Re-Education (Through Labor): A Ravens-Rams Week 3 Review
My old JV football coach Tom Haynes used to say, “Good teams beat bad teams badly.”
That’s just what the Baltimore Ravens did this Sunday against the St. Louis Rams: they beat a bad team badly, 37-7.
The same Ravens team that thrashed Pittsburgh in Week 1 was back, and they made the Rams look helpless, particularly in the first half. It was a nice response after the team sleepwalked its way to a loss in Tennessee last week.
Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith sliced up the Rams secondary like they were playing Two-Minute Drill on Madden with the setting on “Rookie.”
The defensive line of Terrell Suggs, Terrence “Mount” Cody, Haloti Ngata and Cory Redding made poor Sam Bradford run around like Papke in “Necessary Roughness” (“Blow the whistle! BLOW THE WHISTLE!!”).
The Rams were able to get some plays in the second half, but by then, the Ravens eased off the throttle up 30-0. The Ravens did exactly what they should have done against the Rams, and probably should have done to the Titans last week.
---It was a Randy Moss-esque performance by the rookie Smith, who scored touchdowns on his first three catches as a pro.
The Ravens brought Smith in to play the Mike Wallace role: the burner who can stretch the field and make safeties back off while Anquan Boldin, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta and Ray Rice worked the underneath stuff. When he struggled out of the gate in preseason, the Ravens traded for Lee Evans to fill the role.
A lot of fans were ready to write Smith off as a bust after a sluggish preseason and exactly TWO NFL games. This is one of those cases where the Ravens fanbase makes me tear my hair out. How on earth can you write off a guy as a bust after two freaking games? Name another rookie wide receiver in the last 15 years, besides Randy Moss, to light it up in his first year?
Making things even rougher on Smith was the fact that because of the lockout, he missed out on a ton of reps with Flacco in OTAs.
And yet, some members of the Ravens World Order wanted to call Smith the second coming of Travis Taylor.
Then again, this was the same band of dopes that have wanted Flacco benched at various times and that wanted Chris Redman to start the playoffs over Trent Dilfer in 2000.
---Speaking of Flacco, he had a nice bounce-back game after the debacle in Nashville last week. Much of that had to do with the offensive line being better in protecting him, but Flacco manipulated the pocket very well: stepping up, rolling out and either throwing it away or taking off running when he didn’t have anything.
Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but why is Matt Ryan put into the “elite” class of quarterbacks by the football punditry, yet Flacco is not? Their regular season numbers are almost identical.
But deeper than that, Ryan plays at least nine games a year in a dome (eight in his home stadium, one in New Orleans), never has to face the Steelers defense two to three times a season, never has to face Peyton Manning or Tom Brady in the playoffs and, most importantly, has never won a playoff game.
Meanwhile, Flacco has to play in cold weather in November and December, has to face arguably the best defense in the league up to three times a season, has beaten Brady in a playoff game and has won four road playoff games.
And yet, whom do the ESPN types run to? Ryan and Tony Romo. Between them they have ONE playoff win. Call me when they get to four.
---I know people find it funny when a big man runs with the football, but Ngata legitimately looked like a guy that could tote the rock if they gave him the shot. He looks like the world’s most fearsome rugby player. Now if Mount Cody started running with the ball – that would be funny.
---I know coach John Harbaugh’s mantra this year has been to finish games. It’s understandable after the team blew a lot of leads last season. Blowing a double-digit lead to Pittsburgh is what cost them a shot at the Super Bowl. It’s important to get the team into the mindset that it must crush opponents instead of letting them hang around.
Harbaugh took some heat after Week 1 for still attacking the Steelers even though the Ravens were up 32-7. That one I didn’t mind so much; besides Pittsburgh’s history of comebacks against the Ravens, it was important to send a message to the Steelers that said, “We’re better than you, and we can do this any time we feel like it.”
But what in the world is to be gained by leaving Flacco in a 30-7 game with five minutes to go against an opponent you see every four years? I know Harbaugh said it was to help get Joe’s timing down with young receivers like Tandon Doss and La’Quan Williams, but if there was ever a time to bring Taylor in and give him experience, this was the place.
To me, I think you have to find out what you have in Taylor when you have the chance. After all, the Ravens are just one hit away from him being the starting quarterback. As Indianapolis has proven this year, if you don’t have a capable backup quarterback, you’re sunk.
Flacco, like Manning for Indy, has been remarkably durable in his short career, but you never know. You should know whether your backup is capable of picking up the torch if need be and the only way you find that out is by getting him some reps when the opportunity is there.
---The AFC North, hell the whole AFC, is there for the taking if the Ravens that showed up in weeks 1 and 3 show up on a consistent basis.
Within the division, Pittsburgh’s offensive line is a mess, Cleveland is still young and Cincinnati looks dead on arrival.
Around the AFC, there’s no Manning to worry about, New England’s defense looks shoddy, Buffalo and Oakland haven’t been on the big stage yet, Houston has a knack for imploding, Tennessee just lost their best receiver for the season and the Chargers are still coached by Norv Turner.
We’ll get a good litmus test this coming Sunday night to see if this team can take over the AFC when Rex Ryan comes back to town with his New York Jets. There is bound to be a Super Bowl-like atmosphere around the game, and Rex is sure to provide some sort of fodder for the media.
The test will be if the Ravens can block that out and give the Jets the same treatment they gave the Steelers and Rams.