Stillers-Ravens Post-game analysis:
This was precisely the tight squeaker that I anticipated. We came off a laughable blowout over a pitiful expansion team, and the Ravens were playing their home opener after embarrassing themselves in St. Louis last week. While most folks thought we'd have another cakewalk, I expected a hard fought game. Fortunately enough, we were able to hang tough and withstand a solid Raven effort. (Grades follow at end of each paragraph)
QB: Kordell's final numbers (18-27, 138 yards, 0 INT) don't look all that shabby, but numbers lie. The Western Union Man had a subpar day. He foolishly forced more than a couple passes into tight coverage, double coverage, triple coverage, and so on. His footwork sucked, he again refused to throw DOWNFIELD on the run, and he assininely stepped BACK and took a safety (only the refs botched the ball and spotted the ball just outside the goal line). A few passes were fluttery wobblers. He ran solidly with the ball, but this was not the kind of performance that convinces me this man has turned the corner in his pro career. B-.
RB: The Bus was bottled up the entire day, gaining less than 3 YPC and never making any sort of impact in the game. Hunt had a nice day, rushing 10-49 and catching 2 passes. His 17-yd TD scamper was a beaute, in which he beat Rod Woodson to the corner and raced down the sideline for the TD. Jon Wittman, the Million Dollar Man & multi-purpose whiz kid, showed his multi purpose talents today. He ran the ball and also caught a pass. He ran for zero yards on 1 carry, and caught 1 pass for a whopping 1 yard. Now that's versatility, folks. This is the talented versatility we saw when we signed him to the multi-year, multi-million dollar deal. As for his blocking, Wittman was stacked more than Pamela Anderson. On at least 4 occasions, Wittman lead-blocked, only to be stacked UP at the line by a Raven defender. Worse, all too often, Bettis literally ran AWAY from Wittman's lead block, presumably to avoid getting blasted by Lewis and Company. To add salt to the wound, the overpaid stiff committed a dumbassed PI penalty. B.
WR: This was a solid effort all around from this crew. Hawk led the way, and Ward had a nice grab when he "out rebounded" a DB for a 50-50 ball. Troy had a couple nice plays, including a clutch 1 right before the game winning FG. 1 overall gripe would be that these men weren't getting open downfield, or those plays weren't being called, as most passes were short and medium stuff. Ward blocked his ass off today. My only fear is that Field Goal Bill will become infatuated with Ward's blocking, and move him to BWB (blocking wingback). A-.
TE: Breuner, the tackle eligible, caught 1 pass for 1 yard in the 2d qtr. In the 4th, on what appeared to be a RB screen, a surprised Bruener caught another ball for 3 yards. 2 catches, 4 yards. Now THAT is impact play from your multi-million dollar TE. His blocking was very good today, though he did commit a jackassed illegal-hand-to-face penalty. B+.
OL: Not sure how else to say it, but the line play flat out stunk today. Sure, Faneca missed a lot of action, so Duffy had to play. But the line allowed too much penetration on run plays, and got little push at the point of attack. The pass protection was ok, but leaky at times. Even Dawson had a very spotty game today, getting beaten a fair bit. All in all, an entirely unacceptable effort today. C+.
DL: The DL was a bit soft in the 1st half, allowing Rhett to run at will. Things tightened up considerably in the 2d half. Harrison, as is his nature, committed a dumbassed personal foul penalty. The pocket push was only average; only rarely was the pocket collapsed from non-blitz pressure. Henry had a solid day. B.
LB: Kirkland led the way with 7 solos, and was all over the field (not quite as much as Ray Lewis, but still pretty good). Holmes had 5 solos, but seemed quiet a good bit of the game, and was missing on 1 of the long runs. Gildon and Emmons each recorded sacks. Gildon actually earned his, doing the wide-loop rush and skirting around the slowfooted RT to sack Mitchell. Emmons got a Dong Sack by coming in totally untouched, but at least he had the presence to strip the ball and cause a fumble. Emmons had another sack erased by a Steeler penalty, but this probably would have also qualified as a Dong Sack, as the TE whiffed badly on his block and Emmons went in unscathed. The run stuffing of the OLBs was thoroughly inadequate. The Ravens simply allowed the Pitter Pat Brothers, Gildon and Emmons, to run upfield wide, and they ran off-tackle thru GAPING holes. Joey Porter, because of his rookie status, barely played the entire game. B.
