Today, I caught the light rail and did a fair amount of walking to make it to the ‘Vens-‘Boys tilt in downtown Baltimore. This was a great afternoon for football: Temperature was in the mid-70s, there was a slight autumn chill. Here are a few observations I came away with following our narrow, breathless win over those dastardly Dallasites.
The Ravens offense confuses, excites and depresses me–in that order, over and over.
- Joe Flacco opens his mouth and inserts his foot on a regular basis. It is a monthly ritual. In Baltimore, we expect it. But if he is going to constantly proclaim his greatness–and, for the record, I agreed with him when he said that every QB needs to think he’s “the best”–he has to make two critical passes that he missed today. On both, Rice was wide open for a touchdown in the flat-corner of the end zone; on both occasions, Flacco threw uncatchable balls because he had a lot of pressure in his face. It’s not Flacco’s fault that his line is not great or that the defense didn’t bite on the play-actions, but an elite quarterback throws balls that at least have a chance of being caught in those situations, especially when a score is at stake. (For whatever it’s worth, in person Flacco comes across as a solid, confident and athletic force whose abilities or contributions don’t always show up in stat lines.)
- False starts are never well timed, BUT MICHAEL OHER IS THE KING OF POORLY TIMED FALSE STARTS. I swear to Jesus, there is a direct correlation between how urgent it is that the Ravens score and how likely it is that Oher will jump out of his stance before Flacco has finished scanning the pre-play defense. Blind Side, indeed. WATCH THE BALL, FAT BOY. YOU NO MOVEY TIL IT GO SNAPPY.
- In a 60-minute football game, the Cowboys offense held the ball for FORTY MINUTES. That boggles the mind. Both the Ravens offense and defense (its evisceration to come) get some blame for this. The offense had exciting moments but was uncreative and inconsistent, which kept putting the defense back on the field. But, of course, once on the field the defense could have done better than to give up 200 yards rushing for the second consecutive game.
Our defense is bad.
- In my last post, I know, I did a lot of huffing and puffing to defend our D. I think I was right to do that, since the stats do suggest that our defense bends but doesn’t break, which means it gives up gaudy numbers to opposing offenses but does the job in the clutch. But I am literally searching my soul right now for the strength to outright say, “The Ravens defense sucks,” because it honestly, truly does (and it hurts to admit that, given our defensive legacy.) It’s not enough that the Ravens keep winning. The Patriots have had a shit-ass defense for a few years now and they have mostly kept winning, but it doesn’t mean their defense isn’t shit-ass. I reiterate: For two games in a row, we have allowed over 200 yards rushing. IN A PASSING LEAGUE! Jesus F. Christ, that is mortifying.
- More to my point, we don’t get pressure on opposing QBs, even when we blitz. That gives those QBs time to stand upright, scan the field, and wait for receivers to come open. The Suggs-less pass rush is so bad that even our secondary, much maligned, can’t benefit when it does cover well because the Weedens and Romos of the world are eating steak dinners and watching the latest episode of Homeland in the time it takes our line to reach them. With all that time, guys find ways to get open in the secondary.
- We are poor at blocking cutback opportunities for running backs, as well as protecting ourselves against rushes to the edge. Hence, nearly every team we have played so far has run on us with some success. Some of that has probably come from the fact that those teams have passed well, too, which opens up the run. But still, there is no sure thing about this defense. This defense has no “strength,” no “one thing” it’s good at.
- Cary Williams was in the NFL for four years before he got his first interception three weeks ago. Now, he’s had a pick in three games straight. It doesn’t matter. He is still, to quote the game notes I thumbed onto my cell phone, “such garbage.” He’s often in good position to play the ball but he never actually does.
- The Ravens let a team get out of 3rd and 27. That brings shame on every household in Baltimore.
Special teams are improving, but they’re still … “special.”
- With 11 minutes and 24 seconds to go in the third quarter, I saw the most exciting play I have ever seen live at a football game: Jacoby Jones’s 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which ties the league record. It’s impossible to describe what it’s like to see something that rare in the NFL in person (rarer, these days, thanks to the five-yard-closer kickoffs); it’s even harder to describe what it’s like to experience it with 71,000 other people, all of us knowing that for the last 80 yards–after Jones emerged from the pack–that it was over; afterburners on, cue up the score. For the seven seconds Jones, untouched, spent racing to the end zone, I knew what bliss was.
