Post Game Ponderings: Baltimore vs. Atlanta

I’m glad that I took some time to process and digest just what I saw last night. I was still a bit stunned by the last six minutes of game. and it takes some time to think rationally. I progressed from jubilation to disbelief in a matter of moments. That type of emotional swing is never a good thing when it comes to analysis. You have to try and separate your feelings and look at things as objectively as possible.

I’ll do my best.

Why did the Ravens defense yet again fail to protect a lead?

There are several reasons as to the the breakdown and collapse. First, quite simply they were spent. The short week treated fans to a Half of lousy football. Matt Ryan was able to dink and dunk his way to 10 points in the early stages but the bigger stat was that his team dominated Time of Possession. Atlanta controlled the clock 35 minutes compared to Baltimore’s 24.

Secondly, I’ll point at finger at Greg Mattison for his defensive selections on the last drive. However let me start by saying that Mattison is a convenient target. I know the arguments against him – he plays too basic, hardly ever uses deceptive schemes and his defense doesn’t generate enough turnovers. It’s valid. But you also have to make plays. For example he blitzed on the first touchdown drive and Dawan Landry simply didn’t tackle well enough to keep Jason Snelling out of the endzone. That’s not his fault.

The eternal question on defense at the end of the game is – should you blitz or play a zone? Matty, a guy who usually plays it safe rolled the dice on the last few plays and came up empty. The Falcons picked up the blitz and 5’7″ Josh Wilson was left to guard one of the best receivers in the league in Roddy White one on one. So next time you complain about a team that plays Prevent just remember last night. It’s the flip side of the argument.

Lastly, the players must make plays. Terrell Suggs had his best game of the year, Ray Lewis still has his moments, Haloti Ngata has been a beast to contain and Ed Reed is one of the most instinctive players in the game. But who else this year has made a big play for the defense?

No one comes to mind.

The defense can still be effective but they shown cracks and if you don’t pay attention to those faults they turn into gaping holes. A combination of things are going to have to occur to have Baltimore improve in this area and most of them can’t happen until the off-season. But think about this quote post-game from Joe Flacco, “I gave Matt Ryan too much time on the clock.”

When did 90 seconds become too much time for this defense?

What can the Ravens do about the Return game?

It seems like I ask this question each week – Win or Lose. The Ravens average six yards a punt return – last in the AFC. It seems like a revolving door back there from Lardarius Webb to David Reed to Ed Reed. Is Jermaine Lewis doing anything these days?

Nothing has worked and if it isn’t a turnover it’s a penalty for a block in the back. It’s maddening as a fan and I’m sure John Harbaugh, who’s background is in Special Team play, has to be at a loss for the issues the unit has even more.

One thing I would suggest is to pick a player and stick with him. This idea of a new contestant each attempt is getting a bit comical. Figure out who your best option is and let them go at it. David Reed showed some burst and Donte Stallworth also has speed to spare. Get those guys some reps as the main returners and see what happens.

What about the penalties during last night’s game?

Ron Winter and his crew are off my Christmas list. Winter, we last saw during the infamous “Tom Brady whines and gets a call because he touched my shin game” back during Week Four in 2009.

His group had a few doozies that rival those phantom Quarterback penalties against the Patriots. The no call that lead to the game winning touchdown was, as my colleague Jonathan Scruggs described it, “shameful” White clearly extends his arm, pushes the smaller Wilson to the ground and waltzes into the endzone laughing all the way.

What upsets me even more was White’s admission of guilt in the locker room. He knew he got away with one but what can anyone do about it?

The penalty against Terrell Suggs for a Facemask was absurd as the replay showed Jason Snelling with a handful of Suggs’ mask yanking it back and forth as he tried to get to Ryan. At the very least it’s an off-setting penalty and not a free Fifteen for the offense.

Did the calls effect the outcome of the game? Hmm maybe. If White is called for Offensive Pass interference Atlanta is at the Ravens 43-yd line with about 25 seconds left and still need to make at least one play.

I also have to point out that the Ravens were flagged 6 times for 51 penalty yards while the Falcons received 1 penalty. ONE.

What did you think about the NFL Network’s broadcast of the game?

The league always does a great job of promoting itself and the presentation was solid but over excessive. Six hours of coverage? The Super Bowl isn’t until February, right?

The game itself turned out to be great television though the First Half was in a word- boring. Luckily things picked up and the Falcons relinquished a 13 point lead to Flacco and crew. No doubt the ratings will be sky high and will probably cause the NFL to consider Wednesday night football in the next contract.

The three man announcing crew of Papa, Theismann and Millen were mind nummingly awful. I’ll try my best to be fair but it’s going to be tough.

Bob Papa seems decent enough as your host with the most but he comes off too much like a sports announcer and not a football announcer. I know he did work with the New York Football Giants but you have to know that Flacco plays for the Ravens and not the Falcons. Check your flip card Bob.

I will say that Papa should receive hazard pay working with Millen and Theismann. Papa is like the villian in the movie, “Dumb and Dumber”, who gets so upset with Harry and Lloyd as they belt out “Mockingbird” that he constantly yells at them and must take his pills or risk certain death.

Theismann actually has some good insights- sometimes. However his mistakes are often huge and he never makes an effort to correct himself. He called the Ravens – Raiders. He had no idea how to say Haloti Ngata’s name and each time he said it he butchered it worse. He told viewers that the Ravens were set to run left just as Baltimore ran a reverse to the right. Guess they faked Joe out too?

The worst of all was the constant man crush he displayed Matt Ryan. Even if he would have heaped that type of praise on Joe Flacco I still would be forced to make fun of it. He said that wanted a DVD of all of Ryan’s throws so he could watch them later. No doubt with a fine wine as he would be settled down by a crackling fire. Ugh. This comment was made right after Ryan sailed a screen pass over his teammates heads on the sidelines.

But I save the worst for the last – Millen. He has proven to be just as good a commentator as he was an NFL executive. I’ve never heard a commentator talk so negatively about the players on the field. He described Flacco’s happy feet when he gets pressured. Instead I would have said that Flacco tends to escape to the edges instead of stepping into the pocket, which he did later in the game.

He also piled on with the Matty Ice love as well. Simply put he made me want to hear Bryant Gumbel again.

Who was the Offensive player of the game?

Anquan Boldin has emerged as leader on this team. His tirade on the sidelines to fire up his teammates worked. I would like to see the offense target him even more. I’m all for spreading it around but you need to get the ball to your stars in big games (see Roddy White). Flacco was tough in the clutch and rebounded from a poor first half where he mostly was trying not to get pancaked. This was another in a line of “almost” game winning drives that were undone due to the defense, a dropped pass, or a missed kick. He’s got flaws but he’s going to get even better.

Who was the Defensive player of the game?

Terrell Suggs. Had two sacks and could have had a third. He always seems to amp up the volume in National games and he brought his best last night.

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