Monday, January 5, 2009

Ravens spear Fish

The Ravens got their first playoff win since 2001 yesterday, and ironically, it was against the Miami Dolphins, the same team they beat in 2001.

The 27-9 victory was somewhat of an ugly win. Joe Flacco threw for only 135 yards and completed only 39% of his passes. Le’Ron McClain fumbled on the Ravens’ opening drive. And while the Ravens ran for an impressive 151 yards and 2 TD’s, only 2 drives went longer than 50 yards.

Most of the highlights, as usual, were provided by the defense. The Ravens forced the Dolphins to commit 5 turnovers, including 4 interceptions by Chad Pennington, who threw only 7 interceptions all season.

Ed Reed had 2 INT’s yet again, and scored a touchdown on a brilliant Willie Mays-style over the shoulder catch that he returned for 64 yards and the score. Fabian Washington and Jim Leonhard also had a pick each.

It was great to get the winless-in-the-playoffs monkey off our back, but it would have been nice to see the offense clicking a little better. Flacco missed 3 deep passes by overthrowing the receiver, who was open each time. Credit the Miami defense for pressuring Flacco and keeping him off balance all day, but it won’t get any easier this Saturday in Tennessee. Flacco has struggled against the better defenses of Washington, Pittsburgh and Miami over the last few weeks, and he’ll face another stiff challenge while facing the Titans. Hopefully he’s gotten his playoff jitters out of the way.

Like the Dolphins, the Titans are not a high-powered offense. They are much like the Ravens of old on offense. Run, run, pass. Kerry Collins has taken on the Trent Dilfer-role of “control the game, don’t lose it”. The Titans’ running attack is 7th in the league, but they match up poorly with the Ravens defense who are ranked #3 in rushing yards allowed. The Ravens are also great at stopping big bruiser running backs like LenDale White, but the speedy Chris Johnson could pose problems. He’s also a great pass catcher, so if the Ravens succeed in bottling up Chris Johnson, the Ravens should be able to hold Kerry Collins and the Titans receivers in check.

On offense, however, the Titans rank #6 against the run and #9 against the pass, so it will be hard to move the ball. It would be great to see Ray Rice worked back into the offense since he is healthy now, and utilize the screen-pass a little more.

But the key to winning is the same as it’s been since week 1. Protect the ball and force turnovers on defense.

And for the love of God, Rex Ryan, do not call the dogs off on defense when we get a lead! Ryan did the same thing yesterday while the Ravens were up 20-3 early in the 4th quarter, which allowed the Dolphins to waltz down the field 74 yards and score a TD.

Hopefully, he will not allow the Titans to do what they did against the Ravens in Baltimore earlier this season, and drive the field to score a late TD.

My prediction, the Ravens force some turnovers, score at least once on defense, and establish somewhat of a run game.

Ravens 20
Titans 10

The Ravens take on the Tennessee Titans this Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

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