The word of the game is... sweltering. The players on the field in Qualcomm were dealing with 100+ degree temperatures, and the game matched that in its intensity. The Ravens and Chargers played to a thrilling shootout; certainly all of Baltimore was sweating as the Chargers continued to slice the Ravens’ secondary through the second half. The Chargers had the Ravens on the ropes defensively; however the Ravens offense took the game over for the second week in a row. Joe Flacco threw for two more touchdowns and Willis McGahee added two more to match San Diego’s scoring.
But for as unorthodox as this game was for the Ravens, it did find a way to end in a classic fashion. With the Chargers going for it on fourth and two Ray Lewis shot through the line and crushed Darren Sproles along with the hearts of all Chargers fans in attendance. The secondary might’ve stunk up the joint this afternoon, but the Ravens’ linebackers are still alive and well.
Offense - Overall Grade: A
Without Joe Flacco the Ravens would be winless at this point in the season. He has been able to not only manage the offense but bring it to an all new level for this franchise. No, he wasn’t perfect, but he did everything he needed to for the team to win. Flacco couldn’t find the deep ball today, but executed well on short ot intermediate throws. The one interception was more a result of a freakish jump off the line by Shawne Merriman than anything else.
Running Backs: A
Willis McGahee was absolutely brilliant, and was the stabilizing force for the Ravens in this game. Ray Rice continues to show vastly improved patience from last year which is allowing him to finally find some open running lanes. All three backs are starting material.
Wide Receivers: B-
This unit was unable to get any deep separation, which in turn took a key part of Joe Flacco’s game away. Still, Derrick Mason was his usual reliable self and Kelly Washington stepped up big-time for the Ravens and looks to be a huge contributor throughout the season. Clayton’s drop late in the fourth quarter was inexcusable and nearly cost the Ravens the game.
Tight Ends: A
Todd Heap continues his comeback tour, hauling in another touchdown and showing some of that athletic ability which made him a top-tier tight end before he encountered his rash of injuries. His leaping ability led to a huge pass interference call which set the Ravens up for a big score with what would otherwise be an incompletion (or worse). Still, the Ravens are looking for LJ Smith to come back from injury soon to free up Heap to get still more involved in the open field.
Offensive Line: B+
For a stretch, this group was absolutely dominant, taking advantage of a battered San Diego defensive line. Still, late in the game they weren’t able to assert their will when they needed it; if this group could just make that one more step up, this team can be something special. Oher already looks like an NFL veteran – and a good one at that.
Defense - Overall Grade: C+
Defensive Line: B+
This group was excellent against the run and got some good penetration, however they need to start finishing on some of those quarterback pressures. If Rivers was able to sidestep as many of the tackles as he did today, this unit will have its head spinning against Roethlisberger. The biggest key is for Suggs to show up, because he was nearly absent today when he should have thrived against the depleted offensive line of the Chargers.
From Ray Lewis to Tavares Gooden to Jarrett Johnson to Antwan Barnes (et al), the Ravens franchise just continues to find and develop the finest linebackers in the league. The entire linebacking corps had an excellent game, although it would have been good to see more pressure on Rivers (though the secondary made that more difficult). And speaking of which…
Defensive Backs: F
An abysmal performance. This unit was humiliated by a veteran quarterback and a corps of physically dominant receivers. Surely it was not for lack of effort; this group was just overmatched and embarrassed. The Chargers were able to throw away from Ed Reed all game, rendering him ineffective.
Special Teams - Overall Grade: A
Steve Hauschka only had one field goal to make, but without that score the Ravens are most likely on the losing end of this game. His kickoffs were great, with the exception of the fluky out-of-bounds kick due to the returner catching it with a foot out of bounds.
Sam Koch is an artist. Three of his punts were within the 10 yard line, and two were within the 5. Very very impressive.
Chris Carr rebounded with a much better week on punt and kickoff returns. Still looking for him to break one, but this was a good start.
For the most part, Darren Sproles was contained on kickoffs. Prescott Burgess was a monster on special teams, and Lardarius Webb made a great save on a Koch punt to plant it at the one.
Coaching - Overall Grade: A-
Cam Cameron had an excellent feel for the game this week. He had the run and pass balanced very well throughout the afternoon, and finally seemed to get a good rhythm going with how and when to use his three backs. It’ll be exciting to see this offense develop as the season progresses, because it’s clear that they’ve only touched the surface of their potential.
The jury is still out on how this defense will fare down the line wit Greg Mattison at the helm rather than Rex Ryan. For this game it’s awful hard to blame the coaching staff for the horrendous secondary play; most of the time the players were in position to make plays, however they were just flat-out beaten. Still, they were gashed for the second week in a row…
And for my MVP/LVP...
MVP (Most Valuable Player) –Willis McGahee– Like Todd Heap, he seems to be enjoying a bit of a comeback tour this year. He, more than any other player, seemed to recenter the Ravens’ offense when they needed it the most. He’s showing the vision, power, and speed which made him such a sought-after commodity by the front office when he was acquired. Two touchdowns to back him up don’t hurt either.
LVP (Least Valuable Player) –Fabian Washington– Quite frankly, he was the worst player on the worst unit in this game, so that’s why he has this dubious honor. He certainly was not alone in his struggles, but Foxworth had at least a few impressive pass defenses.
(Photo Credit: NFL.com)