Re: Looking back at the Raven's game.
posted at 5/8/2013 9:06 PM EDT
In response to portfolio1's comment:
In response to zbellino's comment:
1.) I think that Ridley's fumble is certainly the turning point. That and the defensive collpase that overlapped it.
2.) I disagree that the game was characterized by poor execution, as some in the thread stated. It wasn't perfect, but they executed pretty well through three quarters. The game was close, and featured NE running ball control offense. Prior to the last 8 minutes when they needed two TDs and a FG to win, NE ran the ball 27 times to 30 passes. That figure even includes the end of the half hurry up drive that was all passes.
They spent most of the day, as their base game plan, handing off to Ridley.
The problem is their defense isn't good enough to play that game. They don't "force" turnovers, rather they rely on other teams to make mistakes when they are forced to come back from large defecits. They have trouble getting off the field quickly as well, which aggravates the mission of a ball control scheme. It makes no sense to chew up clock on offense if your opponent is moving the ball fluidly and scoring.
3.) I also disagree that they put the game in Brady's hands, as one poster said. Ridley was the focus of their game plan going in. Brady was tapped after the fumble and two blown drives by the defense to clean up after the mess with a 3 score comeback in 8 minutes. Before that, he was handing the ball off all day.
3.) Not going to blame Ridley. Ridley has ball control issues that go back to LSU, I told everyone about them coming out. He doesn't have great hands, and to a degree it will always limit what he can do in this offense. But I can't really pin that fumble on ball control ... the dude tried to lower his pads and churn it for extra yards. This is what you are coached to do to protect the ball and increase your projection of power. Baltimore players lead with their helment, it's what they do.
It's a freak turnover. But, I' sure to the surprise of many who thought running the football 27 times in three quarters would "win" any game, turnovers happen when you run a lot too.
5.) While Talib's disappearance had some impact, I question how drastic it was. They gave up the same rough score (about 28) the week prior, and it is in line with what we can expect out o the defense in the last 6 years in the post-season (~25-26 ppg, losing TOP, .5 turnovers per game). At some point you just have to look at it, and say, good offenses are going to be able to execute their game plan on your defense, and try and improve the defense until it isn't always the case.
6.) What we learned? Bolster the defense ... get some depth ... avoid freak turnovers ... STAY HEALTHY ... get after it this post-season.
The last one is key: the last four post-seasons NE lost some key players Welker, Gronk, Hern, Carter, Talib. It's a testament to how football is sometimes about being the healthiest team standing. Baltimore was getting players BACK as the playoffs started, not losing them.
To be honest, it would be amazing just once to finish a post-season with Gronk actually in pads. He is the most important guy to the rushing game that isn't an o-lineman, and the most important to the passing game that isn't Brady. He has more impact on his offense than any other TE or WR in football because he is such a dominant combo TE. It's a shame that your second best player has missed two playoff ending games in a row and fills a fan's mind with would've and could've types of thoughts.
On most points I agree. NOt quite as much in terms of having the ball in Brady's hands. At critical moments in big games they have been throwing. But also, they need to "get after it"? Like they are not trying HARD enough? That has 0 value and is not worthy of the rest of the post.
But here is the point I would like to follow up on: how did the O play during the regular season and how do they play against the best teams? The O has a significant drop off when facing really good competition. I AM NOT LETTING THE D OFF THE HOOK. I am only FOR THE MOMENT wanting to talk about O in light of your comments. THe fall off is not because the "skill" players are not good enough (though again I agree that Gronk being hurt is a big blow)... the difference is that the O line is not good ENOUGH against that level of talent.And I am not saying they are not good. Just that they need an upgrade at that level.
There is an alternative to upgrading the O line. Upgrading the D. TO me what was needed was an upgrade at DT, at covering TEs and RBs and in depth at coverage and more speed at LB. In all that they need to upgrade the pass rush so that they can put pressure at will (even if they dont get the sack). Not yet sure about pass rush which is very key but they have done all the other things in off season - especially when you include the fact that they have 1st and 2nd year men coming in with more experience.
We all talk about making big plays... as you noted the D was not. Those improve with improved play at the line. We will see how far the D has come soon enough. I do wish they could upgrade either C or RG and we all would like to see how good this team is when healthy in the playoffs. Even with all the issues many of us point out had they been healthy who knows whether they might have won the last 2 SBs?
I think that is a fair assessment and question. Two things in response:
1.) NE played Baltimore twice last season. In one contest they scored 30 points, in another 13. Part of that low score has to do with how the entire fourth quarter was sacrificed to playing comeback (a dangerous game against that defense) and part to Gronk not being there. IF you aren't rushing to score 17 points in the final ten minutes, you probably have a better chance to score 7 or 10. The Ravens scored 28 and 31 respectively in each contest. Assuming you actually have a healthy Gronk, this really falls under the laws of diminishing returns. Is it reasonable to expect NE to score 31+ against an elite defense every time? Is it reasonable to expect improvement so that good (not great) offenses can be held to less than 20 maybe once in a while? The week prior the decimated an elite defense, but the defense also surrendered 28 points. It's less a matter of a tail on performance than a question of what can reasonably be expected.
2.) Yes, I think the offensive line is not "elite," that is evident by how much trouble they've had blocking certain teams. However, it's again a law of diminishing returns. You could dump a bunch of picks into improving Center and RG where they are the leakiest ... or perhaps look at other positional areas that could help. Simply dumping more picks or FAs into the offense to make it "perfect" is a fool's gold solution. You have major issues at SS, LOLB/DE, RDT/34DE, CB.
Remember that no team is perfect. Baltimore has flaws. Specifically, they don't have an elite pas-pro line, they don't have a ton of dynamic playmakers on offense (though watching them against NE might fool you into thinking otherwise). If you can remove Rice from the equation you can force Flacco into making mistakes. IF you can cover the deep routes you can severly curtail their game plan. A big time pass rusher even things out in that regard.
That said, if ONE thing/player would help this offense against Baltimore (and the NYG as well) it WOULD be getting someone who is a very good at RG. They shuffle the line around, but they never have an answer for Ngata or Tuck. Those guys own NE interior right side. And getting better Run blocking tackles would help as well. They have no game running outside against either of those teams either. Winning a few boundary matchups would help as well with a great perimeter WR, but it's not essential.
But at the end of the day, NE doesn't have an interior pass rush threat. They haven't had a shadow of one since Mike Wright was injured, and they haven't had a top one since Seymour left.
Dream world, that's what I would add to this team.