Monday, October 21, 2013
Ravens report card at the Steelers
By Jamison Hensley
Grading the Baltimore Ravens in their 19-16 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers:
Quarterback: It was another slow start for Joe Flacco, who threw for 90 yards in the first half. He came alive in the fourth quarter, going 9-of-10 for 60 yards and a touchdown on the game-tying drive. Flacco did a solid job of moving to avoid the pressure and nearly had a Ben Roethlisberger moment in the red zone early in the fourth quarter. His biggest mistake was underthrowing an open Jacoby Jones on what would've resulted in a go-ahead touchdown. It's also inexcusable to have a delay of game penalty on the play right after a timeout. Grade: C-plus.
Running backs: It seemed like the Ravens running backs were more productive than the numbers indicated. Perhaps it's an indictment of how bad the running game has been this season. Ray Rice was held under 50 yards rushing for the fifth time in six games (45 rushing yards), and Bernard Pierce finished with 13 yards. They combined for 2.7 yards per carry. Rice has to do a better job of cutting in pass protection. LaMarr Woodley went over Rice to sack Flacco, dropping him for a 10-yard loss and taking the Ravens out of field-goal range. But the backs looked closer to breaking bigger runs with the Ravens spreading out defenses. Grade: C-minus.
Wide receivers/tight ends: Tight end Dallas Clark scored a touchdown for the second straight game. He cut off his route to find the open spot in the end zone Sunday in Pittsburgh. Torrey Smith was quiet for most of the game until he caught a 41-yard pass in tight coverage against Ike Taylor. He's too talented to disappear for those long stretches. Tandon Doss showed toughness in hanging onto the ball after taking a hard hit over the middle. Jacoby Jones only had 32 yards receiving but he got behind the defense for what should have been a touchdown and was open in the end zone (but Flacco couldn't find him because he was scrambling). Grade: B-minus.
Offensive line: It was better than the line's usual performance this year but it was still not a solid performance. The biggest problem was too much penetration allowed on run plays. The Ravens couldn't convert third-and-1 in the first quarter because center Gino Gradkowski and right guard Marshal Yanda got pushed back on a stretch play. Baltimore also failed to get into the end zone on a run inside the 3-yard line for a second straight week. The line only gave up one sack, but it didn't give Flacco much time, especially in the first half. Grade: C.
Defensive line: The Steelers showed no fear running up the middle of the Ravens' defense. Haloti Ngata couldn't get off blocks and Pittsburgh's line had success turning him to create lanes. Chris Canty and Art Jones were nonfactors. Marcus Spears got shoved out of the way on the only touchdown allowed by the Ravens, a 3-yard shovel pass to Heath Miller. Grade: D.
Linebackers: Middle linebacker Daryl Smith delivered another big play, forcing Miller to fumble. He also led the Ravens with nine tackles. Elvis Dumervil made two costly penalties, getting flagged for unnecessary roughness and a facemask on a drive that ended with a field goal. Terrell Suggs had a high-effort game and added his eighth sack of the season. But his one miss on Roethlisberger (Miller redirected Suggs on a late block) resulted in a 19-yard scramble on third down. Jameel McClain made five tackles in his first game back since suffering a spinal cord contusion. Grade: C.
Secondary: This was a strong game for the defensive backs until the Steelers' game-winning drive. Corey Graham's missed tackle of Antonio Brown led to a 13-yard gain and put Pittsburgh in field-goal range. Then, Brown beat Jimmy Smith on a slant for 11 yards and made the game-winning kick that much easier. Baltimore did a fine job not allowing a big play. The longest completion for Roethlisberger was 19 yards. Rookie safety Matt Elam came up with the ball after Daryl Smith forced the fumble. Grade: C-plus.
Special teams: The Ravens failed to properly execute the key onside kick in the fourth quarter, and Jeromy Miles' offside penalty would've foiled it even if the Ravens had recovered it. Baltimore lost the field-position battle, allowing the Steelers to average 32.3 yards on kickoff returns and giving up an 18-yard punt return. A 44-yard kickoff return by Emmanuel Sanders jumpstarted the game-winning drive. Sam Koch only netted 29.3 yards on three punts. The return team nearly gave the ball back to the Steelers when Vonta Leach picked up a short kickoff and fumbled it. Chykie Brown was flagged for offside on a field-goal attempt. Justin Tucker made all three field-goal attempts (46, 38 and 32 yards). Grade: D.