By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens have struggled on offense for most of the season in 2013, but their defense and special teams have gotten them out of some rough spots and pushed them to a 2-1 record. Against the Buffalo Bills, the magic stopped and serious flaws regarding the defending champions began to come to light. Whether this team is capable of fixing their mistakes remains to be seen.
Offense Grade: D
This offense looked awful against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. What makes their performance even more embarrassing is that it took place against a secondary without 75 percent of their starters. As usual, the play of any team is dictated by the performance of the players at the line of scrimmage. Simply put, the offensive line for Baltimore has been a disappointment. Ravens C Gino Gradkowski has been pushed around the entire season and has affected the entire running game. The Ravens can’t find running lanes for Rice and Pierce between the tackles. When they run off tackle, the defense crashes either side before plays are allowed to develop. And with the struggles the Ravens are having through the air, the opposing defenses are going to continue to focus on stopping the run.
The Ravens have to make teams pay when they keep eight men in the box. But with the Ravens receivers unable to hold on to the ball, keeping drives alive has been quite difficult. The bright spot for the offense appears to be Torrey Smith, who continues to excel in his new role as the No. 1 receiver. Smith finished with five catches for 166 yards and a touchdown. Marlon Brown continues to improve as well, which will only help the team once Jacoby Jones returns from his knee injurym but Brown is still a rookie and Smith can be taken out of a game when double covered. There’s nowhere else for Flacco to go and it’s showing up on the scoreboard.
Defense Grade: B+
The Ravens gave up 23 points to the Buffalo Bills, but were put in a bad situation because of how inept their offense was. Daryl Smith is playing better than Ray Lewis was this time last season. He’s been a big upgrade for this defense. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil continue to wreak havoc on any QB they can get their hands on, and the secondary has played inspired defense for three weeks now. But when Lardarius Webb went down with a thigh injury, EJ Manuel began to take chances downfield.
The run defense had their hands full with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson but they did ok given the circumstances. They’ve had better days, but had a good game overall.
Quarterback grade: F
You can talk about how the offensive line has played poorly and how his receiving corps has struggled, but the bottom line is that Joe Flacco has played poorly this season. In fact, he’s never played as badly as he did on Sunday against Buffalo. He threw five interceptions against a secondary full of backups. After the game, Flacco admitted to not seeing defenders before throwing the football. That is inexcusable for any quarterback, let alone one as gifted as Flacco. Even after the ugly start to the game, Baltimore still had a chance to steal one in Buffalo, but the fifth turnover by Flacco sealed the deal. The entire offense has to do much better than it has. If Joe Flacco improves, maybe the rest of the unit will follow suit.
Special Teams: C
It was business as usual for Tucker and Koch. Both played well on Sunday. Tandon Doss tried to duplicate the performance he had against Houston and it put him in trouble a lot of times. A few times it appeared as though he may lose the football when hit during returns. Sometimes it’s best to just call for a fair catch.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.