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Monday, December 9, 2013
Ravens report card vs. the Vikings

By Jamison Hensley

Grading the Baltimore Ravens in their 29-26 win against the Minnesota Vikings.

Quarterback: The way Joe Flacco carried the offense in the final couple of minutes makes you scratch your head and wonder why he can't perform at that level the rest of the time. In his first 13 drives, Flacco completed 21 of 40 passes for 183 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions (passer rating of 41.9). Though the snow played a factor, two of Flacco's interceptions were extremely poor throws. Flacco turned it around on his last two series, connecting on 7 of 10 passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns (passer rating of 125.8). His game-winning, nine-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Marlon Brown was put in a spot only the rookie wide receiver could get it. Grade: B.

Rice
Rice
Running backs: Ray Rice started to look like the running back everyone remembered in the second half when the footing on the field improved. Rice ran for 49 yards on nine carries after halftime, a 5.4-yard average. Some of this had to do with going against the NFL's 23rd-ranked run defense. Rice also added five catches for 42 yards. Bernard Pierce was a non-factor with 12 yards on seven attempts (1.7-yard average). It's never good for the running backs when the longest run of the day is by your quarterback (Flacco's fearless 22-yard dash set up the first touchdown). Fullback Vonta Leach was stopped on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter. Grade: C.

Wide receivers/tight ends: For most of the day, the receivers struggled to get open and dropped passes. Brown stepped up on the last game-winning drive, beginning it with a 35-yard catch and ending it with a nine-yard touchdown grab where he deftly got both feet down in the back of the end zone. In his first game back since dislocating his hip, tight end Dennis Pitta shook off a rusty start and finished with six catches for 48 yards. He converted one third down with an impressive leaping catch, and he put the Ravens ahead late in the fourth quarter with a one-yard touchdown reception on fourth-and-goal. But it was not a good day for Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, at least not on offense. Smith let a deep pass go through his hands and ended with one catch for a season-low 11 yards. Jones was the blame for Flacco's third interception, a pass that bounced off his shoulder pads. Grade: C-plus.

Bush
Yanda
Offensive line: This maligned group held up well in pass protection. Flacco was sacked twice, and both were coverage sacks. The line also started pushing the Vikings off the ball in the second half, except for that critical fourth-down run in the fourth quarter. Penalties remain a problem. Holding penalties on right tackle Michael Oher and center Gino Gradkowski negated decent runs, and right guard Marshal Yanda had a false start on a two-point conversion. Grade: C-plus.

Defensive line: Haloti Ngata was a force in the first half, but disappeared in the second. Chris Canty continues to knock down passes, getting a hand on two of Matt Cassel's throws. Art Jones led the linemen with five tackles, including one for a loss. A lot will be made of the Ravens giving up 114 yards on the ground without Adrian Peterson in the game. But Toby Gerhart's 41-yard touchdown run came against a three-man front (Canty was the only starting lineman on the field). Take that away, and the Ravens gave up 73 yards on 24 carries (3.0-yard average). Grade: B.

Suggs
Linebackers: Terrell Suggs played a strong game until the end, when he didn't recognize the draw (Gerhart's 41-yard touchdown) and failed to get a grip on Cordarrelle Patterson on the receiver's 79-yard catch-and-run. Inside linebacker Daryl Smith was caught overpursuing on that Patterson touchdown. Courtney Upshaw made a costly mistake when he was flagged for roughing the passer, which led to the Vikings' first touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was the Ravens' second straight game without a sack, and not having Elvis Dumervil (ankle) hurt them. Grade: D.

Secondary: Safety Matt Elam and cornerback Lardarius Webb had awful games. Elam finally made a play, recovering a fumble that the Ravens converted into a touchdown in the first quarter. After that, it got ugly for the first-round pick. Elam whiffed, along with safety James Ihedigbo, on Gerhart's touchdown up the middle of the defense, and then was embarrassingly turned around by Patterson in the open field on the Vikings' other late touchdown. Webb seemed hesitant about his footing on the snowy field and gave up a lot of catches. He had a bull's-eye on his back for most of the game. Grade: D.

Special teams: Everyone will remember Jacoby Jones tip-toeing his way down the sideline for a 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. But it was special teams coach Jerry Rosburg who recognized a pooch kick was coming. He told Jones to run up right before the kickoff, allowing the Pro Bowl returner to field the ball before it hit the ground. Jones also provided a 22-yard punt return as well. Sam Koch placed two punts inside the 20-yard line, and netted a season-best 45.7 yards on six kicks. The coverage team did give up a 42-yard kickoff return to Patterson. Grade: A-minus.