Ravens vs Chiefs: Baltimore's Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 5
Despite scoring no touchdowns, the Baltimore Ravens still managed to eke out a 9-6 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The game was clearly a defensive slugfest, as both defenses refused to allow a touchdown. In many ways, the game was reminiscent of past Ravens teams that were victorious because of a stingy defense that compensated for an anemic offense.
Except for the run defense part. AFC-leading rusher Jamaal Charles had 30 carries for 140 yards as the Chiefs gashed the Ravens for 214 total rushing yards.
Yet even with all the successful runs and winning the time of possession battle, the Chiefs couldn't capitalize on offense. Their four turnovers might have had something to do with it, as Matt Cassel tossed two interceptions and was also credited with two lost fumbles.
Truly an ugly win, there are plenty of reasons for the Ravens and their fans to be concerned following this game. Especially as they had a 10-day rest following their game against Cleveland, yet still much of the team looked flat this week.
Here are the team's winners and losers from this week.
Winner: Sam Koch
It's defensive games like these where unheralded players will tend to get some recognition. In this case, the punter, whose usually insignificant role is greatly increased in defensive struggles.
Sam Koch was his usual consistent self today, as he came out five times. With an average of 39.8 yards, he was outdueled by rivaling Kansas City punter Dustin Colquitt, who averaged 45.2 yards on his five punts.
Still, Koch did his best to help the Ravens win the field position battle. His 56-yard punt midway through the fourth quarter turned out to be pretty instrumental, as he successfully got the ball into Kansas City territory.
Loser: Offensive Line
The entire offensive line put together an awful showing today, with the possible exception of Matt Birk. He at least made a few nice blocks downfield, and he wasn't directly responsible for any hits on Joe Flacco.
The Chiefs defensive front totaled four sacks, as both Tamba Hali and Justin Houston consistently won the battle at the line of scrimmage. Hali is among the best defensive linemen in the AFC, so his two sacks and three quarterback hits weren't too surprising.
However, allowing Hali's lesser-known teammate, Justin Houston, to have two sacks and two quarterback hits is pretty worrying. A lot of that blame can come from the awful play of Kelechi Osemele. He continually gave up pressure on pass plays while also struggling with run blocking and committing two false-start penalties.
Michael Oher and Ramon Harewood contributed to the sacks and missed blocks as well. Oher in particular got beat bad on several rush plays.
As a whole, the offensive line's disappointing showing greatly affected the unit's rhythm. Flacco didn't have time to throw and was spending many plays trying to escape. Thankfully, the line's run-blocking wasn't as bad, as the team's run offense was sometimes the only thing going right on offense.
Winner: Paul Kruger
With his performance against Kansas City, Paul Kruger finally had that breakout game that justifies him as a starting outside linebacker. Amazingly, his performance came in a supporting role, as Kruger was not listed as a starter for this game.
Kruger had five total tackles in the game, three of them for losses and one quarterback hit. He seemed to be all over the field, constantly making plays and trying his hardest to stop Kansas City's run game.
It's possible that this game could be what brings Kruger back as a starting linebacker. Although Courtney Upshaw had a fumble recovery, his day besides that was pretty quiet with only two tackles. Albert McClellan has underwhelmed for the most part as a starter, and today, he only had two tackles as well.
Loser: Run Defense
The days of the Ravens never allowing a 100-yard rusher are long gone. Jamaal Charles nearly had that much by the end of the first quarter.
In fact, today, Charles went on to be the first running back in 14 years to have over 120 rushing yards against the Ravens in one half of play. The last running back to do that was Chicago Bears rusher James Allen, who had 163 rushing yards in a 24-3 victory by the Bears.
Now, Charles is clearly an upper-echelon running back, as he has seemingly fully recovered from his ACL tear to resume his place as one of the best running backs in football. Still, that doesn't excuse the awful tackling by the Ravens run defense.
Ray Lewis looked older and slower, as he seemed unable to keep up with the speed coming out of the Chiefs backfield. Albert McClellan struggled to keep the runs on the outside, and he also had issues tackling. Even Haloti Ngata didn't have the best of days as he was basically neutralized during the game.
Now, it's to be noted that the Ravens defensive adjustments in the second quarter slowed Charles down considerably. In the second half, the Ravens tightened the defensive line and also moved the linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage while not dropping the secondary back as much.
This adjustment worked, with Charles only having 15 rushing yards in the second half. It forced Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn to throw, which resulted in more Ravens takeaways.
Winner: Ray Rice
It was another day where Ray Rice seemed to carry the offense. He had 102 rushing yards on 17 carries.
For the most part, he didn't really break out, with his long being only 37 yards. Still, he moved the chains and provided some stability for the offense, which was helpful with the passing game's struggling. It's also worth noting that the Ravens are 13-2 when Rice has over 100 yards rushing.
Rice's work on the final possession was particularly impressive. At one point, he had three straight runs to pick up a first down and help to run out the clock. It also certainly helped Rice that for the second straight week, he had some relief from Bernard Pierce and some great blocking from Vonta Leach.
Winner: Justin Tucker
The only Ravens player to score today, Justin Tucker deserves credit for his performance on the day. He made all three field goals, all of which were on the shorter side. The longest kick for Tucker came from 39 yards out.
It's rare to win a game where the offense doesn't score a touchdown. The last time the Ravens accomplished that feat was, ironically, five years ago today, when they defeated the San Francisco 49ers 9-7.
Tucker has had a great season, as many weeks, he's appeared as one of the team's winners. It's great that for the most part, he's proved himself a reliable kicker, as he's 11-for-12 on kicks this year. Still, his placement with the winners serves as warning since the Ravens likely won't be winning all that many games if their offense continually settles for field goals.