Sunday, December 28, 2008

Postgame Report Card: Ravens 27, Jaguars 7

The word of the game is.....congratulations. With their win over Jacksonville, the 11-5 Ravens get the last wild card spot to enter the playoffs. The Ravens knew they had to win to be in, and they looked like a team that needed a victory. The coaching staff from top to bottom had the Ravens ready, and the players put their heart into it as well. Normally, the Ravens do not do well with expectations, but they did today. Nothing is perfect, but this game was excellent.

The AFC playoff picture proved to be a nightmare. The 11-5 Patriots are not here. The Ravens were not expected to have a good year at all with a new head coach, new quarterback, and a bad year last season. It did not help when Baltimore started 2-3, capped by a 31-3 drubbing by Peyton Manning and the Colts. But the Ravens put a good streak of wins together against mid-level teams, and won games they need to win to get to this point. Everyone from coaching to management to the players deserve credit.

Offense - Overall Grade: A-
Quarterbacks: A
Joe Flacco had one of the best days we have ever seen from a Ravens quarterback. 17 for 23 for 297 yards, showing very good accuracy in throwing. Five passes of at least 25 yards, four coming in the first half, and no turnovers; you can't ask anything more of him. Troy Smith did not do bad on his time, but this day was about Flacco. A rookie quarterback had to led the team to victory to reach the playoffs, and Joe Flacco did just that.
Running Backs: B-
The ground game was not as effective as they normally are. LeRon McClain only averaged 2.8 yards a carry and McGahee only carried the ball four times. But they finished well, scoring three touchdowns combined. They assisted the air attack with good blocking, especially Lorenzo Neal.
Wide Receivers: A+
Mark Clayton was a huge deep threat, torching the secondary for 128 yards on just four catches. Derrick Mason despite missing practice all this week and being hurt caught six passes. With all of the issues and injuries in the receiver corps, Clayton and Mason stepped up big despite that they knew they were the only deep threat targets.
Tight Ends: B+
Todd Heap caught three passes and did a good job blocking. He was key on Baltimore's final first half drive, catching two passes while in the hurry-up offense.
Offensive Line: B
Flacco was only sacked twice and the penalties were to a minimum all games. The run blocking was suspect, not giving McClain enough holes, but the red zone blocking and the pass defense was well executed all game.

Defense - Overall Grade: A-
Defensive Line: B+
Though Maurice Jones-Drew had a few big runs, the defensive line was solid through out the night. Haloti Ngata was being used as a tackle and an end, maybe a sign of the future? The pressure on David Garrard was good, though they need to finish tackles a little better in the future, especially on running quarterbacks.
Linebackers: A-
Ray Lewis recovered two fumbles, almost had a third and was everywhere on defense tonight. Terrell Suggs was good as well, though his roughing the quarterback was obvious and unnecessary. But the whole gang was a force. Let's hope this is not Ray Lewis's last game at M&T Bank Stadium as a Raven.
Secondary: A
With all of the injuries, to Dawan Landry, Chris McAllister on IR plus Ed Reed, Samari Rolle, and Fabian Washington, David Garrard could not do anything against the secondary tonight. With the exception of the blown coverage on the Alvin Pearman touchdown early in the first quarter, Ed Reed snagged two interceptions inside Baltimore territory. Even Corey Ivy got in the game and sacked Garrard; the only sack of the game.

Special Teams - Overall Grade: A-
Kicker: A-
Matt Stover converted two short field goals and three extra points, missed a 48-yard field goal attempt. Steven Hauschka had a kickoff that was held like a field goal attempt that was destroyed, nearly going between the uprights. I hope he stays a Raven next year, Hauschka has a monster leg and could be a fine kicker.
Punter: A-
Had a short 32-net yarder in the first half, but landed one on the 5-yard line plus had two touchbacks, ending any chance of a Jacksonville comeback in the fourth quarter.
Coverage: A
Brian Witherspoon was going nowhere fast, even being tackled on the 8-yard line on a kickoff.
Returning: B-
Tom Zbikowski was not good on returning kickoffs, though he was not given a chance after two returns due to Jacksonville's non-existent offense plus he did not turn the ball over. Jim Leonhard never had a chance to return a punt. The kickoff returner will be a big question in the playoffs, as no one has emerged as a hand-down starting returner.

Coaching - Overall Grade: A
Offensive: A-
The air attack reigned supreme, as Flacco was given good plays to heave the ball downfield. It is difficult to run an offense with just two dependable receivers and a running game that was not working, but Cam Cameron found a way to do it. Only thing I question is putting Derrick Mason in difficult spots when he is hurt.
Defensive: A
Only seven points when the Ravens need a win, no more than 13 points allowed in any home game. No more needs to be said.
Head Coach: A+
I wanted to add this in for this game. The Ravens have played every week since the unexpected bye week in week 2, and John Harbaugh came out early in the week and said the Ravens were not tired. This rookie head coach has exceeded all expectations and has looked like a seasoned veteran coach out there, trusting his coordinators and keeping a calm head in the locker room. It is clear the players respect him and will go the distance for him, no matter what the circumstance.

MVP- Joe Flacco
As stated earlier, he needed a good game, and gave a great game when the Ravens needed to win to reach the playoffs. 17 for 23 for 297 yards with just two reliable wide receivers.
LVP- Tom Zbikowski
It is difficult to give an LVP is such a great game. Zbikowski was not effective on his two kickoffs, both times just running into blockers without much manuevering.

The Ravens as the 6-seed will take on the 3-seed AFC East champion Dolphins in Miami in the wild card round of the playoffs. Back in October, the Ravens had a 14-point victory over the Dolphins. Cam Cameron could get his second victory as Ravens offensive coordinator in Dolphin Stadium despite that he only had one as the Miami head coach last season.

(Photo credit: AP, Getty Images)

No comments: