I should preface this week’s edition of quick hits with a disclaimer. I’m not sure if my expectations are through the roof, if I simply bought into the fact that the Ravens were supposed to be an elite NFL team this season, if I’m missing what other people are seeing, or if I just demand too much, but I can’t give you a break down of the Browns versus Ravens without being negative about their progress this season.
Please don’t take offense to my opinions. In fact, if you could talk me off the ledge or point out some of the positives that I’m failing to see that would be greatly appreciated. I want to feel better about the Ravens, but they haven’t proven to me that I can yet. Here are my thoughts on yesterday’s 24-17 win over the Cleveland Browns.
- Hold your judgements on the offense til next week – Throw this week out. It shouldn’t convince you that the offense has arrived because the Ravens faced a terrible defense and still struggled at times. They put up 10 points against the Jets and Bengals and were able to finally put up some good numbers against a bad team. Big deal. Do it next week against the Steelers, probably the best team in the NFL (one that has gone undefeated with whatever quarterback they throw out there on Sundays) and I’ll agree that the offense is for real. But right now I don’t buy it. Joe Flacco connected to Anquan Boldin three times in the end zone, but the Browns defense did their part by leaving Boldin wide open across the middle of the field on several occasions. The fact is that the Cleveland Browns, one of the worst teams in the NFL, kept the Super Bowl contending Baltimore Ravens close in their home opener. Yeah, a win is a win, but Baltimore should have blown this team out of the water.
- Bone headed plays – The Ravens proved yesterday that they are a team still lacking discipline. They were the most penalized team in the NFL last season and three bone headed plays skated by coach John Harbaugh yesterday. Tom Zbikowski made a late hit on Peyton Hillis, Derrick Mason threw a ball into the air after he was frustrated that Joe Flacco failed to reach him and Michael Oher threw a punch in a fourth quarter scuffle. Where’s the accountability for these guys? These are idiotic plays that could have costed the Ravens and likely will against a better opponent.
- A good back can do some damage – It’s still very early in his career, but I can tell already that I like Peyton Hillis. He’s the style of running back that I feel the NFL has gone away from, a pound-the-ball-down-their-throat north to south style back. That’s what I loved about Jamal Lewis’ time in Baltimore. Sure, later in his career in Baltimore he would average just over three yards a carry, but the guy would bruise defenses and by the end of the game they’d try to tackle him from the side instead of getting in front of him. Hillis put up 144 yards and a touchdown against Baltimore’s defense and paved the way for an offensive game plan for the Ravens future opponents.
- Rice’s health – So far the news about Ray Rice’s knee injury has been good and vague. Typical from the Ravens. Harbaugh said they didn’t know the extent of the injury and Rice said things look positive. The Ravens will definitely need Rice to suit up against their division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, next week.
If I hadn’t watched a second of the first three weeks of Ravens football, but instead looked at box scores, I may be telling myself that Baltimore has had two tough road games and two division games and started the season 2-1. I would likely feel better seeing that Joe Flacco threw for 262 yards and that Boldin’s three TD’s are the second-most in franchise history behind Qadry Ismail. But instead, I’ve watched every second of these games and I’ve seen Joe Flacco struggle to read difficult defenses, panic in the the pocket, force balls to unopen receivers and yesterday, avoid an easy pick six by the Browns defense. It’s early and maybe the team is still developing, but I think there’s a lot more talent on this team than what’s being displayed. I wish I was less cynical when it comes to the Ravens and I’m open to criticism. Someone explain to me what I’m missing.