Ravens' Week 4 Grades: Use More Rice

XXX XXXContributor IOctober 5, 2009

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 04:  Ray Rice #27  of the Baltimore Ravens carries the ball in the second half against the New England Patriots on October 4, 2009 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)


Quarterback: B

Flacco was cool under pressure and made a lot of nice throws to the sideline, including one key third down on which he was forced to hit Heap while rolling to his left.

He was shaky early and threw a couple passes directly off of Pats defenders, notably hitting Gary Guyton in the head and putting a perfect pass into Shawn Springs’s chest. The lone interception appeared to be a miscommunication with Mark Clayton on the route.

The final drive was well-managed and Flacco made enough throws to put the team in a position to win the game. 


Running backs: B+

Ray Rice is a dynamo with the ball in his hands and should probably get at least 18 touches per game no matter how the game is going.  If they need to hit him on screens and checkdowns to get him going, so be it.

He also made a few nice blitz pickups to give Flacco time in the pocket.  Willis McGahee was essentially a non-factor and failed to pick up a key fourth-and-one late in the game, although Ty Warren was in the backfield almost instantly on the play. The Ravens should have run the ball more than 17 times.


Receivers: C

As good as Derrick Mason and Todd Heap were, Mark Clayton was equally bad.  Mason was dominant on the game’s opening drive and came back after appearing to have the wind knocked out of him.

Heap made clutch catches and got open when he needed to.  Clayton caught just 5 of his 10 targets and most notably dropped a pass that hit him in the numbers and essentially ended the game.


Offensive Line: B-

Despite losing Jared Gaither in the second quarter to a scary neck injury, the line gave Flacco time to throw for most of the game.  Flacco was sacked just twice on 47 passing attempts, a ratio that has to be encouraging for a young offense.

There were running lanes when the team called run plays, but the inability to drive Ty Warren off the ball on fourth-and-one really hurt the Ravens late in the game.


Defensive Line: A

The Pats rushed 30 times for just 85 total yards, which comes out to 2.8 yards per carry.  That’s a highly impressive stat, especially considering that at times the line gave up large chunks of yardage on draw/delay type plays.

They also sacked Brady three times after the Pats’ franchise QB had gone down just once in his first three games. Haloti Ngata is one of the best defensive tackles in the league.


Linebackers: B+

These guys made a bunch of tackles and kept the Pats from getting much of anything going on run or short pass plays. 

Ray Lewis led the group with 14 tackles, and Jarret Johnson and Brendon Ayanbadejo were both very good, although Ayanbadejo left with what is being called a torn left quadriceps, which would effectively end his season. That’s a huge blow to the Ravens’ defense.

Lewis should not be covering receivers, especially Welker, outside of the hashmarks.


Defensive backs: C

Although Brady threw for 258 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of over 100, the defensive backs were merely not very good as opposed to miserable. 

Following the win over the Chargers two weeks ago, it would not have been surprising to see Brady throw for 350 yards against the team’s undersized corners.  Ed Reed made a few nice open-field tackles as the last line of defense.


Special teams: C

Sam Koch punted well, but Steve Hauschka needs to get his kickoffs deeper.  Too many times the ball flutters down around the five.  The contrast was especially evident as Pats’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski continually put the ball deep in the endzone. 

Chris Carr’s fumble on the opening kickoff is inexcusable, and it’s probably time for rookie Lardarius Webb to get a chance as the return specialist.  Terrell Suggs made a nice heads-up play to get to Chris Baker on the fake field goal in the fourth quarter.


Coaching: C-

The team called 47 pass plays and just 17 runs, a ratio that rarely wins you NFL games, especially when your running backs picked up over seven yards per carry.  Greg Mattison uses too many three-man rushes on obvious passing downs and gives good quarterbacks time to step up and make plays.

John Harbaugh probably should not have challenged Kevin Faulk’s catch in the fourth quarter that cost the Ravens a timeout that could have been much more costly than it was.