flacco5The matchup on paper certainly had the billing and potential to be a great one. Two former Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks. Baltimore’s improved defense facing off against Green Bay’s high-powered offense.

It was the Ravens defense who showed up in this game, forcing pressure and hurries on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, sacking him three times but in the end, it was just enough of the Packers and not enough of the Ravens offense to make a game of it, falling to Green Bay 19-17 at M&T Bank Stadium.

With the way Green Bay played, they were more than willing to give the Baltimore Ravens this football game on a silver platter, but the ball just didn’t bounce that way for them.

This offense goes as Joe Flacco goes. It was yet another slow start as the offensive line continues to struggle. Flacco tried to make the best of it by evading the ever-collapsing pocket, stepping up to make throws. Give credit to the Green Bay secondary for playing excellent coverage for most of the game. Cornerback Davon House blanketed Ravens WR Marlon Brown pretty well and Torrey Smith was held without a catch in the first half. Flacco racked up yardage later in the game as the Packers sat back in zones.

A playmaker like Smith needs to get as many touches as possible, especially with a struggling running attack. He received just three targets and despite his one-catch performance, would have scored if not for a Sam Shields defensive holding in the endzone. Torrey will be just fine.

Jim Caldwell hopefully has a few pages of his playbook he hasn’t turned to yet because the offense is plain, old vanilla. There’s absolutely no creativity to maximize the strengths of both Brown, Smith and even Tandon Doss and Jacoby Jones. Too many plays that get the offense five yards instead of 10, or when they’re backed up on third downs (as they were quite often) 15 yards instead of 20.

What is becoming obvious is the all-or-nothing type yardage system the Ravens have. The Ravens went just 2-for-14, (14%) on third downs. That won’t get it done. Just how bad was it? Derek Arnold from Russell Street Report tweeted that nine of the 15 3rd down plays the Ravens had were from 10 or more yards. Yikes.

On the Ravens offensive line, the Green Bay Packers pushed them around upfront, especially up the gut, leading to issues all afternoon. Forget Clay Matthews, AJ Hawk was huge for the Packers, recording 10 total tackles and three sacks. He was a matchup nightmare for Gino Gradkowski and Marshal Yanda in the interior.

Outside of Michael Ohers play so far, Gradkowski, Yanda and Kelechi Osemele are all struggling, especially Yanda and that may be a product of having a learning curve with a brand new center. Yanda’s run blocking has been stellar like in year’s past, but he’s struggled lately with pass blocking assignments. Pro Football Focus graded him out at a -2.3 for the day and for a guy with a nasty mean streak, was pushed aside like a child by DE Mike Daniels late in the game.

New left tackle Eugene Monroe played adequate overall in his Ravens debut, allowing a sack and two hurries in 44 attempts. Showed quick feet and used his hands well, something Bryant McKinnie doesn’t do well. He was beaten on a rush however at the end of the half, leading to Flacco being stripped of the football.

Jamison Hensley summed up the offensive struggles with this gem of a tweet

As I mentioned a few weeks back, the blocking from this offensive line is the key to getting things going. Until that happens, the Ravens will struggle. This is the key. They have to get that swag back that they had during the playoff run last season. With three of five starters from last season, there is too much veteran presence for that to not happen.

Elvis Dumervil turned in a nice game for the Ravens and is showing an ever improving run-stopping ability to go with his knack for getting after the quarterback. According to Pro Football Focus, Dumervil got in on five pressures on 26 rushes and had his way, forcing two strip sacks, neither of which were recovered by the Ravens. The outcome could have been much different had the ball bounced the right way.

Jimmy Smith and James Ihedigbo turned in sub par performances on the afternoon. Smith whiffed on an open-field tackle to Jarrett Boykin that went for a 43-yard gain in the third quarter. Ihedigbo was another Raven who missed a tackle on Boykin and had trouble corralling Randall Cobb in on a pass play early in the game.

Lardarius Webb celebrated a birthday over the weekend, but the celebrating didn’t last long as he was beaten for a 64-yard TD to Jordy Nelson on a play action to give the Pack a 16-3 lead in the 3rd. Webb was 5-7 yards from Nelson, so either Webb thought he had help over the top or just completely lost track of Nelson for the score.

harbs2It wasn’t a popular decision amongst Ravens fans on social media sites and those sitting in the stands at M&T Bank Stadium, but the call to go for it on 4th and goal from the 2 was a good decision by head coach John Harbaugh.

To some, getting the “sure” three points and tying the game would have been the safe choice, but this is a team that is at home playing against a very solid offense across the field in Green Bay and who wants to make a statement.

The call to go for it was gutsy, but a touchdown there gives you a 7-3 lead with a defense that had been outstanding in the first half against Aaron Rodgers. The problem I had with it was the decision to run the football four straight times.

The Ravens weren’t running the football effectively, but perhaps a play action or a roll out by Flacco at some point in that sequence would have been a better option. Smith and Brown weren’t even on the field for the 4th and goal situation. “Hello, Green Bay, we’re running the football here.”

Despite all of this, had Dallas Clark held to his block and found Micah Hyde, Bernard Pierce would have walked into the end zone. Hyde cut back to his left and made the tackle to hold the Ravens.

I like the aggressiveness in trying to score a touchdown. Save the conservative play for on the road.

The decision to not sit on the football to end the half however is a call that had me scratching my head.

And this has nothing to do with being hypocritical, its being realistic and smart about the situation. Flacco and the offense gave it one shot to move the ball down the field in the event the Packers could force a turnover. The ball fell incomplete. At that point, take a knee down 3-0 and be thankful that the Packers just missed a field goal to go up 6-0. The Green Bay Packers wanted to give Baltimore this game so many times. The Ravens just didn’t want it.

There were other interesting decisions throughout the game; the Ravens opted to punt instead of attempt a 55-yard field goal from Justin Tucker (mind you, the wind to Tucker’s face on that attempt) that too was the right decision for that time period.

Back Rodgers and the Packers offense up as much as you can and let the defense make plays. The drive ended up leading to a Packer field goal in the end. Only if Koch’s punt didn’t land in the end zone, who knows..

Harbaugh owned up for making the decisions he made, but overall it was a poor effort in the game plan and even poorer execution of the game plan. This team after six weeks, still doesn’t know the identity of themselves on the offensive side of the ball. The defense is solid and may have to be relied on even more so now until something changes offensively.