Ravens vs. Eagles: Baltimore's Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 2
Sometimes the turnover battle and stat sheet don't tell the whole story of a football game. The Baltimore Ravens had such an experience in their 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles despite forcing four turnovers and holding a 10-point lead into the third quarter.
The new no-huddle offense that the Ravens so proudly showcased just six days ago fell back to earth today against the Eagles. After putting up 17 points in the first half, the Ravens only scored two field goals in the second half.
The Eagles, meanwhile, when they weren't turning the ball over, were very opportunistic in the second half. Michael Vick threw for 371 yards and also ran in the game-winning touchdown. With the offense continually coming up empty in the second half, the game fell on the defense and ultimately they came just short of protecting the lead.
This is now the third year in a row that the Ravens have come up flat and lost their Week 2 game after an emotional Week 1 victory. It's a disturbing trend in the Harbaugh era as the Ravens clearly have serious difficulty keeping their intensity intact after emotional victories.
This week saw a team that looked like a Super Bowl contender look surprisingly ordinary. Here's a look at the team's winners and losers after this disappointing loss.
Winner: Vonta Leach
Vonta Leach is one of those players who usually does his best work under the radar. He's a great run-blocker, arguably the best run-blocking fullback in the NFL.
Today was a little different, though, as the Ravens got Leach involved in both the passing game and the running game. He had one rush for five yards that scored the Ravens' first touchdown of the day. He also had one reception for six yards early in the game.
Now that's not a lot for offensive players, but for a fullback like Leach, it's a little different than his usual role. He didn't touch the ball in the second half but he returned back to doing what he does best. His blocking helped Ray Rice rush for 99 yards on the day.
Loser: Jacoby Jones
Although he had an impressive 21-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, Jacoby Jones did pretty much nothing else the rest of the game. The touchdown was his only reception of the game, a fact that is extra painful in light of what happened in the fourth quarter.
Jones had a crucial touchdown grab in the fourth quarter that looked like it had changed the tide of the game. However, the play was taken back as he was called for pass interference on the play.
It was a questionable call by the officials, one of a couple in a game with pretty spotty officiating. Still Jones could have erased the shadow of doubt by not being aggressive on the play. The first two weeks of the regular season have shown that Jones is now an important part of the Ravens offense, which will hopefully give him a chance to redeem himself from his disappointing end in this game.
Winner: Bernard Pollard
Bernard Pollard was all over the place today, as he racked up four tackles. He also got one of the Ravens' two sacks against Michael Vick.
Pollard made the biggest impact, though, during the Eagles' first offensive drive. He intercepted Vick in the red zone, preventing the Eagles from scoring first.
The question after this game is at what cost did Pollard play so well? He suffered a chest injury while making the sack against Vick. After the play, he left to the locker room to get X-rays on his chest and he did not return to the game.
Pollard is a key player on this defense so they have to hope that he'll be back soon. If not, then James Ihedigbo will have to take over as starting strong safety. Ihedigbo had two tackles today, and although he impressed a little with the New England Patriots last year, he is largely unproven.
Loser: Offensive Play-Calling in the Second Half
It would be easy to put this blame on Joe Flacco or on the usual scapegoat, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. I think that blame needs to be passed around to the majority of the offense after the way they fell apart in the second half.
Of Flacco's 232 passing yards in the game, only 82 came in the second half. The Ravens had three three-and-outs in the second half, not including the awful final drive where the Ravens failed to convert on 4th-and-1.
It's also really baffling why like in so many other Ravens losses, Cameron seemed to forget about Ray Rice. Rice was having a great game with 99 rushing yards, and he had six catches for 53 yards. He had nine carries and one reception in the entirety of the second half.
The run game was working pretty well against the Eagles ,so it's surprising the Ravens abandoned it. Understandably, late in the fourth quarter you have to pass it some. Still, Rice could have had more carries earlier in the fourth and especially in the third where the Ravens seemed unable to even sniff a first down.
Winner: Justin Tucker
It's not usually a good thing when the kicker is the best offensive player on the field for the team. Yet today the sensational day by Justin Tucker was almost enough to lift the Ravens to victory.
He made three field goals from distances of 56, 51 and 46 yards, respectively. The 56-yard kick tied the mark for longest field goal in franchise history.
Even as a undrafted rookie, Tucker has yet to make the Ravens feel any remorse for choosing him over Billy Cundiff this summer. He has yet to miss a kick in either the preseason or the regular season.
It's not a certainty, but the Ravens had to like his chances of making a game winner if they could have driven just a few more yards at the end of the game.
Loser: Replacement Refs
It's starting to become the go-to complaint for NFL fans to blame their losses on the replacement refs. It's become abundantly clear that these refs do not know the game as well as the regular ones, and their weekly errors have already become tiresome. Maybe Ed Hochuli and Walt Coleman weren't so bad after all.
There were countless questionable calls for both teams in the game. Plus early on, brawls were nearly breaking out between Ravens and Eagles players and there was a sense that the refs were entirely unable to control them.
Having two two-minute warnings, counting Michael Vick's intentional grounding as an incomplete pass, the Jacoby Jones touchdown that was called back. None of these plays singlehandedly lost the game for the Ravens, but they didn't help.
These refs are out of their element, and I think it's safe to say that everyone will win if an agreement can be reached with the regular refs.