These two teams may have put in polar opposite performances in Week 1, but both came into this game undefeated. They each had high expectations coming into the year, and an early victory against a quality opponent for either team would do well to reinforce the notion that they’ll still be playing football come January.
Last season was supposed to be the year that Philadelphia’s ‘dream team’ was going to the Super Bowl, but after starting 1-4, the dream was quickly abandoned. Winning four straight to end 2011 gave cause for optimism, yet after a rather ugly win in Cleveland that saw the Eagles commit five turnovers, you started to wonder if they were back to their 2011 ways. Another four turnovers against a team as talented as Baltimore would seem to all but guarantee defeat, but thanks to some superb second-half defense, the Eagles were able to climb out of the hole they dug to grab their sixth-straight regular season win dating back to last season.
For the Ravens, they were hoping to avoid a similar start to last year, where they blew out Pittsburgh to open the season only to follow that up with a disappointing defeat the next week. History would repeat itself though, as the Ravens let their 10-point halftime lead in this game dwindle away. Displaying consistency has to be atop Baltimore’s list of priorities if it hopes to string together wins.
Baltimore – Three Performances of Note
A Tale of Two Halves
After a first half that saw Joe Flacco (-4.0 passing) complete 14 of his 17 pass attempts and connect once for a touchdown, you only have to look at his second-half numbers (8-of-22 with an interception) to understand where that grade came from. Although he lost a fumble on the Ravens’ second offensive play, Flacco quickly turned it around, taking the short throws that the Eagles were giving him. He topped off the first half nicely with a 21-yard strike to Jacoby Jones (+1.2 receiving) for his only touchdown pass of the day.
Deciding to attack downfield with speedy receivers like Jones and Torrey Smith, Flacco had very little success after halftime. On the day, Flacco was just 3-of-14 on balls traveling more than 10 yards in the air. Combine this with the truly puzzling decision to throw into triple coverage for an interception and you have a poor second half for the Ravens’ passing game that negated all of the good work from the first.
Replacing the Rush
Many were skeptical about the Ravens’ ability to maintain their standing as an elite defense when Terrell Suggs went down in the offseason with a torn Achilles. If this performance is anything to go by, however, there are a pair of second-year players ready to step up. Pernell McPhee (+3.6), named our Secret Superstar for the Ravens from last season, achieved positive marks in all aspects of his game, collecting three quarterback disruptions in an overall solid display. With two hurries on only 10 rushes and a team-leading six stops, fellow sophomore Albert McClellan (+6.1) was the most impressive Baltimore defender.
McClellan stood out in all areas of the game, but especially against the run where he graded +3.7. Finishing the game with eight tackles (to lead the team) he recorded six defensive stops, more than doubling the next best mark belonging to Ray Lewis. If young players can continue to play this well, the Ravens’ D may not see the fall-off that many expected.
With players like Ed Reed and Lardarius Webb in their secondary, Baltimore should have been excited to visit Michael Vick coming off of a poor Week 1. But as an early injury to starting safety Bernard Pollard (who reeled in an interception) forced James Ihedigbo (-1.6 coverage) into the lineup, Webb and Reed were rarely targeted. Opposite Webb, Cary Williams (-2.2 receiving) had a particularly tough time, giving up receptions on all four of the passes his way. A crucial mis-communication between him and Reed — entirely blowing coverage to allow Maclin behind them all alone into the end zone — gave Vick his only touchdown of the day. Even the usually stout Lewis (-1.4 coverage) surrendered over 100 receiving yards. As a unit, Baltimore gave up over 16 yards per catch, something they’ll have to get under control if they want to have success next week against the Patriots.
Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note
Back to the Air
After an atrocious performance against the Browns, Vick had nowhere to go but up. And, though he showed signs of last week’s form with a red-zone interception thrown across his body, he demonstrated a short memory and continued to attack the Baltimore defense. Vick (+6.9) completed over 70% of his passes while still managing to attack down field. He was a perfect 3-of-3 beyond 20 yards, including an excellent deep throw to hit DeSean Jackson (+2.2 receiving) in stride before the safety could close; the safety being Reed, who has arguably the best range in football. He was also helped by Brent Celek (+2.8 receiving) running free through Baltimore’s secondary for much of the afternoon. Celek amassed 71 of his 157 receiving yards after the catch despite not a single catch netting him more than 28 yards. Philadelphia will face less-talented defensive backfields than Baltimore and should look to continue its success through the air.
Some Rough Running
Running lanes for the Eagles were tough to come by against a stingy Baltimore defense; Philadelphia running backs averaged just over 2.5 yards per carry. LeSean McCoy lead the group with 81 yards and eight missed tackles forced, many of those coming in repeated attempts to find space by abandoning the intended point of attack and reversing field. McCoy’s day was also blighted by a crucial fumble. None of the backs were helped much by their offensive line or tight ends; only Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans graded above +0.5 for their run blocking. Celek, in particular, had a rough day with a -3.9 run blocking grade, getting beat at the line by much of the Raven’s front seven.
One of Philadelphia’s major weaknesses last season was its linebacker corps. This offseason, the Eagles addressed that by trading for DeMeco Ryans to man the middle and drafting Mychal Kendricks. Ryans (+5.4) looks to fit in well with the defense, only allowing three completions for 22 yards while picking up an interception. Add to that a sack, a hurry, and seven stops, and you have an all-around performance. Second-round pick Kendricks (+1.4) really shone in coverage. Giving up six completions on nine attempts may not sound ideal, but they added up to a meager 19 yards. Add in two passes defended, and Philadelphia’s additions seem to be an instant improvement.
– Joe Flacco may have had a dismal QB rating of 66.8, but that rose to 139.6 on the nine occasions the Eagles chose to blitz.
– Albert McClellan played more snaps in this game (56) than all of last year (51).
– Seven different Ravens missed at least one tackle, for a total of 12 misses on the day.
PFF Game Ball
It’s tempting to give the game ball to Michael Vick for his game-winning drive and some excellent play at times, but we saw enough of the bad Vick as well to deny him of the game ball, if not an excellent grade. DeMeco Ryans had an all-around excellent game on defense to stifle the Baltimore attack. But for a couple of big Ray Rice runs up the gut, he would have had the perfect outing in the middle for the Eagles.