DB: Aside from a foolish 5-yd facemask, DeWayne was the DB of the game, snaring 2 INTs, including a spectacular INT on a long bomb. This was as good an INT as you'll see in the NFL. Davis made some hard hits, but also missed some tackles, including 1 on the long Rhett run. Chad played tentative and soft, missing a few tackles and playing soft pass defense. Flowers got hurt, as did Oldman. Shields nearly had an INT. The overall play was solid, until the final Raven drive, when Case picked them apart badly. That hurts the grade a lil', as does the easiness of playing against such a pitiful QB like Mitchell. B.
Spec Teams: Brown won the game with a clutch 36-yd FG. He also made FGs from 32 and 28. His KOs were mostly good, though there was 1 terrible liner and a couple short spinners. The KO coverage sucked the big red salami, nearly giving up a TD (Shaw saved the TD) on 1 return and giving up good yardage on another. Josh almost always punted OOB to keep the ball from J. Lewis. Troy was quiet in the return game, and even FC 1 punt on his own 7. Will Jackwell finally did something, making 2 big KO returns, including the 1 that set up the game-winning FG. Maybe the Ravens will trade for Jackwell, since 3 of the only 4 big plays in his entire career have come in this stadium. A.
Offensive Coord: Kevin Gilbride showed today that he has mastered the offense. The Ray Sperman offense, that is. Whatever this bullshit was about stretching the field, going downfield, and so on, was no more factual than a deposition with Bill Clinton. Gilbride returned to us the Nickel and Dime Offense, with nearly every pass going for short stuff or medium stuff of about 12 yards. Not once was the pigskin flung downfield any further than about 20 yards the entire day. We re-introduced the 3d down passes well short of the sticks a few times. Even the old 1-yard out-pass to Jon Wittman -- long a favorite of Gay Ray --- was dusted off and used today. I was disappointed in the refusal to incorporate Bruener into the game today, as well as a failure to use those 4 & 5 WR sets to go downfield. I also get annoyed on plays like the 3d & 8 pass to Troy, in which Stewart threw after about 4 secs in the pocket, which gained -4 yards. Negative 4 yards. Troy caught the pass and was immediately smothered. The thing to ask is: What the fuck is your dangerous WR doing 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage on 3d down and 8??
We scored 23 points, but look again at the gratuitous field position of our scores:
1st TD: 35 yard drive
2d TD: 80-yard drive
1st FG: Began at Balt. 24, moved 11 yards.
2d FG: Began at own 44.
3d FG: began at midfield.
Only the 2d TD was a quality march; all other scores came off golden field position. And of the 8 possessions in the 2d half, 5 ended in punts (4 of those were "3 and out"), and 3 in FGs. Considering that the 2d half is when ballgames are won and lost, this is pretty piss poor. C.
Def Coord: Jim Asslet did an ok job, though for the 2d week in a row, he had the luxury of facing the equivalent of an 11th grade QB. Mitchell's gross incompetence made Asslet's job as enviable as being a recruiter for a Las Vegas strip bar. Allowing Rhett to run wild the way he did in the 1st half was unacceptable, and Asslet must shoulder at least some of the blame. The softy defense that allowed the Ravens to tie the score late in the game must also partially be blamed on Asslet. C+.
Head Coach: Field Goal Bill obviously influenced some of the FG turtle-ing that occurred in the 2d half. And, he really didn't have his men even 1/10th as fired up as he did on national TV last week. B.
Synopsis: We can breath a big sigh of relief over this game. I believe there's some negative and positives to be gleaned from this game. On the negative side, we have yet to face an opponent who will even sniff the playoffs, and we wilted considerably today under an attacking defense -- the same kind of attacking defense (like New England's) that has given us fits. And, our defense got shredded on the ground in the 1st half, and then stood around against an anemic pass offense & allowed the Ravens to march 72 yards for the late game-tying TD. On the positive side, we won a division game on the road, which is huge for playoff contention. We are now 2-0, and more importantly, 2-0 in our division. A home win next week versus Seattle sets the table nicely for the week #4 visit by Jax. Improvements must be made, but it's not out of the realm of possibility to be sitting 4-0. Check in here later this week for my Steeler-Seattle pregame outlook.
The Still Mill