Ten Things We Learned from the Baltimore Ravens' First Game

Derek KreinerContributor ISeptember 14, 2009

10: The Baltimore Ravens' Front Office Is Still Very, Very Good 

I know that doesn't come as a shock to anyone in Baltimore, but Ozzie can still get it done. 

Besides the obvious contributions from last year's first and second round draft picks, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice respectively, the Ravens first pick in the draft from 2001-2009 all played in this game, and all but one (Dwan Edwards 2004) started.

This list includes, Todd Heap, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Mark Clayton, Haloti Ngata, Ben Grubbs, Joe Flacco, and Michael Oher.

With the amount of turnover, and attrition in today's NFL, it's amazing that all of these players are still in the league, let alone still with the team that drafted them and making significant contributions. In fact, it's hard to imagine the Ravens without any of these players.

I know it's early, but the 2008 NFL Draft could soon be held near the same standard as the 1996 NFL Draft that yielded Ray Lewis and Jonathon Ogden. The Ravens' first three picks in 2008 Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and Tavaris Gooden all played, and all played well for the Ravens in their first game of the season. 

Interesting side note: I'm sure you've all heard by now, but the kicker the Ravens were targeting after the draft was Ryan Succop, who the Kansas City Chiefs selected with the last pick of the draft. Today he was 3-for-3 on extra points, and hit a 53-yard field goal. Not a bad debut.


9: Alot of People Gave up Too Early on Willis McGahee

While the numbers won't wow you: 10 rushes for 44 yards, and four receptions for 31 yards, McGahee showed today that he can still play. 

He ran hard between the tackles and showed a burst to the outside, and added two touchdowns as the icing on the cake. Those of us, myself included, who were ready to show him the door after last year, may be eating crow at the end of this year if he continues on this pace.

Sadly, if he continues to have a year like this, it's likely he won't be a Raven next year.


8: Staying with the Running Game: Ray Rice Is the Real Deal 

This player's line will impress you: 19 rushes for 109 yards and two receptions for 12 yards. 

Ray Rice showed us he is dangerous in space, and despite his small stature can play in this league and play at a high level. While I would avoid being overconfident about either back based on a very weak Kansas City defense, it's clear that at least against poor defensive units, the Ravens will be able to run the ball, and run it well.

Now all we have to see is Rice find the end zone.


7: Todd Heap May Have Finally Gotten out of Coach Harbough's Doghouse

It's starting to show on the field.

With his best outing in recent memory (that catch against Tennessee in the divisional round notwithstanding) with five catches for 74 yards and a touchdown, Todd Heap may be reviving his career.

It's often said that the tight end is a young quarterback's best friend, and while his presence was missing last year, it was sure felt today. Back to making those tough catches over the middle and dragging defenders with him into the end zone, it was a good thing to see. 

Time will only tell if his body can hold up after years of poor quarterback play have subjected his body to some massive hits.


6: Jarrett Johnson Disappeared Down the Stretch Last Year

It may be just me, but it seemed as if Jarrett Johnson disappeared a bit down the stretch, last year. Well he reminded us all that we can't forget about him today. 

With two sacks, and some pressure on the quarterback, along with a questionable roughing the passer penalty, Johnson provided the pass rush for the Baltimore Ravens. Admittedly, the rest of the unit wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be.


5: As tough as It Is To Say, the Defense May Have Taken a Step Back 

I know it's hard to make judgements based on just one game, but it seems as if the unit that was previously known for bending, and not breaking is now an "only break once you bend unit". 

After a dominant first and mostly second quarter, Kansas City seemed to find a rhythm against this defense.

While it could be said that the defense really only gave up 17 points (not counting the blocked punt and the time the Chiefs got the ball on the six yard line), I feel that 17 points from one of the weakest offenses last year, with a backup quarterback, a makeshift offensive line, a running back with absolutely no tread left on his tires, and only one legitimate receiving threat, is too much for an elite defense to give up.


4: Lucky for the Defense, We Saw What May be the Start of a New Era in Baltimore

The Offense was without a doubt the story today. 

Setting a franchise record with 501 total yards, and while many will look down on this accomplishment because it came against a bad Chiefs defense, I will just point out that the Ravens have played bad defenses before, and never came up with this type of yardage and efficiency. 

303 yards passing, 198 yards rushing, and a 58 percent conversion rate on third down are incredible numbers for an offense that just needed to keep the defense in the game in years past. 

Key Stat: Time of possession was in the Ravens favor nearly 2-1 with a final line of 39:49 to 20:11. With an aging defense who may need a little more time to catch their wind then in previous years this will be vital down the line. 

Win time of possession and you will win most games.


3: Someone Needs To Step up on Special Teams

With three men who can return kicks and punts in Ed Reed, Lardarius Webb, and Chris Carr on this team, someone needs to step up and provide explosive plays. 

Preferably, it should be Chris Carr who was signed mainly for his return skills. I really don't like to see Ed Reed back there returning, as explosive as he is, the injury risk for one of the premiere players in the NFL just seems too great. 


2: There Won't be a Sophomore Slump for Joe Flacco

I'll stand up and admit it, until this game today there was a seed of doubt in my mind if Joe Flacco was the real deal. 

There was never any doubt he had the poise to play in the NFL, but I doubted if he would become a truly elite passer, and from what we saw in Week One, he is on his way. 

I'm sure you've all seen the numbers, but here they are again: 26-of-43 for 307 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. That is good for a 60 percent completion rating, and he showed the athleticism to move in the pocket, and pick up yards on the ground if need be. 

That touchdown pass to Willis McGahee was pure sandlot football and he showed athleticism to dodge defenders and make the plays that have caused Ravens fans so much heartache over the years coming from Ben Roethlisberger.

Without a doubt there is room for improvement, but Flacco showed us all that he has made major strides going into his second year.


1: Times Are Changing in Baltimore

43 passes in a victory.  I never thought I would see that from the Ravens any time soon. 

While the final stat line will show a much more balanced approach with 43 passes and 41 rushes, the Ravens were predominantly pass heavy in the first half, and many of those rushes came toward the end when the Ravens were trying to salt this one away. 

The offense was not just competent, they were superb, and kept this team in the game when the defense faltered. It will take time to get used too not having that sinking feeling when the Ravens are down by seven in the fourth quarter and that the offense will find a way to lose this one. 

I even felt that unease when the Ravens were down early in the fourth quarter, but hopefully that feeling will be replaced with a confidence that with the ball in our offense's hands, we have a shot to win and we know that we will at least make it close. 


Great game Ravens, and as always, any comments or critiques are appreciated. Hopefully, I will be writing again next week.


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