By Samuel Njoku
The Baltimore Ravens (8-6) knew the task in front of them. Defeat the New England Patriots (11-4) and the Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) and they were guaranteed the AFC North title. But instead, Baltimore would fall to the Patriots at home and leave their playoff chances in serious doubt.
Offense Grade: D-
The Ravens offense looked awful on Sunday. They were unable to do much of anything against the Patriots defense and there’s plenty of blame to go around. For starters, the Ravens offensive line reverted back to their previous style of play. They found it very difficult to keep the Patriots front seven at bay throughout the game. With Joe Flacco nursing a knee injury, it was important that the line kept the pocket clean for the majority of the game. They weren’t able to get it done as players like Michael Oher continue to be a liability for this football team. The Ravens receivers were well covered for most of the day. A few drops accompanied what would be a bad day for this unit.
Baltimore did have success running the football on the Patriots. That’s why it was so peculiar on short yardage situations that the Ravens continued to throw the football. Ray Rice showed more burst than in previous games and Bernard Pierce looked to be a decent compliment to him in any given situation. Again, the Ravens elected to throw the ball instead of taking advantage of a bad Pats rush defense. It was a poor game plan that was poorly executed. It was a bad all around day for the offense.
Defense Grade: D+
The Ravens spent a ton of money in the off-season to improve their pass rushing. But there was no pass rush to be found on Sunday. The Ravens tried very hard to take advantage of the Patriots banged up offensive front, but New England had other plans. They did a great job of picking up Baltimore’s blitzes and it left the Ravens secondary extremely exposed. The Ravens all but stopped blitzing in the second half, but by then it was too late. The damage had been done. Tom Brady didn’t throw up big numbers, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by the way he looked on the field. He was in control the entire game.
Another reason for that may be the play of the Patriots rushing attack. They bullied the Ravens front seven for most of the game. Ridley and Blount punished Baltimore for huge chunks of yards that took the fans out of this one early. It was a crushing loss in every sense of the word. And it will be interesting to see how this defense responds next week after being exposed by Brady and company.
Quarterback Grade: F
Joe Flacco didn’t throw five picks but it was pretty close to being his worst performance of the year. Many are speculating that his knee could have been the cause of his poor performance, but I’m not buying it. His footwork was off a tad in this game, but the story of the day will be based on his poor decision-making. Throwing the ball into double coverage is just a dumb idea. None of the elite quarterbacks do it because it’s just plain dumb. Flacco seems to have a great deal of confidence in his arm. Someone needs to shatter that confidence, because it’s killing the football team.
One of the more telling moments of the game was when Flacco actually had time in the pocket to make a throw. Standing on the right of the sideline was a wide open Torrey Smith that Flacco could not see. His offensive lineman, who was standing a few feet away from him, had to point the receiver out for him before he made the throw.
He lacked footwork. His decision-making was poor. And his ability to know where everyone was on the field was almost laughable. The Ravens paid Flacco loads of money in the off-season to produce for the football team and they simply aren’t getting their return on investment this year.
Special Teams Grade: D+
Ravens returner Jacoby Jones tried his best to make something happen to give this team a spark, but he just couldn’t. He played well though by giving Baltimore decent field position throughout the game. Justin Tucker snapped his consecutive field goal streak at 33 when he missed a 37-yard attempt. It was the perfect cap to an all around bad performance from this football team.
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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.