Baltimore vs. Dallas: Report Card Grades for Each Ravens Unit
The Baltimore Ravens have been dominant in the preseason. After a 23-3 win over the San Francisco 49ers in the preseason opener, Baltimore dominated the Dallas Cowboys early on its way to a 37-30 victory.
Like last week, the defense was the story of the game early on. A bad exchange between quarterback Tony Romo and running back DeMarco Murray caused them to fumble the handoff, and Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw picked up the loose ball and took it to the house for six.
It didn't take long for Baltimore to regain the lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Ravens receiver Deonte Thompson returned it 100 yards for the score to put Baltimore up, 14-7.
At that point, Dallas put backup quarterback Brandon Weeden in, and he managed to lead Dallas to one scoring drive that ended with a Dan Bailey 53-yard field goal. From that point on, Baltimore would clamp down on defense and not allow another point in the second half.
Baltimore kept Flacco in the game, and he led the Ravens offense on a six-play drive that ended with a 40-yard field goal by Justin Tucker. Flacco would finish the second-half, and led Baltimore on two more scoring drives. The first of which was a seven-play, 96-yard drive that culminated with a 19-yard touchdown throw to Torrey Smith.
On the next Ravens drive, Flacco led Baltimore on an eight-play, 37-yard drive that ended with a 38-yard field goal to put Baltimore up 27-10 at the half.
The Ravens kept their foot on the peddle coming out of the half. Ravens backup QB Tyrod Taylor was put in, and he proceeded to direct a 10-play TD drive, with rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro running for a three-yard score. That put Baltimore up 34-10, and they would go on to win the game, 37-30.
Baltimore's defense did allow Dallas to get back into the game, and it was clear its depth at several defensive positions is thin to say the least. The Ravens surrendered 397 yards of total offense, including 280 passing yards.
Over the ensuing slides, I'll hand out grades to every Ravens positional group for its performance against the Cowboys.
Against a depleted Dallas secondary, Joe Flacco was expected to have a big game throwing the ball. Dallas was without starting cornerback Morris Claiborne, and this is a Cowboys unit that finished 30th in pass defense last season.
However, Flacco would have a so-so game. He started the game 1-for-7 for four yards passing, and Dallas' defense was holding him in check. As the Cowboys started mixing second-stringers in with their starting defense, Flacco began to got hot.
He finished the game 9-of-17 for 113 yards and one touchdown. Overall, his performance was good, but even Flacco acknowledged he could have been better, via BaltimoreRavens.com
It was definitely a weird situation, but it’s something we could have to deal with any week throughout the season...We came out slow, weren’t really firing on all cylinders and didn’t keep ourselves on the field. But I thought we did a good job of fighting through it, getting some points and putting together a couple good drives – really just battling back and making something good out of it.
Tyrod Taylor was solid in relief of Flacco, going 6-for-8 for 59 yards. The backup was put in the game in the third quarter, and he proceeded to lead the offense on a 10-play touchdown drive, putting Baltimore up 34-10.
The game got close when third-string quarterback Keith Wenning was put in. The rookie sixth-round draft pick couldn't keep the offense moving, and that allowed Dallas to creep back into the game. Wenning did complete two big passes on Baltimore's final offensive drive to run the clock down and help Baltimore escape with the win.
As a team, the Ravens rushed for 151 yards on 31 carries and one score. They controlled the game on the ground, and that was a big reason why they won the game.
Bernard Pierce started the game and rushed for 55 yards on just seven carries. He's going to be the opening-week starter while Ray Rice serves his 2-game suspension. Pierce looks like he wants to keep that starting role, even when Rice returns.
As for Rice, he chipped in 21 yards on two carries, but left the game with a chest injury.
#Ravens RB Ray Rice has a shoulder bruise, according to coach John Harbaugh. "It shouldn't be anything too serious," Harbaugh said.— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) August 17, 2014
Even if it were serious, Rice can't plan in the regular season until Week 3, so he's got plenty of time to heal from this injury.
Rookie running back Lorenzo Tailiafero rushed for 59 yards on 16 rushing attempts. Both were game-highs. He did fumble once, as did Justin Forsett, who got just two carries for 10 yards.
