No doubt about it losing in Foxboro, on a day when many opportunities to seize control of the game were missed, stings. In many ways the Ravens outplayed the Patriots through three quarters, but they did not show the toughness needed to finish. Questionable coaching decisions, bone-headed penalties and poor special teams play all played a part in preventing the Ravens from getting off to a great start to 2010. Ravens fans just have to settle for a good start. Here are my grades for Week 6:
Overall, Joe Flacco had a very good game, posting his best passing day of the 2010 season. Flacco was accurate and made some big time throws leading the Ravens to a 10 point 4th quarter lead. But the offensive wheels fell off halfway through the 4th quarter and in overtime. Flacco needed to do a better job executing the sneak on 3rd down that was stuffed in the 4th, or the Ravens should have just handed the ball to Le’Ron McClain. Either way the offense failed on several opportunities to pu the game out of reach or away. Some of that blame falls on Flacco.
Running Backs: C
Ray Rice ran for a lot of tough yards, but seemed indecisive on some cut-back opportunities. He also was not as slippery as he usually is and broke few tackles. Le’Ron McClain was good in short yardage, but committed a costly mistake taking a personal foul in overtime. He turned a make-able 3rd and 4 into a 3rd and 19. He has to be smarter in that situation.
This group started strong int eh early going, but disappeared, like the rest of the offense when it mattered most. Derrick Mason had a strong game and Anquan Boldin a nice TD catch, but they both could not hold onto potential touchdown passes that could have finished the Pats. Granted the Patriots safeties help break up those plays with big hits. Todd Heap turned in some nice plays and showed toughness re-entering the game after taking a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit. This group let a sub-par secondary take away most everything but underneath stuff.
Offensive Line: C-
The line protected Flacco well after some early pressure, but the Ravens really struggled to move the Pats defensive line off the ball on run plays. This was one area we expected the line to control the game as they did last January. Credit to the Pats and their decision to take away the Ravens running game as much as possible, but the Ravens line has played better than they played yesterday.
Defensive Line: D
Other than Haloti Ngata, the defensive line struggled. The Ravens were committed to taking away Tom Brady and the Pats passing game, but the d-line struggled to get pressure and was blown off the ball on some 2nd half runs. The Pats did a good job mixing formations and running out of what looked like passing sets. This group needs to perform better.
Ray Lewis and company also struggled at times. There were some breakdowns in coverage that allowed New England TE Aaron Hernandez to come wide open. They also missed several open field tackles allowing the Pats to gain precious yardage. Terrell Suggs go inconsistent pressure and other than a Dannell Ellerbe blitz in the 1st quarter, I do not recall many LB blitzes getting to Brady.
The group started out strong in the first half, but seemed to allow more and more holes in the second half. Lardarius Webb looked a step slow and safeties Dawan Landry and Tom Zbikowski did little else besides take away the deep parts of the field, an area the Pats were seldom attacking. Chris Carr had a nice game, but he could have made a huge play on a tipped pass in the 1st quarter if he had been looking for the ball. That could have been 6 heading the other way.
Special Teams: D-
Sam Koch punted well and Billy Cundiff was good on all but one kick, but that one kick cost the Ravens. It set the Pats up on their forty yard line and they capitalized marching 60 yards for a key 4th quarter TD. The return game struggled and I am not sure how Carr allowed the punt in OT to hit the ground. It was not a short kick and it cost the Ravens big field position. A drive that could have started around the Ravens 40 started at the 16 and too many penalties on illegal blocks.