Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What We Learned: Vikings 33, Ravens 31

Sorry for the delay, but this loss took longer than others for me to digest. Here are my processed and hopefully detached comments on the Ravens-Vikings game. By the way, I did call a 2 point Vikings win, but I didn’t think it’d quite go down like that. I think I would have rather taken the 17 point beat down than a heartbreaker like that, at least when it comes to maintaining sanity.

The Ravens defense isn’t getting any better.
Brett Favre or no Brett Favre, this secondary is awful, which is one preseason prediction that I deeply wanted to be wrong on. It doesn’t matter how fast your cornerbacks are if they can’t cover, just like it doesn’t matter how fast your wideouts are if they can’t catch. Right now, Dominique Foxworth, Fabian Washington, Frank Walker, Chris Carr, and even safety Dawan Landry are just getting front row seats to some blistering passing attacks. How did it occur to Ozzie Newsome & Co. that this was a good group to go into the season with? Landry has been a huge disappointment this year, and Ed Reed has been a nonfactor so far this season. Reed is talented, but I think he is trying to cover the entire field rather than sticking to his side, and it is getting him burned. Stay disciplined, Ed, and they will go to you eventually.

However, the front seven deserves some of the blame as well. They haven’t been as good rushing the passer as their reputation would say over the past few years, and it is showing this season. They were able to harass Favre, but too often their blitzes just didn’t hit home at all. This unit needs to be at 100% in order to compensate for the lapses in the secondary.

Joe Flacco has arrived.

I can’t deny it anymore, I can’t rip him for sailing passes, and I can’t talk about baby steps towards him becoming a top tier QB. He will have bad days, but his poise, accuracy, and decision-making were beyond anything I have ever seen out of a Ravens quarterback. Yes he started slow, but so did the entire offense. The way he hung in the pocket until the very last second in delivering that late-game dump-off pass to Ray Rice was executed to perfection. I cannot recall such a tremendous jump from Year One to Year Two for a QB’s progression, and based on his performance in putting the Ravens in a position to win the game was incredible. His supporting cast consisting of an aging Derrick Mason, a slowing Todd Heap, and a host of skill position players who would be on most teams practice squads hasn’t helped him out much- imagine what he could do with a great set of receivers? Sadly that may have to take second chair to the needs in the secondary this offseason.

This team is the best of the average.
What I mean by that, is the Ravens still can’t deliver a complete game against the top tier of AFC teams, which is disappointing considering that if the defense hadn’t experienced such a massive drop-off this year this team would probably be 6-0. However, this team finds themselves in familiar territory from the last few years- good enough to contend, but not an elite team just yet. Looking at the schedule, I see them playing 5 more times against teams that I would call “very good” or better. Indianapolis, Denver (6-0 will do that for you), Pittsburgh (twice) and Green Bay/Chicago (one of these teams is going to take a leap, I don’t know which one) all will be major tests for the Ravens. You could throw Cincy in that list, but I won’t. Not yet. That said, I still think this team is more talented than, say, the Jaguars, Texans, or Jets, all of which are also 3-3 right now. A lot of things will change in the next few weeks- if Baltimore can reach even mediocrity out of their cornerbacks, this team will go to the playoffs. Perhaps they can watch some extra film over the bye week.

Yes, we should be concerned about Steve Hauschka.
I won’t spend too much time on this, but Hauschka was brought in originally to handle kickoffs and to work on his accuracy. He is still just 1-3 from beyond 40 yards this season, and only won the starting job in preseason because of the spectacular failure of Graham Gano. Distance doesn’t mean a whole lot if you miss the goalposts. It was only one kick, but his track record indicates that there could be a whole lot of “only one kicks” in his future

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