Friday, November 12, 2010

Eighty Yards, Forty Seconds

Roddy White scores the game winning touchdown in the Falcons' 26-21 win over the Ravens.

80 yards, 40 seconds.

That's how long it took for the Ravens defense to prove that they are no longer a championship caliber defense.

The Ravens offense gave the defense a 21-20 lead last night in Atlanta with 1:05 left on the clock in the 4th quarter. The Falcons started on their 20 yard line. Seven plays and forty seconds later the Falcons had retaken the lead, and won the game, 26-21.

The Ravens defense couldn't get off the field all night on 3rd down. The Falcons converted 12 of 20 3rd down conversions, including 2 on the game-winning drive. Matt Ryan carved the secondary up for 316 yards, 3 TD's and 0 INT's. Two of those touchdowns went to Roddy White, whom the Ravens had no answer for. The only thing the defense did well last night was stop the run, holding Falcons running backs to just 60 yards.

And while the Falcons are a very good team -- and played a perfect game -- the Ravens still should have won this game despite scoring zero points and holding the ball for a little over 8 minutes compared to the Falcons' 21 minutes in the first half. Also a factor -- Cam Cameron's stubborn play calling. Ray Rice had a 4.9 YPC last night, yet with two and a half minutes left in the 3rd quarter and the Ravens trailing 13-7, Cameron threw 5 straight times, taking 50 seconds off the clock. After the Ravens punted, the Falcons drove 75 yards in 5 minutes and 16 seconds, and scored to put them up 20-7.

You can say that the defense is to blame for this loss, and it definitely is. After all, the offense did enough to win the game. But Cameron played his hand terribly on that drive. He should have used Ray Rice to milk the clock and keep the defense off the field. In all three losses, Cameron's play calling has been a major factor. I don't know if he will be back next year -- or if he even should be.

But let's talk about what really cost the Ravens the game last night. The defense. This is not the defense of Ravens teams past. This is a mediocre defense with mediocre players and a mediocre coordinator. The Ravens again failed to pressure the QB consistently, sacking Matt Ryan only twice. They had no answer for Roddy White. How many times this season have we allowed WR's to have huge games? I can think of several off the top of my head: Steve Johnson, Lee Evans, Deion Branch, Brandon Lloyd, and now Roddy White.

The Ravens used to be able to take the other team's best WR and hold him to scraps of yardage. Now they are laying out the red carpet for opposing WR's to torch them. White and Falcons' TE Tony Gonzalez had nothing green turf around them all night. Greg Mattison perhaps isn't the only scapegoat but he's not the answer, either. He hasn't been given much to work with on defense this year, and he has failed to put what he does have in position to succeed. His defenses are pure vanilla. After two years of Mattison, it's time to look elsewhere. The Ravens should have two new coordinators next year.

On a positive note, Joe Flacco played his heart out once again, and aside from one dumb throw that was picked off, he single-handedly put this team in a position to win the game after looking so flat for more than a half of football. He passed for 215 yards, 3 TD's and 1 INT, and spread the ball out to several receivers: Todd Heap, Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and Ray Rice each had more than 40 yards receiving. If the Ravens offense would have shown up for the first half of football, the Ravens owuld have won easily.

In the end, the Falcons needed a a perfectly played game to beat the Ravens at home, and they did just that. My hats off to them. But this game hurts more than just one loss in the standings -- it proved that the Ravens defense is just average. They can no longer control the tempo of a game -- not with Cam Cameron refusing to run the ball at times to keep the defense rested. And that no doubt plays a part into the ineffectiveness of the Ravens defense, but I just think they aren't that good any more.

Thankfully, the Ravens have 10 days off before they play the 1-7 Carolina Panthers.

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