North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Quoth the Ravens? – Weekly NFL Notebook

with one comment

Forgive the cliche, but these Baltimore Ravens, they’re a weird team and they’ve got me all muddled up. First time all season I’ve seen them play and they disappoint, albeit against one of the best teams in the NFC, the Giants.

The phoneme rookie Joe Flacco, who was perfect for a stretch these past few weeks, came fast and sudden back to Earth, throwing two picks (one returned for a touchdown) while the vaunted Raven defence looked old and decrepit against the continual running attack of the Giants.

Take that 77 yard rush by Ahmad Bradshaw against at the start of the fourth: Lewis over-attacked his man and was woefully out of position. Bradshaw got a nice block and boom, hit a seam (or daylight, or whatever cliche you like most) and it was damn close to a touchdown.

So what happened to the Ravens defence? Up until that game, they were good against the run… but they couldn’t make stops. The Giants line was carving into them, opening holes for both Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Their linebacking corps was thusly overworked – sometimes it looked as if they didn’t know what to do. They bit early and found themselves attacking the line earlier.

Which helped him had a solid passing day (13 of 23, for 153 yards, one TD and one INT), but remember – it was the rushing that decided this game. It gave the Giants an early lead, helped them keep the Ravens off the field and was the major reason they won.

Where do they go from here? Down, way down. They’re six and four, but a bad six and four. They’ve already gotten to beat up on helpless teams like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Oakland and Houston. To my eyes, their only solid win was over Miami, back in October. One gets the idea that maybe they’ve already peaked as a team.

We’ll soon find out if they’re wheat of chaff, for here comes the hard part of their schedule: Philly, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Jacksonville. Four teams they’ll be hard pressed to beat. It’s likely they’ll still finish second in the North, but it’s unlikely they’ll make the playoffs.

*****

Once again, Houston and Indianapolis had a wild shootout affair. And just like last time, it ended with a Houston miscue.

For reasons what I don’t quite grasp, bottom-of-the-barrel Houston always comes out swinging against the Colts. In a game where defence meant almost nothing for the majority of the game, both teams racked up yardage and points: Houston had over 350 total yards and Indianapolis had 474 yards, with Payton Manning throwing for 320 of them.

Think about that: 320 passing yards. That’s more then Oakland, Chicago or Cincinnati managed all day. That’s a monster day, yet he only had two majors. One might think that he would have had more scores… but one would be wrong. You don’t get that many yards without a strong running game, one that makes the linebackers cheat up and plug holes. And Joesph Addai’s line for today (105 yards, one TD) reflects this.

Houston, on the other hand, had a more balanced game: 177 on the ground, 179 in the air. And although Rosenfels had a quiet day, he played well – except for his last drive. He completed 70% of his passes and helped engineer a good game for the Texans: they were outplayed on the other side of the ball by a wide, wide margin (nearly a ten minute difference in time of possession, for example) yet they were in the game right until the end.

But the end was the same as last time, although not quite as heartbreaking for Texan fans. Rosenfels was picked off, for the first time in the game, with just 38 seconds on the clock. But other then that, it was a good drive – quick outlet passes, moving the chains, not eating a lot of time of the clock.

All in all, it was fun game to watch. I like the Texans; they’re a lot better then they get credit for. At least sometimes, anyway. In a year or two they could be a team to watch. And the Colts look like they’re back. Forget the Titans being undefeated, the Colts have a good shot at the division in my books.

*****

A tough, physical game in Pittsburgh came to an odd close, with the league’s first 10-11 score. Pittsburgh looked good throughout, and the final score doesn’t reflect how well they did actually play.

It’s odd. With a low score, it’s easy to think this was a defensive battle. But it really wasn’t. It was a slogging kind of game, one where both teams went on long marches.

Ben Roethlisberger looked great for the first half, at one point throwing for something like 10 of 11. He finished the game with 31 completions and 308 yards.

But yet, their passing game was lacking: he didn’t throw for a major and was under constant pressure: he was sacked four times. The majority of his completions went to (no surprise) Hines Ward, who finished with 11 catches and 124 yards.

One might think that when the Steelers dominated so much that they’d have won easily. But it was a weird game: Pittsburgh was able to move around the field with ease, but didn’t get into the end zone all game, unless you count an early safety.

No, it was San Deigo, who despite having half the yards the Steelers did, a six minute difference in time of possession and a lousy game from Phillip Rivers (15 of 26, 159 yards and two INT) led for most of the game and led late.

It was all about LT on this snowy, ugly day in Pittsburgh. He scored the lone touchdown of the day, a three yard score up the middle, and it was the most important score of the day. LT spent a good chuck of the match pounding the ball up the middle, never for much, getting chunks of turf stuck to his helmet.

This was latest in a string of odd games for the Chargers, who seem to be getting more then their share of bad breaks this season. That missed call against Denver; a heartbreaking comeback by Carolina in week one; that surprising Miami upset, when the Dolphins broke out everything in the playbook.

The Chargers are now four and six, second in the AFC West. That’s two wins behind both Denver and anybody likely to win the wild card. But don’t count them out: they’ve only lost one game at home thus far – and four of their next six are at home. They can still bounce back.

*****

Other Notes: After jumping to the Cincinnati/Philadelphia game, Fox cut away again from an overtime game. When will the NFL realize that cutting to a close game, then cutting away as per some anarchic rules, doesn’t serve make any sense? What’s the point of going to going to it, getting the viewer invested in it, then leaving them hanging? I suppose there’s the bonus aspect of it – but wouldn’t going to an extended postgame show serve the viewer just as well? … The Seahawks didn’t play well, but they certainly took advantage of their chances: they scored three touchdowns on drives of less then 20 yards … Somebody on the Raiders has to, absolutely has to show Jamarcus Russell how to manage a game. The Raiders last drive, where Russell hung around and watched time tick away was maybe the worst clock management I’ve seen this year. If the Raiders want him to pan out, they should really look to finding him a mentor, since he doesn’t seem to be learning on the job… Can the Titans go undefeated? Who knows – their rushing game is looking atrophied, but their passing game is dynamic. Just when one thinks they’ve got them figured out (a clock controlling team that outsmarts you), they shift gears and become some other beast entirely. If I had to bet, though, they’ll lose two of their last three, when they let Collins rest up for the playoffs.

Advertisements

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Last weekend just goes to show that on any given Sunday, anything can happen (I know, banal cliche, but I think it actually fits).
    I think SD was lucky to keep it close, the Steelers didn’t bring their “A” game and still won. The Steelers are going to have to find a way to put more points on the board if they are going deep in the playoffs though. We’re at the point in the season now where there really aren’t too many surprises left, most defensive coordinators have their opponents figured out. As much as I love Indy, I just don’t think they have the depth to play much above 500 for the rest of the year. The Titans are too good to be caught. Teams to watch down the stretch: Green Bay, Miami, and Atlanta.

    mike

    November 18, 2008 at 2:38 am


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: