Thoughts And Observations From Ravens – Bears Week 11
The weather in Chicago, wet and crazy all game long was absolutely a factor in this one today. The game was temporarily suspended at 12:36 CST because of very ominous weather around Solider Field. A delay of nearly two hours gave way to bright blue skies after the storms. The third time in ten months the Ravens have been part of some sort of delay.
It seems like the Ravens don’t like being involved in delays because they come out and look flat, erasing any sort of momentum they have. That happened again in this one and rejuvenated the Bears the rest of the game, outscoring Baltimore 23-10 in the final three quarters and OT.
The storyline in this game, as mentioned earlier this week in my article, was the Ravens ability to run the football against the 31st ranked Bears run defense.
From the jump, the Ravens set the tone with a running game that was powerful and decisive, starting up front with a line that met the Bears defensive front with good blocks.
Whether it was because the offensive line all the sudden figured out how to effectively block or because the Bears run defense is terrible, the Ravens got it going early but struggled after the delay. It may fall more to the latter, but, some excellent blocking from the line during the first drive. That can’t be denied. This is certainly a game to build upon and gain confidence moving forward against some tougher run defenses in the coming weeks.
Ray Rice looked more decisive in this one today, running hard and not stutter-stepping his way trying to gain yardage. He simply ran through the holes the line provided him. It was vintage Ray Rice. He nearly found pay dirt on his first carry running through a huge lane that opened his way for a 47-yard run, his longest yardage gain of the season. Three carries later, Rice scored on the Ravens first opening drive touchdown in the last 11 games and the first for Rice since scoring two rushing touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins.
And how about the block by full back Vonta Leach on Rice’s TD run? Initially, it looked like A.Q. Shipley delivered the wallop to Bears CB Tim Jennings, instead it was Leach with the low block, followed by Shipley getting enough of Jennings and safety Chris Conte for Rice’s score. Rice finished with 131 yards rushing on 25 carries, a season high in yardage.
Shipley to his credit, pulled to his right, located the blocker and helped to clear out two defenders. Credit Gordon Dixon from RussellStreetReport.com for this awesome GIF of Leach and Shipley’s block.
Elsewhere on the offensive line, left tackle Eugene Monroe struggled against Julius Peppers, allowing two sacks. Peppers came into today’s game with two sacks on the season. On the Ravens last drive in regulation, Gino Gradkowski snapped the ball low into the turf to Flacco which interrupted the timing on his throw to Torrey Smith in the back of the end zone. It was just one of those days.
Joe Flacco threw his 12th interception of the season that tied the game at 10 in the 2nd quarter. It wasn’t a very good pass from Flacco, Ray Rice didn’t help matters missing his blocking assignment trying to cut down on DE David Bass who made an athletic play on the INT for the touchdown.
After the turnover, Flacco drove the offense down the field and had time to stand in the pocket and hit receivers including a very nice leaping catch for 16 yards by Tandon Doss. Flacco went over 20,000 career passing yards and connected with Torrey Smith in traffic for the TD with 4:08 left in the 2nd quarter. Late in the 2nd quarter, Flacco made a bad decision throwing near the vicinity of three Bears defenders and was picked off by LB Jon Bostic for his second interception. Flacco later in the 3rd quarter was sacked by Cheta Ozougwu and lost the football but recovered.
Just 162 yards passing for Flacco against a defense missing key starters. Another so-so day from the $120 million dollar man.
Dallas Clark caught the 500th pass of his career, becoming the 9th tight end in NFL history to do so. His 2nd catch was the biggest of the day, keeping the drive alive late in the 4th quarter on a nifty pass that Clark hauled in with one arm.
The Ravens were without Haloti Ngata, inactive for today’s game because of a knee injury. Terrence Cody started at nose tackle for Ngata as the defensive front played steady in his absence. DeAngelo Tyson recorded his 2nd career sack on Josh McCown with 11:14 left in the 4th quarter.
Jimmy Smith continues to steadily improve as the weeks go by. Despite a PI call early in the game, during the Bears drive inside the five-yard line, Smith came up with two plays to break up passes as they held the Bears offense to just a field-goal in the 2nd quarter after being in the red zone. He located the football well on 6’4″ receiver Brandon Marshall and was effective in neutralizing him. Later, he made a nice tackle later to greet Matt Forte on a screen pass in the 2nd quarter.
The defense, however, showed some poor tackling on Matt Forte‘s 14-yard touchdown catch to give the Bears their first lead of the day at 20-17. Daryl Smith and Corey Graham missed tackles and James Ihedigbo lost his helmet after being dragged by Forte for the score. They also slept on Jeffery twice on bunch route formations, leaving him wide open the second time over the middle for a big gain in overtime. A whole lot of miscommunication going on throughout the game.
Very quiet afternoons from both Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil who were neutralized by the Bears offensive tackles. Suggs recorded one tackle and had opportunities to get to McCown, but couldn’t. Dumervil was even quieter, failing to record anything positively. He was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the quarterback, pushing McCown to the ground. It’s what the referees look for and will call, not a smart decision at all.
Not to make too many excuses, but the sloppy Soldier Field turf definitely could be to blame for Jimmy Smith injuring himself, Matt Elam being shaken up and Daryl Smith tweaking a groin injury, though he returned to the field. The footing was terrible. But it was terrible for the Bears too, the Ravens just didn’t tackle well enough at times when it mattered the most.
Justin Tucker was solid as usual in this game, knocking in two field goals, the 2nd FG, true from 21 yards out to send the game to overtime.
Coaching wise, another head scratching decision by the staff to challenge a catch and fumble by Alshon Jeffery that was never in doubt, leaving the Ravens without any more challenges the rest of the game. Having a first and a goal inside the five yard line and fail to come away with the game-winning touchdown is just inexcusable. Unfortunately, for the Ravens, that is how this season has gone for them.
This loss was a damaging one for the Ravens AFC playoff chances, falling into a three-way tie for second place at 4-6 in the AFC North. This team week after week falls into the same old role; keep things close only to falter at the end. The silver lining is they jump-started the running attack but it wasn’t enough.
There are just a lot of holes, breakdowns in units and general mistakes each week that has put this team at 4-6. Finding themselves 2 1/2 games behind division leading Cincinnati Bengals, they’ll meet Rex Ryan and the New York Jets at home next Sunday afternoon.