I know a win is a win, but could this game have been any uglier? Monday night was supposed to be a tune-up game before the Colts come to town this Sunday. It was supposed to be a game where the Ravens would come out and dominate the Browns on both sides of the ball and work out a lot of their kinks in the process. Instead, the Ravens found themselves tied 0-0 at halftime with a dismal Cleveland team that has only led in a game for about three minutes all season. But the first few minutes of the third quarter finally provided everyone with some (the key word being some) excitement as Derrick Mason took a Joe Flacco pass for 41 yards and Ray Rice finished off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. Then, on the first pass of the ensuing Browns’ drive, Dawan Landry picked off Brady Quinn and took it to the house. Even though Hauschka had the extra point blocked, the Ravens still owned a lead they would never relinquish (More on Mr. I-can’t-make-a-kick Hauschka later).
Brady Quinn. Yes, Quinn was the Ravens’ POG since nobody on the Ravens did enough to earn themselves the award. Quinn provided the Ravens with nine of their 17 points as a result of his inaccuracy. Initially, both passes looked like they should have been caught because they hit the receiver’s hands. But after looking at the replays, Quinn was a little off on both passes and his receiver’s couldn’t haul them in. Two of his first three passes of the second half were picked off and he finished the game 13-of-31 for only 99 yards. Quinn looked absolutely horrible especially toward the end of the game, which is where you would think he would be able to complete at least a couple downfield passes. At least he didn’t have to worry about throwing any more interceptions; he couldn’t even throw the ball inbounds. Quinn did do some damage, however, as the illegal block he put on Terrell Suggs knocked him out for 2-3 weeks and could prove to be very costly for the Ravens.
Let’s Work On That for Next Week
Pass protection. Flacco was only sacked three times but it seemed like he was under constant pressure. He didn’t look comfortable in the pocket, at least not as comfortable as he looked earlier this season. If the Ravens offensive line can’t protect Flacco from the Browns’ pass rush, then trying to stop Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis is going to be an uphill climb. These two guys already have 18 sacks between them in the first nine games and are always applying constant pressure on the opposing quarterback. Stopping them won’t be easy, but the Ravens must make that their No. 1 priority or Flacco may be on his back for most of the afternoon. Another thing the Ravens need to work on is throwing the ball downfield. Over the first few games of the season, Flacco was airing the ball out more than I’ve seen a Ravens quarterback do. Now, it seems like he’s always checking down to Rice on screen passes. I’m not sure if Flacco is hesitant to throw the ball downfield or if the receivers just aren’t getting open, but something has to change. The Colts have some injuries in their secondary so this would be the week the Ravens try to expose that weakness and throw the long ball more often.
The “Finally” Award
Hauschka…out. We all knew he was hanging by a thread anyway, but when he missed a no-pressure 36-yard field goal and had an extra point blocked it was almost a given that he wouldn’t last another week. You can’t say he didn’t have chances to redeem himself, either. The Ravens stuck with him as long as they could, but there’s just no room for him on a team that plays a lot of close games like the Ravens do. Now, the Ravens are in a must-win situation against an undefeated team and they don’t have a kicker. Obviously, they are going to sign one by this weekend, but you would like to have a guy you can rely on when the game is on the line. Unsigned free agent kickers Mike Nugent and Billy Cundiff tried out last week, but apparently neither one of them looked better than Hauschka. Let’s just hope that this Sunday’s game doesn’t come down to a game-winning field goal, on either end.
Surprisingly, the Ravens entered this week as a one-point favorite over the undefeated Colts. I’m not sure if the odds makers think that the Colts’ luck will finally run out, but they must know something that I don’t know. Unless the Ravens put pressure on Peyton Manning like they did on Kyle Orton a few weeks ago, they don’t have a chance. Manning and the Colts have had the Ravens’ number over the past few years and I don’t think this week will be any different. I know they had to pull off a miracle last week against the Patriots, but that may have given them some momentum coming into this game. Baltimore is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL, so let’s hope that home-field advantage will be the difference and the Ravens can earn a much-needed victory against one of the league’s elite teams.