ReFo: Ravens @ Eagles, Week 2

| September 18, 2012

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.

Coverage Concerns

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.

Linebacker Additions

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.

Game Notes

-  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.

 

  • Jimmy Vance

    Cole — Any thoughts on Demetress Bell versus King Dunlap at left tackle? Seemed like Bell did a better job, though he saw fewer snaps so it may be hard to judge.

    • Cole Schultz

      Jimmy – Bell had a few bad moments in both the running and the passing game, but both may be due to being inserted into the lineup part way through the game. Most of his issues in pass protection came from him trying to block Evan Mathis’ assignments (a DL stunt in the 3rd and a QB rollout in the 4th). But you’re right, it is a very small sample size. Bell performed well last year when he got playing time, so I don’t think there will be too much difference between the two.

  • callouswhisper@aol.com

    Again the grades hear are laughable. Mccellan a 6.1? Unreal nonsense. The Iggles had near 500 yards of offense, and despite at least 3 totally unforced turnovers dominated the Ravens D all over the field. Yet I look at the Ravens D grades and see grades that suggest a shut out, tons of sacks and Defensive dominance. The Iggles had 2 back up lineman in the game and still moved the ball at will. This site likes the Ravens it is obvious. Until you find a member of your team that isnt a Raven fan nonsense grades will continue. The Browns played a better defensive game but from reading the utter fantasy surrounding Raven players here you wouldnt know it.

    • TimeToStopPosting

      If this place is laughable why do you always come back? tell me who the real fool is.

  • callouswhisper@aol.com

    The more I read the “analysis’ on Ravens D the more I have to laugh. The Browns gave up 7 points less and what do you know none of them had a grade anywhere near Albert Mccellan or Pernell Mcphee. In every article in local Baltimore papers the beat writers focus specifically on lack of a pass rush, suspect secondary and shockingly no mention of Mccellen and Mcphee playing exceptional football, because they didnt.

    • zbelair

      The answer is right in front of you, “In every article in local Baltimore papers the beat writers focus specifically on lack of a pass rush, suspect secondary and shockingly no mention of Mccellen and Mcphee playing exceptional football”… There is no mention of run defense anywhere, by you or the “beat writers”, and wouldn’t you know it the Ravens Run D was great, allowing only 3.1 yards per carry compared to the Browns 5 per carry. Mccellen led the team in Tackles and Stops playing primarily on running downs and recovered a fumble. Mcphee was also positively graded mainly for his solid run contributions, and was also the teams best pass rusher in the game.
      You seem to believe that if a team loses every player had to have a bad game. It only takes one problem for a team to lose and in this game for the Ravens it was the offense and then the pass coverage. As for the “at least 3 totally unforced turnovers” I am not exactly sure what you mean by that, as it seems you are trying to say Vick intentionally threw the ball to Pollard in the end zone? The Ravens D was pretty impressive when you consider that 1 TD drive started at the Ravens 15 and another at their 42.
      Usually when someone is a Ravens fan I assume they are under the impression that Ed Reed and Ngata to a lesser degree are incapable of playing poorly, so for the defense to be bad and two other guys to have played well your logic says impossible. At first I assumed you were a Ravens fan, but then I thought maybe a Browns fan but at this point its hard to tell. Either way I’ll just stick with the issue being that the “ESPN Stars” weren’t the real life stars and this is confusing to some.

      • Cole Schultz

        Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • Ben

    I have a question, not about the teams but about one of the calls at the end of the game that doesn’t seem to be talked about.

    That criticized call at the end and on the 1 yard line where it was overturned and called an incomplete pass by Vick, shouldn’t that have been intentional grounding? I mean, he was probably outside of the tackle box, but the pass ended up near no receiver and was well behind the line of scrimmage.

    • Cole Schultz

      Vick was definitely outside the tackle box, and you’re right on the ball not making it to the line nor being anywhere near an eligible receiver. I think there are two points to consider here.

      The first is that Vick was being tackled by Ngata as he threw. QBs who are hit as they throw are generally given the benefit of the doubt as far as intentional grounding goes, because it’s hard to tell where that pass would have ended up if they had not been contacted. From the NFL’s official rulebook, intentional grounding will not be called if “the passer is out of the pocket, and his passing motion is significantly affected by physical contact from a defensive player that causes the ball to land short of the line of scrimmage.”
      The second point is that the call was initially ruled a fumble, not an incomplete pass until after review. After reversing a call, I’m not sure if there is any way to call intentional grounding, since it was not initially called and I’m fairly certain that it’s non-reviewable, like most penalties.

      Hope that helped. I feel like the call could have gone either way.

      • Ben

        Thank You! That helps a lot. Intentional grounding is almost always confusing to me.

  • Aaron

    Not whining about the officials because the Ravens still had a chance to win that game regardless of what the refs were (or weren’t doing) and Flacco overthrows Pitta and Rice badly on back to back plays to end any chance of a win. However, the difference in the game was that the Eagles realized the refs weren’t going to call any illegal contact penalties or pass interferences on the DBs of either team (and when they did, they call an offensive interference on Jones’ 2nd TD catch after Asomugha was grabbing him all the way up the field, resulting in any perceived push off, and then didn’t even turn around to play the ball) so they came out in the 3rd qtr and manhandled every Raven receiver wherever they wanted to on the field, even if they were 20 yards from the LOS. The Ravens very stupidly continued to play off of the Eagles receivers in zones to “defend Vick’s speed” and let Celek and Jackson have a field day. Props to the Eagles coaching staff for taking advantage of the refs stupidity while the Ravens stuck to their game plan regardless, just like they always seem to. That staff just does terrible in halftime adjustments it seems. Congrats to Reid and his staff, and on to the next game for both teams.