By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens, who were staring in the face of a must-win game against the Cincinnati Bengals, found a way to get the win in a thrilling overtime game 20-17. Baltimore moved to 4-5, on the season and Cincinnati fell to 6-4. Even though the Ravens got the much needed win, the game featured one ugly play after another.
Offense Grade: D-
Many expected the Ravens to improve from their woeful start to this season, but that simply hasn’t been the case for this unit. The Ravens offense has been downright awful this season. Sunday was no different for Baltimore. As usual, the trouble begins and ends at the line of scrimmage. Blocking has been almost comical for the Ravens on the football field. They’re being pushed back at the point of attack and there are no holes for the running backs to work with. Not as if the holes would matter the way Ray Rice has looked this season. He’s looked lethargic the entire season and has little to no cutting ability on the open field.
The Ravens would finish with 189 yards of total offense, but they took advantage of turnovers and costly penalties by the Bengals. Had it not been for those mistakes by Cincinnati, the Ravens would most likely been in the losing end of this contest. But those are the type of games that Baltimore has found themselves losing this season. It’s a refreshing turn of events this time around that the Ravens will definitely take.
Defense Grade: B-
The Ravens defense has been playing pretty good football for most of the season. This unit practically kept Baltimore in it for a large portion of this contest. Lardarius Webb played well for the first time all year. He did a good job containing A.J. Green. Jimmy Smith has been physical at the line of scrimmage and takes away the opposing team’s number 2 receiver on a weekly basis. Couple that with the pass rushing ability of Suggs and Dumervil, and you’ve got a very formidable defense.
But for whatever reason, all of that went away late in the second half as Andy Dalton orchestrated a comeback that left M&T Bank stadium silent. The play that everyone will be talking about is the Hail Mary that connected when James Ihedigbo tipped the ball in the air and watched it fall right into the hands of A.J. Green. That’s beyond unacceptable. However, the defense responded and forced the Bengals off the field in OT. This defense needs to learn how to finish games, and not allow teams back in it with bonehead mistakes.
Quarterback Grade: F
Joe Flacco’s rough 2013 campaign continued with another poor showing on Sunday. Flacco threw a couple of touchdowns early in the first half due to costly mistakes from the opposing team. But he paired those scores with two horrendous interceptions and a lost fumble. Of course, Flacco’s current struggles can be attributed to the terrible play of his offensive line. It’s almost as if the Ravens linemen don’t want to block for him. They’re playing that bad. The coaching staff did a good job of getting Flacco away from the pocket with bootlegs but they seemed to get away from that fairly quickly. As a result, Joe took a beating for most of the day.
But the mistakes Flacco made has less to do with the protection and more to do with bad decision making. With the way the team has played this season, the last thing Baltimore needs is to have costly turnovers. But that’s exactly what Flacco continues to do. If Baltimore wants to win this division, it needs to stop.
Special Teams Grade: A+
When your kicker hits the game winner with the wind blowing the way it did on Sunday, anything less than an A+ is unacceptable. The Ravens are lucky to have Justin Tucker on their roster. There isn’t a more clutch field goal kicker in the NFL
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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.