Monday, October 5, 2009

Patriots beat Ravens (with help from officials)

The Ravens lost their first game of the 2009 season yesterday, 27-21, to the New England Patriots. It's a game they could have easily won if they made some plays late in the game and had the officials not been a part of "the Brady Bunch" all afternoon.

The game included, quite simply, some of the worst officiating I have seen in a Ravens game in a long time. Terrell Suggs, after swatting at Tom Brady as he fell to the ground, was called for a 15-yard "roughing the passer" after Brady pleaded to the refs to call a penalty and the ref obliged. The penalty extended the drive which resulted in a Patriots TD that made the score 17-7. Earlier in the game, a similar penalty occurred when a Ravens defender (I can't remember who) went for the ball and came down, brushing up against Brady's grill. He too was called for a RTP penalty, which extended the drive which resulted in a Patriots TD. Also, head coach John Harbaugh could be heard on the telecast complaining about a bad call, calling it a "bullshit call", to which the ref, who must have virgin ears, threw a flag on the Ravens bench for another 15-yard penalty. Thankfully, that drive ended in a Patriots punt.

The officials must have gotten a memo from the NFL before the game that read: "Dear officials, we cannot accept the Patriots going 2-2. Throw flags at will".

Horrible, terrible and disgusting officiating aside, the Ravens beat themselves. On 4th and 3 on the Patriots 14-yard line, Mark Clayton dropped a pass from Joe Flacco that hit him in the chest. It would have given the Ravens 4 shots at the endzone to win the game from within the Patriots' 10 yard line with 25 seconds left on the clock.

Also, I have to wonder what Cam Cameron was thinking yesterday. Don't get me wrong, I love the man and he has brought a whole new identity to the Ravens offense, but he had several occasions yesterday to establish the run and decided to pass the ball 47 times and run only 17 times even as the Ravens RB's averaged a whopping 6.8 yards per carry! The lack of running game allowed Brady and the Patriots to control the game clock (34:56 to 25:04) and gave the Patriots too many chances to put points on the board.

The defense also allowed too many long drives (thanks in part to the terrible officiating which extended multiple drives), and the secondary was exposed, especially cornerback Dominique Foxworth. The Ravens also failed to pressure Brady, sacking him just twice. He literally had all day in the pocket to pick the Ravens secondary apart despite a key sack of Brady that resulted in a fumble and a Ravens defensive touchdown.

Harbaugh, a former special teams coach, must be fuming at the lack of performance by his special teams. Return man Chris Carr fumbled the opening return, giving the Patriots the ball on the Ravens 20-yard line. Thankfully the defense held them to a field goal. However, the Ravens' ST unit failed to give the offense a decent starting position for most of the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the offense had their worst performance of the season. Flacco played reasonably well, throwing for 264 of those 363 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 1 costly interception at the end of the first half that took away a chance at a field goal. Derrick Mason disappeared after having a huge first drive in which he hauled in 6 catches and a touchdown, but had only 1 more catch the rest of the game. Kelley Washington, who had been a key part of the offense in the last 2 weeks and was facing his old team, disappeared for the most part, catching 4 passes for just 31 yards. And Clayton, who had a chance to extend what could have been the Ravens' winning drive, caught 5 balls for 45 yards.

On the rushing side of the offense, Ray Rice had a great game, running for 103 yards on just 11 carries, which makes the lack of consistent running plays that much more depressing. Rice was slashing through holes all day, but Cameron kept opting for the pass instead.

In the end, the Ravens lost a close game they should have won due to crucial mistakes which are only magnified by some pretty awful officiating. It should force Cam Cameron to look at the boxscore, realize he only ran the ball an unacceptable 17 tiems with what could be the best 3-pronged rushing attack in the NFL, and revamp the offense in the coming week to focus more on ball control.

The Ravens host the Bengals this Sunday in what will be a battle for first place in the AFC North after the Bengals squeaked out an overtime win against the Browns. Both teams are 3-1 with the Steeler a game back at 2-2. The Browns are 0-4.

NOTE: OL Jared Gaither, who was carted off the field after suffering an apparent spine injury, was taken to an area hospital and was able to move his extremities. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo will likely miss the rest of the season after injuring his knee.

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