This article is part of a segment on The Baltimore Feather, called, Ravens Retrospective Review. In this series, we take an in-depth look at how the Baltimore Ravens performed in their game a few days earlier. In this edition of Ravens Retrospective Review, we delve deep into Baltimore’s much-needed win, on the road against the Oakland Raiders.
Ravens Retrospective Review: Ravens vs Raiders
Unless you live under a rock, you probably have heard by now that the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Oakland Raiders, in Oakland. The performance shocked the NFL world, as the Ravens dropped 30 points on the Raiders. For context, the Ravens scored just 16 points combined in their previous two games before Sunday. From the start of the game, it was obvious that the offense’s performance compared to the last couple of weeks was night and day. The defense also seemed to return to form, with a solid performance against the Raiders. Against EJ Manuel and the Raiders offense, the Ravens defense let up just 17 points. In contrast, the Ravens gave up 70 points combined in the last two games. By now you may be asking, “How did the Ravens manage to wake up, and play like an actual NFL team?”. Well, my good readers, I have the answer right here for you.
Ravens Offensive Performance
From the first play of the game, it was obvious the Ravens offense was a completely different version of the offense of the first quarter of the season. On the very first play of the game, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg dialed up a big-time play. Quarterback Joe Flacco dropped back in the pocket and immediately found receiver Mike Wallace for a 52 yard gain. This play was obviously a statement from the Ravens to both the Raiders, and to the beloved Ravens Flock that the offense was here to play. The Ravens would go on to score a touchdown later that drive.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) October 8, 2017
Unlike past weeks, the Ravens passing attack proved to be much more lucrative throughout the game. Later on, in the first quarter, the Ravens offense faced a third and five situation. Joe Flacco lost his balance during the play, and it looked like the Ravens would lose 10 yards. However, Flacco was able to miraculously get up and find Jeremy Maclin for the first down. This insane play highlights the contrast from Flacco in the first quarter of this season, to his performance on Sunday. In the first part of the season, Flacco looked lethargic, and it seemed like he couldn’t make plays. On Sunday, however, Flacco showed his athletic and playmaking abilities throughout the game. Those abilities were highlighted in this, outstanding play.
If you’re still not convinced that the Ravens passing attack had a field day, here’s some more proof. With 7:32 left in the 2nd quarter, Joe Flacco shot another deep missile to Mike Wallace, this time for a 54 yard gain, to the Oakland 8 yard line. Then, late in the third quarter, Joe Flacco tossed yet another bomb towards Mike Wallace who hauled it in for a 27-yard gain, to the Oakland 27 yard line. Obviously, Mike Wallace had quite the day, and we decided to name him our Player of the Game.
— TheBaltimoreFeather (@bmorefeather) October 8, 2017
So aside from playcalling (which was superb all day from offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg), how did the Ravens offense transform so drastically? Well, the answer is actually pretty simple. The offensive line played like a winning unit. Throughout the first four games of the season, the Ravens offensive line was shaky at best. Flacco was sacked nine times in the first four games. Flacco was also under heavy pressure for much of the time in those four games. Obviously, most quarterbacks won’t play very well under heavy pressure, and Flacco is no exception. Flacco threw at least one interception in each of those four games. However, when the pressure was relieved against Oakland, Flacco suddenly played at a much higher level. Flacco was never sacked against Oakland and threw no interceptions. Flacco had his highest completion rate of the season at 73.1%, his highest average yards per pass of the season at 8.54 yards per attempt, his longest pass of the season for 54 yards, and his highest quarterback rating of the season, 98.6. Obviously, the data points to one, obvious correlation. When the offensive line plays well, Joe Flacco plays well.
Note the pressure in this play:
.@RyanShazier out here running routes like a WR.
PIT 19 | BAL 9 pic.twitter.com/T0jkcUGEQU
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 1, 2017
No Ravens offense would be complete without a rushing attack, and Baltimore made sure to include the rushing attack in their stellar offensive performance on Sunday. The Ravens on the ground on Sunday rushed for a total of 143 yards, scoring two touchdowns. Buck Allen touched the ball 21 times, rushing for 73 yards, and Alex Collins got the ball 12 times rushing for 55 yards. Tight end Vince Mayle even got in on the action, getting a handoff at the two-yard line, and taking it in for a touchdown. The Ravens offensive line can be pointed to as a key factor in Baltimore’s rushing attack being so lucrative, but they shouldn’t take all the credit. When Terrance West went down with an injury early in the game, Buck Allen and Alex Collins stepped up to the plate. Buck Allen was able to score a touchdown, extending the Ravens lead to 21-3. Alex Collins also had a great game, with a 25-yard rush, and no fumbles. Losing the ball has been an issue for Collins, and him holding onto the ball all game is a great sign for the Ravens. The Ravens ground game provided great stability for the Ravens offense throughout the entire game, giving them an added edge on Oakland.
