Ravens 16, Stillers 0 ������Sep 3, 2000 Game #1
Stillers-Ravens Post Game Analysis & Grades:
This was precisely the whipping that I expected and predicted. The Ravens grabbed the early lead, thanx in part to an opportunistic defense that got a big turnover, and the Crows played some sound smashmouth football en route to a 16-0 whitewash. If the Stillers had been able to take an early lead, the crowd would have been in a frenzy and Tony Banks may have faltered under pressure. However, the crowd was never able to rattle Banks, and sitting on a cozy lead allowed the Ravens to pound the ball on the ground and minimize Banks' exposure.
1. Burnett stripping Graham in the 2nd series, giving Balt. an easy FG. This really set the tone for both the Stiller "O" and Balt. "D".
2. The 53-yd. TD bomb to Ismail on 1st and 25.
3. Brown's missed 45-yd. FG on the 1st series of the 2nd half, negating what was our best drive of the day up to that point.
4. The combined failures on 1st and goal at the Raven 1, which was our last gasp to get into this ballgame.
QB: Graham went 17-38 for 199 yards, which was fairly ok, considering the poor ground support he had, plus some porous pass protection. Graham did a solid job of completing passes downfield, be it to Shaw, Plex, or Breuner. The one down note for Graham, was the ridiculous number of passes that were incomplete when rushers nipped his arm as he went to throw, causing about 5 passes to harmlessly fall incomplete. Graham has enough size and experience that he should have shuffled a few feet from pressure just before throwing. The other downer was the pitiful pass on 4th and 1 at the Raven 1, which was supposed to be an alley-oop to Plex. Instead, Graham gunned a line-drive toss that was 13 feet past Burress and totally uncatchable. On 4th down, you HAVE to put the ball where it can be caught, and to heck with worrying about an INT. And with Burress as the target, a jump ball has decent odds. All in all, Graham played good enough for the sorry scheme he had to work with. B.
RB: Bettis, as his norm against the Ravens, was bottled up and did diddly, gaining 8 yards on 9 rushes. Hunt was, as is becoming usual, more effective, slashing for 31 yards on 7 rushes. The offense never did establish much of a running game against 1 of the top couple run defenses in the NFL. B-.
FB: The running game didn't do much, and when that happens, the FB is partly responsible. Witman had a couple ok blocks but all in all, did little to provide room for the backs, and on a couple plays, got absolutely devastated by the man he was assigned to block. And his presence on the field hindered, not helped, our passing game. C.
WR: Plex had a solid NFL debut, leading his team with 4 grabs for 77 yards, including a nice catch-and-run that netted 39-yards early in the 3rd qtr. Plex also had a couple near-spectacular catches on 2 deep bombs, showing good abilities to nudge the defender an to go up and attempt to haul in the ball. If Plex can average 19 YPC, as he did today, I'll be pretty pleased with him. Shaw emerged with a solid game, snaring 4 balls for 49 yards. Ward had 2 grabs for short stuff. Troy opened the game by catching a 0-yard hitch (one of Gilbride's all-time favorite playcalls) and gaining 4, and he caught another dink for 3 yards. He was thrown a bomb, but was blanketed and the pass was inc. Otherwise, Troy basically faded into oblivion as the game wore on. B-.
TE: Breuner had on ok game. He made a good play on the 22-yard catch that set up the goal-line extravaganza in the 4th qtr. However, earlier in this same drive, Breuner displayed his dark side, which we all have seen too often. He dropped a perfect pass that was right in his gut on a deep seam route that 3easily would have netted 25-plus yards. Then, on the very next play, he committed a boneheaded false start. B-.
OL: The line was fairly shabby today. To their credit, they were facing 1 of the top 2 front-7 units in the entire NFL. To their discredit, they often looked like simpletons who just started playing together 2 weeks ago. Too much easy penetration was caused by simple, elementary stunts. On one 1st-qtr play, Faneca allowed McCrary to maim Graham as he threw, because Faneca was reading "outside-in" rather than "inside out", and he drifted to the outside rather than plug the inside rusher, who obviously has a more direct route to the QB. Very poor. Dawson actually stumbled in front of Hunt on a screen play, which literally dropped Hunt to the Turf. D+.
DL: The DL at times played steady, but on the whole gave up too much push and too many holes for Priest Holmes and the Raven ground game. A. Smith was bullied about a bit. Henry had a bit of rust after missing most of the preseason. Kimo had a pretty strong day, continually knifing in to disrupt ground plays or harass Banks. An injury hampered this unit, as Clancy was hurt very early in the game, and with Staat deactivated, this caused the team to press OLB Vrabel into duty as a DE on this muggy, hot day. The manpower shortage also prevented the team from rotating fresh men into the game. Compound this with the offense's gross inability to chew some clock, and it made for too long a day on the field for this crew. C.
LB: The LB play was, like most of the team, steady at times, but on the whole not nearly good enough. Kirk had 4 solos, but missed lots of PT due to some injury. Holmes also nicked his ankle, but played most of the game. He followed DeWayne's miss with one of his own on a 1st qtr. sweep, and he also dropped an INT that would have prevented a short Raven FG. Porter was sealed off on a few running plays, but did force an errant Banks pass with good harassment, and stripped Banks on another play, which should have been ruled a fumble but was ruled an inc. pass. Gildon was a big no-show the entire game. Harry Swayne had no problems whatsoever with Gildon's pass rush, so much so that Gildon never once even got a sniff of Tony Banks. Gildon was also grossly manhandled on several running plays, either getting sealed in, or getting pushed out so wide by the TE that his feet were in danger of going out of bounds. Fiala played in place of both Holmes and Kirk. This crew should have played a bit better, esp. in bottling the run. C+.
