Five things we learned from Ravens 21-0 win over Titans

NASHVILLE — The Baltimore Ravens advanced to 4-2 with a 21-0 shutout over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, who fell to 3-3. For the Ravens, this ended a three-game road trip with the team going 2-1 over that span.

The three-game road trip was filled with ups and downs, but it ended on a high note with Sunday’s win over Tennessee. Here are five things we learned about the Ravens in their first shutout of the 2018 season.


1. Holy crap, pass rush!

Ever since the Ravens’ defense tallied six sacks against the Buffalo Bills in the opening game of the season, the pass rush failed to put opposing quarterbacks on the ground more than five times in a game.

Sunday against Tennessee, that trend changed. The Ravens’ pass rush exploded on the Titans, finishing with a franchise-high 11 sacks and absolutely terrorizing Marcus Mariota. Speaking of Mariota, he finished the game being sacked more times than his completion total showed, which was 10 passes.

Za’Darius Smith led the pass rushers with three sacks. Patrick Onwuasor followed with two. Matthew Judon, Terrell Suggs, Tony Jefferson, Kenny Young, Anthony Levine Sr., and Chris Wormley all found their way into the Tennessee backfield on Sunday with one sack each. The 11-sack total the Titans allowed in this game was more than the total amount of sacks they had let up all season (9).

Mariota finished the game with 117 passing yards. He didn’t stand a chance, as his offense went 1-for-10 on third down with the running back tandem of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis combining for 30 yards on 12 carries.

With former defensive coordinator Dean Pees on the opposite end of the sideline, the Ravens’ defense wanted to send a clear message. Even though several players expressed their respect for Pees this past week, they wanted to stick it to their old play-caller. Not only did the defense’s performance on Sunday prove that they live on without Pees, it showed that the defense could be better than they ever were with him leading the way.


2. Michael Crabtree puts Cleveland nightmare behind him

Against the Browns last week, Michael Crabtree hauled in just six of 12 targets with multiple drops, including a potential touchdown grab in the fourth quarter that could have won the game for the Ravens. Crabtree has run into some issues with drops in his career, but he’s consistently bounced back from his struggles. That pattern continued against Tennessee, where Crabtree rebounded by leading the Ravens with 93 yards on six receptions, including a four-yard touchdown catch. It marked Crabtree’s first touchdown reception since the season opener against Buffalo.

Willie Snead caught seven passes for 60 yards, but the next leading receiver, John Brown, only caught two. Crabtree signed a three-year contract with the Ravens coveting him as a red-zone threat. The Ravens certainly expected more than two touchdowns through the first six games for Crabtree, but the Ravens will go forward and hope that Crabtree’s bounce-back today carries over in the next three games before the bye.


3. Ravens balance out offense, make honest effort to run the football

In the Ravens’ two losses this season, the ratio of run and pass plays has scewed much more towards the pass. In Marty Morthinweg’s sixth game called this season, he ran 35 run plays and 38 pass plays. The end result was Joe Flacco completing 27 passes for 238 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, with the run game compiling 123 yards on the ground.

On 19 carries, Alex Collins could only rack up 54 yards for an average of 2.8 yards-per-carry. Although many of his runs went short, he did break free for a 13-yard touchdown run in the first half.

After Collins, Gus Edwards carried the ball 10 times for 42 yards in his regular season debut. Lamar Jackson‘s lone rush attempt, a 22-yarder, awarded the Ravens a first down midway through the third quarter. Buck Allen caught three passes for 18 yards, but only received one carry which went one yard.

The results of the run game aren’t anything sexy and are aided by Jackson’s 22-yard run, but the encouraging sign was how many holes opened up for the running backs as opposed to the first five weeks. With Allen proving to be an asset in the passing game, Edwards will continue to split the load with Collins for the lion’s share of carries. Considering Edwards led the team with 174 rushing yards (53 carries) in the preseason, he’s a name to keep an eye on going forward.


4. Second-half defensive dominance continues

The Ravens may have compiled 11 sacks on Mariota on Sunday, but don’t forget that they again did not allow a second-half touchdown. Baltimore’s defense has not allowed an opposing offense to reach the end zone in the second half yet this season. The unit continues to put up incredible numbers, and it’s becoming fun to watch, not just in the game, but on social media too. Check out this Tweet from Barstool Banks with another interesting tidbit surrounding the 2018 Ravens defense.