Ravens Defensive Performance
Just like the Ravens offense, the Ravens defense proved early on that they came ready to battle. On the first defensive drive of the game, just after the Ravens scored their first touchdown, the defense made a massive play. EJ Manuel dropped back on first down and threw a quick screen pass to tight end, Jared Cook. Big mistake. Ravens linebacker Patrick Onwuasor was all over Cook, and Cook fumbled the ball. Cornerback Jimmy Smith then proceeded to make one of the best plays of his career. He grabbed the football and took off running in the opposite direction. He made it all the way to the end zone, untouched, giving the Ravens a 14-0 lead over the Raiders.
Although the Ravens failed to pick off EJ Manuel, the secondary held up well against the Raiders. Manuel was held to just a 50% completion rate, 159 yards passing, and one touchdown. Just one year ago, the secondary would have been considered a weakness for the Ravens, and now it is a strength for Baltimore. The depth is a huge part of what makes the Ravens secondary great. Jimmy Smith, who returned the fumble for a touchdown, played just 7 snaps. Normally, a team would be in deep trouble if they kept out their top cornerback for that many plays. However, the Ravens put rookie Marlon Humphrey in his place. Humphrey, Baltimore’s first-round pick from this year’s NFL draft, played lights out. The depth Baltimore has in the secondary is a key factor in this defense. Without it, the Ravens could not hold strong against opposing passers like they did this past Sunday.
The Ravens pass rush was also crucial in their win against the Raiders. In my Preview and Predictions for this game, I said that the Ravens defense must pressure Raiders quarterback EJ Manuel if they want to leave victorious. Apparently, defensive coordinator Dean Pees took my advice. The Ravens pass rush barraged EJ Manuel with pressure for much of the game. The Ravens defense was able to bring down Manuel three times. One sack came from Terrell Suggs, who is off to a great start to the season with four sacks and two forced fumbles. The other two sacks came from more unlikely sources, however. Both safeties Anthony Levine Sr. and Tony Jefferson were able to sack EJ Manuel during the game. The unpredictability of the Ravens pass rush is a great strength for the defense. If the quarterback is kept guessing on where the pressure is going to come from, he won’t be able to predict where the pass rush is coming from. This gives Baltimore the edge on opposing quarterbacks and offenses.
Let's watch that Sizzle sack a few times, shall we? pic.twitter.com/1VIaJNDRgH
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) October 8, 2017
Finally, we come to the Ravens front seven, and their run stuffing abilities. Just like all the other positional groups, they had a bad outing the past two games. However, unlike the rest, they really didn’t bounce back in this game. Between four different rushers, the Raiders gained 108 yards on the ground. Oakland’s leading rusher, Marshawn Lynch had a good day compared to his previous couple of games. He carried the ball 12 times and rushed for 43 yards, and a touchdown. His previous two games saw him amassing just 30 yards combined on the ground. The other main running back for the Raiders, Jalen Richard, rushed nine times for 37 yards. The Ravens defense held these two to a combined average of 3.8 yards per carry during the game. This statistic points to decent play, but it doesn’t tell the full story. For a couple of drives in the third quarter, it appeared that the Ravens could not stop Oakland’s rushing attack at all. Obviously, the absence of defensive tackle Brandon Williams is a huge drawback for the Ravens. He is one of the best-run stuffers in the NFL, and the Ravens without him are missing a huge piece of their defense. Luckily for the Ravens, it was already too late for the Raiders to really do any damage on the ground. There was simply not enough time left for a comeback led by the rushing attack, and the Raiders had to focus on other ways of scoring. In the future though, the Ravens won’t be so lucky. They need to address their issues with preventing the run and improve on it as soon as possible.
Grown-man run, @EJManuel3.
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) October 8, 2017
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) October 8, 2017
Overall, the Ravens win was fueled by a rejuvenated offense and a stout defense. Play calling on the offense was exceptional, but the most impactful performance came from the offensive line. Their strength and fortitude gave quarterback Joe Flacco enough time and protection to establish a productive passing attack. The offensive line also paved the way for the Ravens ground attack to be as strong as it was. On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens pass rush was able to pressure quarterback EJ Manuel enough to make him feel uncomfortable. The secondary played at a very high level throughout most of the game, as well. The only disappointment came from the Brandon Williamsless defensive front seven, who failed to effectively shut down the Raiders ground game. For their outstanding performance, the Ravens get an A- grade from me. Hopefully, they will be able to carry this performance into next week, when they face the Chicago Bears, in Baltimore.