Friday, September 6, 2013

So That Went Well

Now before all of you Ravens fans start jumping off the Bromo Seltzer Tower, take a deep breath and try to stay positive.  Here are a few things to remember:

The Orioles are still in the playoff hunt!
Fall is a great time of year in the MidAtlantic area!
Mayweather/Alvarez is only a week away!
The Ravens sacked Peyton Manning three times!

Sure he torched them for 7 touchdowns and 462 yards passing, but still - they actually got pressure on him.  Manning is the best quarterback of his generation at avoiding sacks. At least, I’m pretty sure he is, I don’t feel like finding any data to support that claim because I am a sports stats Luddite.  I’m ok with that.  The point is, the Ravens D had the worst night in the organization’s history and there are still some positives to take from the game.
Hopefully he's prepared at least 19 more sack celebrations

For the last two years they’ve had problems getting to the quarterback consistently.  Hopefully, with a healthy Terrell Suggs, Chris Canty and Elvis Dumervil there is hope that they can cause some havoc in the opponents backfield. If they can get three sacks against Manning, they should be able to double that total against Brandon Weedon next Sunday.

Ok, so that’s the good.  Now for the bad, the very, very bad.  Manning a exploited a young, disorganized defense.  He beat them like a 12-year-old playing against me in Maddon. There were too many plays where the receivers weren’t just open, they were WIDE open, as in the Baltimore defender wasn’t even in the picture. I don’t think it’s the result of bad talent, most likely it’s coverage breakdowns and miscommunication - the two-headed demon that plagues all young defenses.

Luckily, that’s why teams are allowed to practice during the week.  There is a good bet that there will be some looooong video sessions in Baltimore over the next 9 days. They should play better against Cleveland, because well - Cleveland.  Unfortunately, the week after that, they will be right up against another high-powered offense in Houston.  Matt Schaub doesn’t have as many options as Manning does, but he still has big threats in Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Arian Foster and (hopefully for my fantasy team - DeAndre Hopkins).  That will be the real test for the defense.

Offensively, the Ravens actually looked as good as team could when passing the ball 756 times.  Ok, so it was only 62 times, but with Ray Rice on the team that’s too many passes.  BUT JUSTIN THEY WERE LOOOOSING SO THEY HAD TO THROW THE BALL!!!  First of all, stop yelling at me in my internet space.  Second, Flacco chucked the ball 29 times in the first half, you know, before the dark times, before the 3rd quarter.

It’s not like the Ravens have a bunch of shiny new toys for Flacco to throw to.  The biggest pickups in the off season were stars back when Trent Dilfer had hair and Tony Siragusa weighed less than a humpback whale. Just because Flacco is making a $100 million dollars doesn’t mean he needs to throw the ball a 100 million times.  Line up behind Leach and run the ball.

The good news is that it looked like the play calling was working.  Part of the reason it was so painful to watch Dallas Clark drop passes like the AT&T drops phone calls is because he was wide open.  Same thing with Ed Dickson and Brandon Stokley. As much as the non-challenge by Harbaugh changed the momentum, so did Clark’s touchdown drop (so much so that Steeler Fan/Crusher of Golf Balls Link sent a message saying that the Ravens would regret leaving those 4 points on the field).
Everyone regrets their college photos

Cris Collinsworth did make a salient point last night (granted he made it two or three times, beating it into the ground as he is wont to do). Flacco hasn’t developed the trust in any of his receivers that he had with Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta where he could throw the ball in their general area and be pretty sure they would make the catch.

In time, Torrey Smith will be that guy.  Late in the game he made a hell of a one-handed catch with a Bronco defender ripping one of his arms back.  Marlon Brown looks like he has pretty sure hands and could develop into a solid possession receiver (side topic - can we start a petition to have him drop the “n” in his name.  I feel the Baltimore will be better with a “Marlo” on the team.  #TheWire #TeamStanfield).  If Jacoby Jones is out for any length of time, Flacco is looking at an receiving unit that he has very little familiarity with.  That’s not exactly a template of success for a less-than-accurate quarterback.

Before the start of the game I told the bartender that I thought the Ravens were a 7-9 team this year.  Young defense, tough schedule, Super Bowl hangover and a depletion of talent were just too much for me to think this team could be an upper echelon team. They will improve as the season goes on, but Manning laid out the game plan on how to beat them - fast tempo, multiple receiver sets and short routes. There is no reason to think that they aren’t going to see the same thing from Houston, Green Bay, New England and Cincinnati (my pick to win the AFC North). Pittsburgh will try, but honestly who is Ben going to throw to?

I could be wrong and the defense could gel quicker than expected, but I’m more than prepared for 15 more games of Michael Huff whiffing on tackles and Ed Dickson alligator-arming passes across the middle of the field. I call week three when we actually see Joe Flacco express an emotion of disgust.
Joe Flacco is not amused.  Or is he? I can't really tell.

How Justin G. sees the season unfolding:

Week 1  at Denver - Loss

Week 2 Cleveland - Win. Defense redeems itself with a pick-6 and 5 sacks

Week 3 Houston - Loss .Andre Johnson 250 yards receiving before blowing a hamstring in the 3rd quarter

Week 4 at Buffalo - Win. Flacco throws four TDs and the defense picks off surprise starter Jim Kelly 4 times

Week 5 at Miami - Win. The annual ugly 12-10 win

Week 6 Green Bay - Loss. Aaron Rogers throws 3 TDS and fans start booing Flacco

Week 7 at Pitttsburgh - Loss. Felix Jones runs for 120 yards and I regret not starting him

Week 8 Bye - Eighty-Five “Should Harbaugh Be Fired?” columns are published

Week 9 at Cleveland - Win. C’mon it’s Cleveland

Week 10 Cincinnati - Loss.  Eighty-Five “The Bengals are For Real!” columns published.

Week 11 at Chicago - Loss. The annual 12-10 loss.

Week 12 NY Jets - Win. Ravens celebrate Thanksgiving by picking off Mark Sanchez 7 times.

Week 13 Pittsburgh - Win. Flacco hits Smith on a 98-yard pass that bounces off of Ike Taylors helmet in overtime. Playoff hopes are alive!

Week 14 Minnesota - Win. Christian Ponder is cut at halftime. Adrian Peterson is one week away from returning from his Week 2 ACL surgery.

Week 15 at Detroit - Loss.  Megatron with four receiving touchdowns. Possible rookie of the year Matt Elam is hurt when Terrell Suggs body slams him in a weird post-sack celebration.

Week 16 New England - Loss.  Patriots extract revenge for the playoff loss last year. Recent free-agent tight end Tim Tebow catches 6 passes for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Week 17 at Cincinnati - Loss.  Bengals celebrate first AFC North title since 2009. Five players promptly arrested in post-game celebration.

Final record 7-9. Harbaugh keeps his job, fans demand the Ravens trade up to draft Teddy Bridgewater, Ray Lewis mulls a comeback.


Nick B. said...

I can make a case for all those predictions...except Mark Sanchez starting Week 12 for the Jets. So unrealistic.

Justin G. said...

Well, it is after Geno Smith is concussed in week three. Sanchez starts two games and then is benched for a concussed Geno Smith who then suffers a broken leg (listed as doubtful for two weeks). Sanchez throws 4 touchdowns in one of those weeks and 8 interceptions the next week. A still-concussed and gimpy Smith plays the next two weeks (winning one game!) before suffering another concussion. When new coach Joe Namath is unable to find him for week 12 Sanchez is named the starter 10 minutes before the game.... I might have left that part out.