The outstanding defensive performances are helping out the Ravens’ offense too. Two weeks ago against Pittsburgh, the Ravens got by on four Justin Tucker field goals because the defense shut out Ben Roethlisberger in the second half. Then this week, the only score the Ravens needed in the second half was a two-yard run by Collins midway through the third quarter. It’s no secret that Flacco performs better when his defense backs him up, and the defense has certainly held up their end of the bargain through the first six games.


5. Alex Lewis injury could present offensive line shuffling

A scary moment occurred in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win when left guard Alex Lewis went down with a neck injury. Lewis remained on the ground for several minutes before a cart was brought onto the field, where Lewis was placed on a stretcher and taken away from Nissan Stadium in an ambulance.

According to the Ravens, upon arriving at the hospital Lewis regained movement in all of his extremities and was even cleared to fly back with the Ravens on the team plane Sunday night. Lewis underwent a CT scan, and head coach John Harbaugh said that the team will release details on Lewis’ injury once they get the scan results back.

Unfortunately, Lewis’ issues with injuries continue and he’s likely to miss some time while healing this neck injury. Who knows, it could even be season-ending. The good news is that the Ravens have some depth along the offensive line.

After Lewis came out of the game, rookie center Bradley Bozeman filled in at left guard while James Hurst remained at right tackle. This seems puzzling, given that the Ravens have rookie tackle Orlando Brown Jr. waiting in the wings to make his regular season debut, but it’s worth noting that Hurst has not practiced much at left guard this season after starting all 16 games last year at left guard. If Lewis is out for a long period of time, the Ravens could absolutely move Hurst back to left guard and have Brown slide in at right tackle. Given the nature of a sudden injury, it’s understandable as to why the coaches kept Hurst at right tackle for the remainder of the game.


REMINDER: Stop in Seven Sports Bar & Grille and mention the promo code ‘Charm City’ to receive a 10% discount on all entrees! Offer valid for a limited time only!


Quick Hits:

 

Image Credit: NBC Sports

 

Advertisements

Three things to watch for as the Ravens look to bounce back in the Music City

The Baltimore Ravens were flying high heading in to take on the lowly Cleveland Browns last week looking to build on their Sunday Night Football victory over the arch rival Steelers.

Unfortunately “the same old Ravens” showed up to First Energy Stadium and the Ravens left with a disappointing 12-9 overtime loss against the upstart Browns. Joe Flacco and the offense didn’t register a touchdown on the day and seemed to be out of sync throughout. The defense was good enough to win on Sunday surrendering just 12 points across five quarters of football but couldn’t get the last stop to preserve a tie (how awful does preserving a tie sound?).

But alas the Ravens sit at 3-2 in second place in the AFC North and are headed to Nashville to take a on a 3-2 Tennessee Titans team that has been up and down this season. They are in first place in the AFC South division and are fresh off of a 13-12 road loss to the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday in a game where they produced just 221 yards of total offense.

Here’s what to watch for ahead of this week’s game.

i

Michael Crabtree will be looking to bounce back from his worst performance of the season. Image Credit: AP

1) Can the offense bounce back? 

Flacco and the offense need to be better than they were on Sunday for the Ravens to have any chance of turning this into a special season. While Michael Crabtree and his NFL-leading seven drops are getting the lion share of the attention, the rest of the offense was ineffective as well. Flacco was 29-56 for 298 yards and a costly redzone interception.

Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown combined to haul in just 15 of the 33 targets they received. The running game started well but floundered in the second half. The Ravens haven’t scored a touchdown in 123:03 of game time after beginning the season 12-for-12 in the red zone.

This Sunday, the Ravens will take on their former defensive coordinator Dean Pees and his Titans defense that currently ranks seventh in yards-per-game allowed. The Titans do a great job stopping the pass attack of their opponents, boasting a ranking of third in the NFL surrendering just 210 yards per game.

Where the Titans struggle defensively is stopping the run. They rank 26th in the NFL giving up 123.2 yards-per game on the ground. Ironically, the Ravens have really struggled running the football this season and they will be presented with another favorable match-up in hopes to get the running game going.

The Ravens are seventh in the league in rushing attempts. Despite cries from fans for a better run-pass balance, John Harbaugh doesn’t seem concerned:

The Ravens have been ineffective in running the football this season as they are averaging just 3.4 yards-per-attempt which ranks 30th in the league. They have also had issues with ball security from their running backs as both Alex Collins and Buck Allen have fumbled this season. Collins has lost the football twice and Allen has once.

