Jets vs Ravens: 4 Things We Learned from Baltimore's 34-17 Win
Going into this game between the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens, everyone expected a defensive battle where points would be hard to come by. In that aspect, this game was exactly what everyone expected as both offenses struggled to put the ball in the endzone, but no one could have predicted the type of crazy game that ensued beyond the simple defensive battle.
The Ravens opened up the game with the ball, punted to the Jets and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown on the Jets first offensive snap. Things only went down hill from there for the Jets offense, which had no answer for the Ravens defense all night. The Jets were able to immediately score after the Ravens fumble return with a kickoff return for a touchdown. Those two plays really set the tone for what the rest of the game would look like.
The Ravens did have some success moving the ball in the first quarter and were able to drive down and score a field goal and a touchdown by running back Ray Rice. After the first quarter, the Jets clamped down on the Ravens offense and only allowed a single field goal for the rest of the game.
Luckily for the Ravens, they didn’t need their offense to score points in that game. They were able to force four turnovers in the game and returned three of them for touchdowns including their return on the Jets’ first offensive snap of the game.
The Ravens wound up closing out the game on defense. Neither team had much success on offense, and the Ravens defense was simply the more dominant unit in the game and was able to not only shut down the Jets offense but put points on the scoreboard as well. That’s really what the game boiled down to, but there were several other things that stood out. Let’s take a look at what we learned about Baltimore in this victory.
The Ravens’ Defense Is Clearly the Best in Football Right Now
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The NFL is becoming a passing league that favors high-scoring offenses. There’s really no question that’s where the league is headed at this point. After only four weeks, there seems to be more scoring and passing than ever before, and with more and more teams focusing on offense, there also seems to be a lack of any real defense in the NFL.
The Ravens are obstinately bucking that trend, and to their credit, the Jets are doing their best to fight it as well. Ironically enough, even this defensive battle was a high-scoring affair with the defenses scoring most of the points.
The Jets’ defense deserves credit for the way that they played. They gave the Jets offense every opportunity to stay in the game, and against a lesser defense, the Jets probably would have gotten the job done. Their problem was that they could not possibly have been ready for the intensity that the Ravens’ defense brought to the game. When the Ravens’ defense plays like they did against the Jets, they are clearly the best defense in football and maybe even one of the best in franchise history.
“You’ve just got to give them credit.” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said during his post-game press conference. “They made a lot of big plays. They were coming after us. That’s that Raven defense. They remind me of the 2000 and 2006 defenses.”
No one knows those defenses better than Ryan, who coached the Ravens’ defense in both years, so that comparison means a lot coming from him.
Is the Ravens defense as good as they were in 2000 and 2006? Probably not, and even if they are, they have to continue to prove themselves before we start talking about them like that. One thing is for sure, the Ravens are clearly the best defense in the league so far this year and well on their way to proving themselves as one of the best defenses in franchise history.
Chuck Pagano Is a Fantastic Defensive Coordinator
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After a defensive battle like that it’s only fitting that we talk about the Ravens’ defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano. Pagano has done an excellent job coaching the defense so far this year and had already been labeled an aggressive play caller.
After two years struggling to find their identity with old defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, the Ravens defense may have found one of their best defensive coordinators yet. Only time will tell, but Pagano seems to be the perfect coordinator for the Ravens.
The fact that Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs are playing the best football of their young careers certainly helps Pagano’s cause. Obviously, the talent of the players is the biggest factor in the success of a defense, but it hasn’t been all easy work for Pagano. In his short time as coordinator, he has already had to become creative in his coaching and play-calling.
The Tennessee Titans gave Pagano and the Ravens defensive personnel a huge wake up call in week two by torching the Ravens secondary. Their ability to throw the ball was the direct result of injuries at the corner position. Pagano has been without his projected top corner, Jimmy Smith, for the whole season so far, and cornerback Chris Carr has also been injured. On top of that, the team just put cornerback Domonique Foxworth on injured reserve this week.
That was the first big hurdle for Pagano, and the game plans that he has put together since the Tennessee game have been nothing short of excellent. He has managed to cover up the weaknesses in the Ravens secondary with fantastic coverage and blitz schemes. He most impressive game plan yet was against the Jets, who boasted a top-ten offense coming into this game with excellent receivers including the Raven killer, Santonio Holmes.
Pagano’s game-plan shut-down the Jets’ offense and put points on the scoreboard. Perhaps the most impressive feat is that he put this game-plan together with only three healthy cornerbacks, one of which was a practice squad player. It’s only fitting that he established himself as the next great Ravens defensive coordinator in front of the coach who set the bar, Rex Ryan.
The Offense Needs to Find Its Identity
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Last week, Cam Cameron was talking about the Ravens offense after their excellent showing versus the St. Louis Rams and said that the Ravens knew the type of offense that they wanted to be. That was not clear in this game.
Sure, it was clear in the Rams game, but it’s easy to beat up on weaker defenses with inferior talent in the secondary. The Jets provided the Ravens’ offense with an excellent opportunity to prove that they are a legitimately good offense.
Obviously, the Jets defense is very good. Rex Ryan is still one of the best defensive minds in football, but the Ravens have the offensive talent to move the ball on the Jets. There’s no question about that after watching the Ravens offense pound the ball down the field with ten consecutive running plays to end the third quarter. The offensive line also did a great job protecting Flacco on most passing plays.
The problem with the offense is that it’s not balanced. It seems like there’s a switch on the offense that cycles between pass happy and ground and pound offenses. The Ravens’ offense cannot seem to find balance, and versus the Jets, they seemed to be either all run or all pass.
They are getting away with it right now mainly because of the absolute dominance on the other side of the ball but also because of the talent on offense. Even on busted and bad play calls, Ray Rice and Joe Flacco can often make something out of nothing. The offensive line is also playing well, but until the Ravens can find a way to attack teams in a balanced fashion, they will not be able to have consistent success against the better defenses in the league.
The NFL is a copy-cat league, and teams will begin to figure out how to shut down the Ravens offense if they are not basing their game-plans on a balanced, fundamentally-sound attack.
The Ravens Young Receivers Are Talented but Still Very Raw
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The Ravens had a hard time completely passes to their receivers versus the Jets. Part of that is because the offensive game-plan was predictable and the Jets knew when the Ravens were passing for the most part, but it’s also clear that the Ravens young receivers lack the fortitude that comes with experience.
There’s really no questioning their talent. Ed Dickson is a match-up nightmare for defenses, and Torrey Smith had a step on Jets All Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis on a deep route. The problem is that the young receivers were getting distracted by the incidental contact, the press coverage and the defenders flying to the ball. Both Dickson and Smith dropped several balls that veteran receivers would have probably pulled in.
It’s really nothing to be ashamed of. Those are the reasons why playing receiver in the NFL is so hard to adjust to. Every young player needs to adjust in his own way, but the fact is that much of the Ravens success on offense hinges on the ability of these young players to develop.
We’ve seen the potential even after only four games. Dickson’s touchdown over Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Smith’s breakout game against St. Louis display their high upside. Tight end Dennis Pitta has also shown flashes, but the problem is that the young receivers’ flashes will not sustain an offense that is dependant on them as starters. The offense needs consistency from its receivers.
Luckily, the Ravens’ defense is winning games while the offense is doing just enough to get by. Opposing teams have shown the determination to stack the line of scrimmage with defenders and make the offense pass. The Ravens need to find a balanced game-plan to counter that tactic, and they will certainly need more consistency from the Ravens’ young receivers moving forward.