DB: This crew played pretty good overall, but 1 killer play killed them and the team. Facing a 1st and 25, Balt. threw a simple bomb to Ismail. Chad "released" Quadry after about 12 yards, and fully appeared that he expected deep help. Alex never even looked to provide deep help. Just another botched coverage, which plagued this unit last year. The tackling was pretty good, both in run-support as well as RACs. Chad led all Stiller tacklers with 9 solos. B.
Spec Teams: This was a pretty sorry effort by the special teams. Poteat fumbled the opening KO and only by sheer luck did we recover. The coverage teams were soft and spotty, and allowed Lewis some nice yardage, including a long scamper that gave Balt. golden field position after the 2nd half KO. Josh had a chance to pin Balt. deep on one 1st half punt, but instead boomed it into the EZ. Brown missed a very make-able 45-yard FG. To add insult to injury, the punt team had to waste a timeout, which is inexcusable at the pro level. D-.
Off Coord: Some people believe the myth that an offense, and its scheme, can simply be turned on, like the wall-switch for an overhead light. But for the 2nd consecutive preseason, this offense stunk in all phases, and it carried over into the reg. season. An offense must be fine-tuned and calibrated; clearly, this one is nowhere near that point. At the insistence of Kevin Gaypride, they spent the entire 1st half, foolishly trying to prove that they could have success against this Ravens defense with slow counter runs, dinky passes, and a reverse that was shrouded in Braille so that any blind person within 50 miles could read and annihilate. It wasn't until the 2nd half, when they began to spread the field with a shotgun, 1-back formation and throw DOWNFIELD, that we finally moved the ball into scoring range. You think this was sheer coincidence? I don�t think so. Faced with a spread offensive formation, Baltimore had to junk it's 8-man front and heavy blitzes, because there simply aren't enough defenders to defend FOUR receivers and also send 7 or 8 men at the QB. Graham had TIME to throw the ball when we used these spread formations, but this wasn't tried until midway thru the 4th qtr. But as everyone can see, Gilbride is simply an offensive genius. I ask the same question again and again -- "WHAT has Gaypride changed since last year's debacle? And what's been changed since '98?" Answer: NOTHING. We still throw 4-yard outs on 3rd and 9, we still are in love with the screen play, and we still employ the slowest group of "skill players" in Bettis, Witman, and Breuner when we line up in our "base" offense. The tell-tale play, to me, of how poorly this unit has been preparing this summer, was the 4th and goal lob to Plex. One would think, given Plex's size, that this play was rehearsed 28 times a day in preseason. Judging from the hideous timing and type of lob, apparently not. Hey, the QBs were too busy with Gaypride, trying to toss balls into a trash can. F.
Def Coord: Ever go to a movie that had rave reviews, only to walk out disappointed? This is the way I felt with Lewis today. We were fed all this bull about how aggressive Lewis would be. Turns out he's only mildly more aggressive than Mr. Vanilla, Jim Asslet. Facing a QB who is renown for having buttery fingers and fumble problems, Lewis nevertheless allowed Banks gobs of time on most every pass play to peruse the field and thrown unfettered. It was also sad that the defense never seemed to adjust after halftime to the Raven ground attack. C-.
Head Coach: Both the OC and DC have a boss, and his name is Billy Cowher, who approves all gameplans for both sides of the ball. The gameplans for both offense and defense stunk like monkey turds, and Cowhead must shoulder the responsibility for approving them. The team, as it has in every opener the past 6 years, looked miserably unprepared for the task at hand. There simply were too many confused players doing dumb things at inopportune times. Cowhead's team was the only team to have FIVE preseason games, yet his team looked as sloppy as a soup sandwich. And remember that it was Cowhead who stubbornly refused to name Graham the starter, until 5 days prior to this game, rather than 3 WEEKS ago. And Cowher wonders why the offense is out of synch. Cowher is also the one who deactivated DE Staat, while dressing all THREE of his TEs. The D-line was woefully undermanned on this hot day, while the TE position that is rarely used anyway is overstocked with 2 extras dressed in full uniform, doing nothing but riding the pine. And it was Cowher who sent in Stewart on the infamous goal-line failure, to do little more than hand off on line-plunges, 1of which was nearly fumbled away. Cowher will now try to fall back on his excuse of "youth", and will throw 23 different trite sayings at us in the next coupe of days, all in an effort to shield himself from blame and shift it elsewhere. F.
You can't get whipped much worse than this team was today. Not only did Balt. shutout the Stillers at 3 Rivers, but they did it in such a casual, business-like manner, that you almost have to wonder if the Ravens even respect this team at all like they did in years past. (I think not.) This team has LOADS of soul-searching and tinkering to do with the bye week they have next week. The entire offense needs to polish up their basic fundamentals of blocking, throwing, catching, and running. And the schemes used by Gaypride need a hard look; if they haven't worked in 2 seasons, WHY should then suddenly work now? The defense, too, needs to tighten its belt, after smugly putting up gaudy numbers in the preseason, only to be steamrolled by the likes of Priest Holmes. There's not a whole lot to lose, so Lewis needs to scrap this vanilla crap very quickly and get some stones, fer cryin' out loud. It actually isn't that embarrassing to lose to this Raven team, but losing to the Browns in 2 weeks would be sheer and shameful disaster.
The Still Mill