but we have seen this in the past. Often McGahee is the main back when healthy, but Rice and McClain step up more when needed. Neither was a factor, except McClain got some first downs on short yardage situations. 13 first downs were gained on the ground.
Wide Receivers: B+
Despite a possible injury to Derrick Mason, the unit did a solid job at helping out Flacco's long throws. Yamon Figurs is showing solid speed and awareness at the slot, and Mark Clayton stepped up with great catches near the sideline. For the Ravens sake, let's hope Mason's injury is not serious. Although Flacco is continuing to improve, he still has not developed a strong connection with his other targets, not to mention Mason is the best overall receiving threat the Ravens have.
Tight Ends: A
Todd Heap stepped up just when Flacco needed him. Five catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns, plus no serious mistakes. With the injuries, Heap needs to return to form, and by the look of today's game, he may be back.
Offensive Line: B-
Early in the game, Flacco saw a lot of pressure and the running game was not getting going. Plus, a lot of penalties cost the Ravens key yardage. But after the first half, the Texans were not doing anything effective to the Ravens offense, and McGahee got going. Not a great game, but when the line needed to step up and play, they did.

Defense - Overall Grade: A-
Defensive Line: A
Ozzie Newsome used a number of high draft picks year after year on defensive tackles, and Ngata's play shows everyone why. Ngata intercepted a huge pass that prevented a score on a 1st and goal from the one plus pressured the quarterback all day. He is a bulldozer on the line, which is why the Ravens offense is using him on goal line situations. Trevor Pryce also got a sack by pulling down Rosenfels. The Houston running game wasn't bad or good, but overall it was not a factor.
Linebackers: A
Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs had very solid days. Lewis picked off two passes seemingly thrown right to him and Suggs's pressure forced a holding in the end zone and some bad passes. Jarret Johnson also had some key tackles. The corps continues to lead the defense on the field.
Secondary: B-
Not everyone had a great day. Though Rosenfels was not effective at all today, a few of his passes turned into big gains, including the 60-yard catch by Kevin Walter Though they are dealing with injuries to McAlister and Landry, the coverage needs to improve against stronger passing games.

Special Teams - Overall Grade: B+
Kicker: A
Everyone welcome in the "intern" kicker Steven Hauschka (term coined by Solomon Wilcots), who pocketed a 54-yard field goal towards the end of the first half. A rookie from N.C. State may become the long kicker and kickoff man. Meanwhile, Matt Stover may have missed a 50-yarder, by no means a chip shot, but made his four extra points, and according to CBS, Stover has tied the NFL record for the highest streak of extra points with 317. Congrats Matt.
Punter: A+
(Que "Sam Koch Had a Great Day" tape) Sam Koch had four punts, three inside the 20. One was a 74-yarder for a touchback, even though it rolled on the ground for about 25 yards.
Returners: B-
Very average day for Yamon Figurs on the return game, nothing bad, nothing great. Three kickoff returns for average of 22 yards and only one short punt return.
Coverage: B-
Again, very average day. Houston did not do anything special on returns, nor make any mistakes. A good thing to see after Josh Cribbs ripped up the coverage team last week.

Coaching - Overall Grade: A-
Offense: B+
Cam Cameron's mentoring Joe Flacco continues, this time trying out some long passes across the middle. The running game also was effective with good play calling. The Suggs package had the botched the two quarterback throwing play, but it is still being worked on.
Defense: A
This was Rex Ryan's day. The Ravens kept trying to take advantage of the quarterback issues and made Houston pay for mistakes. The disguised coverages completely threw off Rosenfels, and though there were mishaps early, eventually everything got back into place.

MVP: Haloti Ngata
Put constant pressure on Rosenfels, intercepted a pass in the end zone, and caused all sorts of trouble for the Houston offensive line. Also assisted the offense on the goal line.
LVP: Ray Rice
Only because an LVP has to be chosen, Ray's carries and catches did not amount to much during the game. But again, a game like this, most players should be happy with their performance.

The Ravens have improved to 6-3. You think possibly the Steelers are looking over their shoulder?

(Photo credit: AP (Ravens photos), Pack Pride (Hauschka)

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