Those are the top four running backs as of now, but none of them can be fumbling like that.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
The Ravens wide receivers were decent against Dallas but could have certainly done more against a secondary that was full of holes last season.
Baltimore receivers combined to catch eight passes against the Cowboys.
Jacoby Jones caught three passes for 49 yards. Marlon Brown caught two passes for 31 yards. Torrey Smith caught a 19-yard touchdown, his lone reception. Jeremy Butler and Steve Smith each caught one pass.
Simply put, Baltimore's receivers need to step up and produce more. Receiver Deonte Thompson did return a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown, but he failed to catch a pass.
As for the tight ends, they combined to catch two passes for 19 yards, so they didn't do much better. Backup Owen Daniels sat out this game, leaving rookie third-rounder Crockett Gillmore to play more in his absence.
He managed to catch just one pass for three yards. Dennis Pitta caught one pass for 16 yards.
The Ravens offensive line played great in terms of the rushing the football. Baltimore's line was consistently opening up big holes and effectively controlled the game with dominant run blocking.
The same cannot be said for the pass protection. Though Joe Flacco wasn't sacked, he did have several plays where pressure came up the middle, forcing him to scramble out of the pocket and throw the ball away. That was a big reason why he was just 1-of-7 passing to start the game. The line also allowed three sacks in the second half.
The Ravens OL should be a big focus heading into the regular season. After all, the line allowed the fourth-most sacks in the NFL last season with 48, a number that has to dramatically improve if Baltimore wants to return to the playoffs.
The Ravens defensive line did great to start the game. They got an early sack on Cowboys backup QB Brandon Weeden and then pressured him into throwing an interception on another drive.
Against the run, Baltimore was giving Cowboys running backs little space to operate.
Things changed as the game went on and the Ravens got deeper into their bench. After building a 34-10 lead, Baltimore's defensive line began surrendering yards. They couldn't get any pressure on the Cowboys and finished the game with just one sack. They also allowed 397 yards of total offense, including 280 passing yards.
The defensive line is fine when it comes to the starters and second-stringers. It's when Baltimore has to go deeper into its bench that problems arise.
The Ravens linebackers were solid both against the run and the pass. The Ravens' first score came after linebacker Courtney Upshaw picked up a Dallas fumble and returned it for a touchdown.
Rookie first-round pick C.J. Mosley finished with a team-high five tackles. Terrell Suggs, Darryl Smith and Arthur Brown each finished with one tackle for loss.
Ravens linebackers were consistently in the backfield making it hard for Cowboys running backs to find room.
As for their pass defense, Baltimore's linebackers did a good job of limiting Dallas' tight ends and running backs. The Ravens linebackers allowed a combined 11 catches and one touchdown to tight ends and backs.
Given that the Cowboys quarterbacks combined to attempt 35 passes, that's pretty good.
This is where the Ravens left a lot to be desired. After building a 34-10 lead, Baltimore's secondary could not stop the cowboys from gashing them through the air.
Harbaugh was disappointed how sloppy second team defense was. Poor tackling, coverage mishaps.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) August 17, 2014
Baltimore entered the game without Lardarius Webb and Asa Jackson, both of whom sat out with injuries. It didn't help matters when starting corner Jimmy Smith left the game with a chest injury.
Jimmy Smith sounded like he was a bit concerned after the game: "I don't know what's wrong with me," he told colleague Mike Preston.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) August 17, 2014
If Smith is out for an extended amount of time, the Ravens secondary is in big trouble. Dallas quarterbacks combined to go 20-of-35 for 280 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception.
That simply won't cut it.
Special teams was a big reason why Baltimore won the game. It started with Deonte Thompson's 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to put Baltimore up 14-7 early in the contest.
Baltimore's coverage unit was suffocating throughout the game. They held Dallas to a mere 17.3 yards per kickoff return and just 3.7 yards on punt returns.
Ravens punters Sam Koch and Richie Leone averaged 45.5 yards on four combined attempts.
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker finished the game 3-of-4, with his lone miss being a 61-yard attempt. He was also 4-of-4 on extra points.