- Backpat over. Rant re-engaged. The Ravens’ coverage on the fourth-quarter onside kick was embarrassing. 1) Kicking teams recover onside kicks seven percent of the time. SEVEN. Women probably get pregnant more often from sitting in used bathtubs than teams recover their own onside kicks. 2) John Harbaugh was a special teams coach for nine years before he became a head coach. 3) Brendan Ayanbadejo is taking up a roster spot allegedly for the fact that he is a special teams “ace.” So, what are the odds that on a play that is doomed to fail anyway that a special teams ace muffs a game-deciding kick after a special teams-minded head coach uses a time-out for the sole purpose of strategizing? If not for Justin Tucker, rookie kicker extraordinaire, and Jacoby Jones, the Ravens special teams would be HELLA grim. That is a fact. REAL TALK.
Here is some random miscellany.
- On the way to the game, a flamboyant young man who was carrying a rack that held about 50 bottles of nail polish (?!) came up to my dad, who has a relatively thick beard, and told him that he reminded him of the famous Cheech. This man then loudly offered my dad the chance to smoke pot with him later. When my dad refused as politely as possible, Nail Polish Man then yelled that he would smoke two “doobies” later on for the both of them.
- Still on the way to the game, my dad and I discussed the Yankees loss to the Tigers last night, wherein Derek Jeter broke his ankle. I joked, “What’s the only thing worse than a Pyrrhic victory? A PYRRHIC LOSS, HURR HURR HURR!” And lo, the Ravens beat the Cowboys on this day, but only after Ray Lewis tore his tricep and Lardarius Webb apparently tore his ACL. Oh, hai, Irony! Welcome! Have some tea.
- During the game, a female Cowboys fan who sat almost directly behind us yelled, “GET HIS ASS!!!” about twice per minute for the entire game. She yelled this whether or not a Cowboys player was actually in position to “get” a Ravens player. She also once said, “Dammit, Antoinette!” for reasons unknown.
- A little girl who looked barely old enough to comprehend multiplication tables could be overheard giddily observing: “The Titans beat the Steelers? … YAAASSSSSS!!!” She is being raised right.
- After the game, as my dad and I walked back to the Lexington Market light rail station, a man ran up behind us and shouted, “EXTRA TICKET!!! … Oh wait, I meant to say, ‘Go Ravens.’ [Shrugs.] I’m a scalper and it’s hard to break my habits.”
- My dad pronounces Haloti’s last name, “Nnn-GAH-tah.”
- This was my first time being on the “happy” side of a game-losing shank. Won’t lie; it feels nice.
- This was also my first time going to a Ravens game without knowing ahead of time that we would beat our opponent. (Feel free to call me on it, because yes, I am emotionally lazy; I don’t like going downtown just to see the Ravens lose.) Anyway, it was an experience as psychologically taxing as it was exhilarating. I couldn’t traipse through this Sunday, pre-happy about a game we hadn’t won yet. I had to invest. I lived when Jones scored on the kickoff and I died every time the Cowboys ripped us for a six-yard run on first down. And I cheered my face off and high-fived about a dozen complete strangers when Dallas missed their game-winning field goal. … Ah, sport. Perhaps, for you, I should cultivate a true spirit of competition.
- I have to hand it to Dallas fans: They travel well. They were very present at M&T, which is usually hard to infiltrate, and also quite vocal, so much so that they made it impossible for me to follow the crowd cues when I didn’t see/understand the action on the field. (I ended up clapping after the onside kick that Dallas recovered because some people around me started rejoicing.) I am sure that half the Cowboys fan base consists of bandwagoners who have ZERO affiliation to Dallas or Texas, who probably drove to the Inner Harbor from Delaware or some nonsense. Still though, an impressive invasion. Hat tip.
And now I will gloat about my powers of prediction.
- Because I am 6-0 on the season, having correctly predicted all five Ravens victories as well as our sole loss.
- On to the Texans! (Gulp.)