I am not sure how much trust Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have in the running game at this point and if they can’t get it going against one of the NFL’S worst units, this could be a storyline that continues throughout the season.

bs-sp-ravens-jerry-rosburg-honored-by-gruden-grinder-award-20171130

Jerry Rosburg and his special teams unit will be hoping for an incident free performance against the Titans. Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

2) Can the Ravens stop with the special teams issues?

It isn’t often that the Ravens’ special teams unit draws the ire of fans criticism but five games into the 2018 season, there are issues to be discussed here.

Week three against the Broncos saw the Ravens give up a blocked punt from their own 13/yard line which set up Denver at the Ravens six for a game-opening touchdown drive.

That same game saw a Justin Tucker 43-yard field goal attempt blocked with the Ravens clinging to a 17-14 lead late in the second quarter. The Broncos took it back for a touchdown to boot, but it was called back for an illegal block which wiped out the potential go-ahead touchdown.

And this past week against the Browns, this happened:

Browns rookie Denzel Ward blocked Tucker’s 48-yard field goal at the end of the first half that would have tied the game at six heading to the halftime break. In a game that ultimately needed an overtime session to determine a winner, this was once again another key mistake from this special teams unit.

The Ravens need to clean this up fast.

Detroit Lions v Baltimore Ravens

Willie Henry and Terrell Suggs sparked the Ravens defense against the Browns. Will it continue? Image Credit: Getty Images

3) Can the front seven build off of what was a great week?

The Ravens recorded five sacks against the Browns this past Sunday, making good on half of my prediction for the defense this past week (they only recorded one turnover).

Willie Henry returned to the lineup in Cleveland and picked up his first sack of the season while Eric Weddle, Brandon Williams, and Terrell Suggs each picked up a whole sack. Za’Darius Smith and rookie Kenny Young each picked up a half a sack for the defense as well.

It was arguably the most disruptive that the Ravens’ front seven has been this season as they also recorded a season-high 11 tackles for a loss on the day. The Browns and their number two-ranked rushing attack mustered just 112 total rushing yards in roughly five quarters of football.

The Titans offense hasn’t been too impressive this season either. They rank 17th in rushing, 29th in passing and points-per-game, and 24th in third down conversions. The Ravens defense should have the advantage over a Titans unit that has not gone over 20 points in regulation this season.

Predictions:

Jake McDonnell– Ravens 20 Titans 17

Nolan McGraw– Ravens 23 Titans 17

Ian Schultz– Ravens 17 Titans 13

Jay Stavros – Ravens 24 Titans 10

This game could go either way for the Ravens. If the offense responds and has a huge game against Tennessee, I will be happy to eat crow. I think that the Ravens defense will have a big day against a Tennessee offense that hasn’t hit their stride yet this season. Flacco will connect with Crabtree for the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The Details:

Image Credit: AP

Podcast Episode 20: The Ravens lay an egg in Cleveland

43636840_2131554710443507_3385290040136433664_n

The Charm City Bird Watch Podcast is brought to you by Seven Sports Bar & Grille in New Freedom, PA. For a limited time early on behalf of Charm City Bird Watch, you can get a 10% discount on any entree at Seven by staying the promo code ‘Charm City’ to your server! One possible entree combination above – Crabcake, Sweet Potato Fries, and side vegetable! 

Welcome to Episode 20 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

Unfortunately, we have to open up the show by dishing out our initial reactions to the Ravens’ heartbreaking 12-9 defeat in overtime to the Cleveland Browns from this past Sunday (4:46). We do our weekly Who’s Trending segment (21:42) and dive into some things to watch for in the Ravens’ next game – a third straight road test against the Tennessee Titans (33:22).

Since Nolan and Ian’s portion of Episode 19 was recorded before the official Orioles departures of Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette, the baseball portion of this week’s show gives the guys a platform to voice their thoughts on this huge development in Birdland (39:55).

To wrap up the show, we dive into our weekly numbers segment, taking a look at the best Baltimore sports athletes to wear the number 20 (46:22).

You can find the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on SoundCloudiTunes, and Google Play. Please leave us a review on iTunes, we love to hear your feedback and may read it on a future episode. Thank you for listening!