Re-Focused: Cardinals @ Ravens, Week 8

| November 1, 2011

The Baltimore Ravens were two quarters away from calls of a collapse. After last week’s stuttering offensive performance in a loss to Jacksonville, they struggled again with two turnovers leading to a 24-6 halftime lead for the Cardinals. The Ravens, and Joe Flacco, bounced back in the second half as Flacco found Anquan Boldin time after time for big plays, putting Ray Rice in position to finish-off three drives with short runs.

It was a much-needed offensive resurgence, and one the defense will be grateful for as it prevented another day of hard work from going to waste. They were at their best as usual, the only two touchdown drives they gave up coming on short fields after turnovers. It sets Baltimore up now to move on to a crucial showdown in Pittsburgh on Sunday night as both teams try and gain control of the AFC North.

For the Cardinals it was all about finding a way to lose again. Be it mistakes in coverage or costly penalties, Arizona just couldn’t help themselves as they watched the Ravens score 24 unanswered points to erase a big lead.  Some thought before the season that the Cardinals would win a weak NFC West, but they showed on Sunday why they are so far back of the division-leading 49ers.

 

Baltimore Ravens – Three Performances of Note

 

Q-uestioning the Cardinals

Anquan Boldin (+4.1) turned the clock back to his days in Arizona as he ripped his former team for nearly 150 yards through the air.  All of it coming against A.J. Jefferson, which was good enough to get the cornerback benched later in the game. As we’ve seen him do before, Boldin stepped up to the plate when it seemed that the Ravens were on their way to another upset loss.  Of his seven catch day, however, there was one play that stood out from the rest. With 4:39 left in the third quarter, the Ravens were again trying to drive from inside their own 20-yard-line. Boldin beat Jefferson deep down the left sideline before hauling in a Flacco back shoulder throw that wasn’t quite on the money. Watch it and applaud the brilliance of Boldin.

 

Oher at his Best

No, it didn’t come against elite opposition, but when was the last time Michael Oher (+5.9) went a full game without allowing any pressure on Joe Flacco? The divisional round of the playoffs, that’s when. But that’s exactly what Oher did on Sunday. Not just perfect as a pass blocker, he graded out at +1.9 as a run blocker and didn’t give up a penalty as he out-played every other offensive lineman on the field en route to the highest-graded game of his career. The big question now becomes if Oher can reproduce this form against someone other than the Arizona Cardinals. Say the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, for example.

 

Suggs Steps Up

It must be nice to be able to rely on a defense like Baltimore’s when your offense is struggling like it was on Sunday. And, once again, the players we expected to show up did.  Ray Lewis (+4.3) was his usual self with four defensive stops and Haloti Ngata (+4.2) bounced back from the worst-graded game of his career against Jacksonville to register a hit and two pressures to go along with four defensive stops of his own. But the star of the show was once again Terrell Suggs. Suggs (+5.8) registered a sack, a hit, three pressures and eight stops as he gave the Cardinals’ offensive linemen hell on every snap. Suggs’ play of the game came as a pass rusher, with the Cardinals trying to finish a drive inside the Baltimore 10-yard-line on 3rd-and-goal with 4:25 left in the first. Suggs blew past left tackle Levi Brown before sacking Kolb and forcing the field goal. Game changer.

 

Arizona Cardinals – Three Performances of Note

 

Down Day for Dockett

It’s never a good thing when you can only generate a single quarterback pressure on 52 pass rushes, but that’s exactly what Darnell Dockett (-6.1) contributed on Sunday. He was even worse against the run, managing just one assist and topping-off his day with a penalty and missed tackle on Ravens running back Ray Rice with 8:48 left in the game. Going into the game, Dockett was having a solid season, so it will be interesting to see how he bounces back from this one.

 

Slowly improving

Patrick Peterson (-0.6) has looked like a rookie at times this season. Coming into the game he had yet to keep an opposing quarterback below a 50% completion rate against him, but this week he did just that and more. Peterson allowed just a single catch for seven yards prompting Fox’s Brian Billick to question why Peterson wasn’t left with Boldin ahead of A.J. Jefferson. He was right to question as when Peterson was covering Boldin he was targeted twice and didn’t give up a reception. He also had a nice pass break-up in the end zone as Flacco tried to find Boldin for a score. It wasn’t all good news for Peterson, however, he committed two penalties on third downs in the game, but it was an encouraging display that garners further attention for the 82-yard punt return that almost set Arizona on their way to a big upset.

 

Struggling Linebackers

As was the way with most of the team, the Arizona linebackers really struggled with only Daryl Washington (+0.6) grading positively.  The main culprit was outside linebacker Clark Haggans (-3.4) who, with grades of -1.2 and -2.0 struggled both as a run defender and as a pass rusher. We highlighted Suggs’ impressive day earlier, but to put it into context, Suggs finished the game with eight defensive stops … Arizona’s linebackers finished the game with nine on their way to a combined grade of -8.0.

 

Game Notes

●  Ray Lewis missed his first snaps of the season, sitting out four with an injury in the first half.

●  Paul Kruger generated two sacks and a pressure on just 10 pass rushes.

●  Kevin Kolb didn’t complete a pass of more than 20 yards, but was perfect between 10 and 19.

 

PFF Game Ball

This could go to any number of Ravens front seven defenders, no fewer than four of them were worthy of it. But it can only go to one, and Terrell Suggs showed his dominance as a run defender, registering seven stops in the running game to go with his first sack and a hit on Kevin Kolb that forced an interception.

 

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