Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ravens survive Texans

That's right, Josh. The Ravens won by that much.

The Ravens almost gave away a game as well as their season in Houston last night in one of those wins that feels more like a loss.

The Ravens led 21-0 in the first quarter and 28-7 after David Reed's kick-off return for a touchdown at the start of the second half, but couldn't put the 5-8 Texans away. Instead, the defense looked the worst they've looked since 1996, allowing Matt Shaub and the Texans to put together drives of 99 and 95 yards to tie the game at 28-28 and force overtime.

The Ravens won the coin toss in OT, but were as hapless on offense as they'd been for the entire second half. After a short drive went nowhere to start overtime, the Ravens punted the ball to the Texans, thankfully pinning the Texans within their own 10-yard line. Two plays later, Josh Wilson picked off Shaub and took it to the house, ending the game and giving the Ravens a narrow escape.

Had the Ravens lost, they would have been 8-5 and a game in front of the Colts for the #6 seed. But thankfully, the Ravens were able to survive Houston and earned themselves the #5 seed, with the tie-breaker over the Jets, who are also 9-4.

However, with the hair-raising win, the Ravens don't look poised to make much noise in the playoffs. First and foremost, the defense was downright embarrassed last night. After turning in a dominant first half, they were absolutely torched in the second. They couldn't get off the field on third down, which resulted in the defense wearing down to the point of them almost not even being on the field at all.

The offense played the same kind of game. They moved the ball well through the air in the first half, scoring 3 touchdowns with relative ease before packing it in with 1:37 left in the second quarter. The offensive line really melted down in the second half, getting Flacco sacked a total of 6 times. They also failed to open substantial holes for Ray Rice to run through. Rice rushed for only 54 yards with a dismal 2.8 yard per carry average on the night. All signs for the Ravens offensive problems point to their inability to run the ball.

Joe Flacco played well, when he wasn't on his back, completing 22 of 33 passes for 235 yards and 2 touchdown passes. But his games are becoming repetitive. He plays well for a half while disappearing for the other half. Whether it's Flacco or Cameron to blame, something needs to be done to spark this offense because it's downright maddening to watch. And while Flacco isn't getting much time in the pocket to throw, he needs to be smarter under pressure and start throwing balls away to avoid costly sacks.

But Flacco deserves credit for his performance. He was responsible for 235 of the Ravens 253 total yards of offense. While many Ravens fans will surely be critical of Flacco after this game, it's important to remember that the Ravens won because of what Flacco did.

Derrick Mason had a great game, despite dropping a long pass in the first quarter that would have given him about 60 more yards on the night. He caught 6 balls for 78 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ray Rice had the screen game working well last night, catching 8 passes for 66 yards. Meanwhile, Anquan Boldin had trouble getting going, catching 3 balls for a paltry 41 yards.

And so it comes down to this: Cam Cameron needs to start utilizing the talent he has on this offense. He has 4, count 'em, 4 all pro wide receivers...and he can't even devise a way to take advantage of something that would give other offensive coordinators wet dreams. He's been calling the same ho-hum offensive game plan all season, despite costing the team several games. He almost cost the team another game last night with his one-dimensional play calling. Has a 9-4 football team ever fired their offensive coordinator? I don't think anyone in the country would bat an eye lash if the Ravens were to do just that.

Meanwhile, John Harbaugh deserves his share of the blame, too. When his defense was getting beaten like they stole something, Harbaugh opted to keep two timeouts in his back pocket rather than give his defense some time to breathe while the Texans were mounting their epic drives. When the Texans scored their final touchdown to bring the score to 28-26 and took the field for a two point conversion, Harbaugh AGAIN failed to call a time out. Instead, the Texans were able to convert their two-point conversion and force overtime.

While the Ravens may be 9-4 and holding down the 5th playoff spot, they look like a team headed more for trouble than making noise in the playoffs. And with the New Orleans Saints coming to town this week, you might get your preview of what will happen to the Ravens if they do hang onto their playoff spot and make the postseason.

And it won't be pretty.

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