Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Nervous? C'mon it Was the Browns

One nice thing about being a Ravens fan over the last decade and a half is that there is no feeling of panic being down to the Browns 6-0 at the half. I wouldn’t say I was happy with their first half performance, more like accepting of it.  If you have a friend who is a heroin addict do you get mad when he steals your wallet to buy more heroin?  No, you accept it and hide your wallet better.  The Ravens are my hophead friend.  Instead of being addicted to smack, they are addicted to three-and-out drives.

Just for you Big K.  #kickersarepeopletoo

At some point during the game a NFL “insider” tweeted something along the lines of “How about that Browns defense! Shutting out the Ravens!”. Apparently, this guy (I think it was Ian Rappaport) wasn’t watching the game, just the ticker.  The Browns defense was indeed pitching a shut out, but only because Justin Tucker was honoring Billy Cundiff by shanking two field goals and Joe Flacco had two touchdowns dropped by his receivers.  At best it should have been 20-6, at worst 10-6.  So yeah, great job Browns!

That being said, the Ravens still had their fair share of stalled drives in the first half (four of them).  Flacco is indeed the King of Cool, but at times the entire offense seems to adopt a laissez-faire attitude toward scoring.  And while that works against Cleveland, it really, really doesn’t work against teams that actually play competent football.

Next week they have to take on Houston, and while the Texans have their issues, they can definitely move the ball down the field at a better pace than the Browns.  Even if brittle wide receiver Andre Johnson is out, Matt Schaub still has Owen Daniels, Arian Foster, Ben Tate and rookie DeAndre Hopkins to choose from.  Getting pressure on Schaub is a must, and the good news for zubaz-clad Ravens fans is that the defense has done well pressuring quarterbacks so far.

In two games they’ve racked up 8 sacks, mostly while rushing only 4.  Terrell Suggs is healthy and benefiting from the attention paid to Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty.  Now that Arthur Jones is back from his life-threatening viral infection the front seven is looking vastly improved.

Which is good, because the secondary is still a bit Chykie, I mean shaky.  It appears John Harbaugh experiment of playing a safety who can’t tackle is over now that rookie Matt Elam (GO GATORS!) has seemingly replaced Michael Huff.  Having 11 players on the field who know they can tackle should improve the defense a tad.
Yes that Chykie Brown reference was just so I could post this picture

Unfortunately, they are still having issues covering multiple threats in the open.  Several times Browns’ tight end Jordan Cameron was wide open. So open that even Brandon Weeden couldn’t miss him. That was something that plagued the Ravens against the Broncos and could cause havoc next week against the Texans.

Also a possible cause of havoc - Ray Rice’s injury.  It’s never good when a player goes down without being hit. While the team is “hopeful” that his hip flexor will be better by next week, if he’s out it could be a big blow to the team’s struggling offense.  The good news is that Bernard Pierce is capable of filling Rice’s cleats, behind Pierce there isn’t much of an option.  Right now the only other running back listed on the roster is newly signed Shaun Draughn who was picked up off the waiver wire to boost the return game in Jacoby Jones absence.

Pierce isn’t as reliable catching the ball out of the backfield as Rice is, so it potentially removes one of Flacco’s safety valves. Rice is tied with Torrey Smith for the team lead with 11 receptions, and while fewer of them have been check downs then they have been in the past, Rice is still one of the few receivers that Flacco is familiar with. Against the Browns he almost completely abandoned throwing to the tight ends as Dallas Clark only had one catch (and he held on to it!) as did new comer Billy Bajema.

I have a feeling that the Ravens are going to go back to a pound-the-rock ground game next week after two weeks of flinging the football around.  Keeping the Texans offense off of the field seems to be the best way to keep them from scoring, so prolonging drives and slowly moving down the field seems to be the smart way to go.

Marlon Brown does seem to be emerging as a capable replacement for Jones, despite dropping a sure touchdown in the first half.  He did have some nice catches in the second half and at 6’5” he has the height to reel in some of Flacco’s less than accurate passes.  If he keeps progressing he could develop into Anquan Boldin 2.0 and give the Ravens the third down/ red zone possession receiver they need to compliment the deep threat in Torrey Smith.

Through two games the Ravens are 1-1 (tied for the AFC North lead!) which is better than being 0-2.  I know, master of the obvious, but in the AFC this year there is a decent chance that a 7-9 team makes it to the playoffs.  Why can’t the Ravens be that team?

No comments: