Following a heartbreaking loss to the out-of-division rival New England Patriots, the Baltimore Ravens got back on track to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-26 in the final home game of the regular season. Baltimore almost suffered a crushing defeat, narrowly escaping a nearly 10-point comeback by the Eagles, led by their rookie QB Carson Wentz.
The Ravens ended their day with a win, and would be wise to look immediately ahead to Christmas.
Baltimore looked like the better team for much of the day before collapsing in the final minutes. The defense held on to a one-point lead by stopping Wentz’s offense on a two-point-conversion.
The Ravens finish the year with a 6-2 record at home, although many feel that the squad’s home-field advantage was not present for much of the year. Here are my thoughts of yesterday’s final home victory.
What I Liked
- Running Game. Baltimore’s running game has shown flashes of potential throughout the year. First, after Justin Forsett’s departure, as Terrance West was given the reigns as the team’s feature back. West proved he could carry the load by himself if need be. The running game improved yet again with the emergence of Kenneth Dixon. The two running backs now share Baltimore’s backfield with a 50/50 workload. Both backs are young, powerful, and can catch passes out of the backfield. The running game gained 151 yards on the ground yesterday while adding 45 yards through the air. West and Dixon deserve to be the RBs of the future. Once Baltimore hires an Offensive Coordinator who can commit to the run game, these two will become household names in the NFL.
- “The Decision”. Or otherwise known as the play that brought Philadelphia back into the game. Joe Flacco threw an interception in the redzone with 6:21 to play and a 10-point lead. This play sparked an Eagles comeback and drew heat from fans and media. Critics are knocking this play for being too aggressive, instead of running out the clock on a day when the running game was flourishing. I can see why the play drew criticism, but I overall agreed with the call. The offense was running the ball well, but Flacco was having an efficient game too. Had he thrown a touchdown, it would’ve put the game away, and the call would’ve drawn praise. I agreed with the call, just not Flacco’s awful decision on where he threw the ball. Flacco is a seasoned veteran and a Super Bowl MVP, there is nothing wrong with trusting him to throw the ball in that situation.
- Defensive Win. The defense held on and won the game while facing adversity without their top cornerback in Jimmy Smith. Zachary Orr made a great play on an interception of Wentz, and C.J. Mosley made the game-sealing deflection. The secondary held up in the absence of their top cover man, albeit the Philadelphia receiving corps is nothing to brag about. Don’t expect repeat performances against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati without Jimmy Smith.
What I Didn’t Like
- Run Defense. The run defense unexpectedly faltered on a day where all starters in the front seven were healthy and playing. The Eagles gained 169 yards on the ground, and were more efficient than Wentz’s passing game by the end of the day. Philadelphia averaged 4.4 yards per carry, yet only 4 yards per passing attempt. That’s a telling story when the opposing running game can out-gain their QB. The run defense has been the backbone of Baltimore’s unit the entire season. It is unlikely that the team could still be successful barring a collapse of the league’s No. 2 ranked run defense.
- Weekly Penalties. It’s tiring as a viewer to see the Ravens shoot themselves in the foot week after week with penalties. Early in the game, Eric Weddle baited Wentz into throwing it deep and picked off what would have been his 5th interception of the season. The play was called back because of a holding penalty by Zachary Orr. If there is one thing the 2016 Baltimore Ravens do consistently, it is getting penalties. This is a problem the Ravens won’t be able to change, so winning games will come down to overcoming self-inflicted wounds.
- Flacco’s Interception. What a terrible decision by a veteran quarterback. This was simply a bad throw, at the worst possible time. With the game on the line, the coaches trusted Flacco to put the game away, and he made a mistake. The Eagles were instantly back in a game that at that point they had no business being in. That won’t fly from here on out, especially without Jimmy Smith. The team escaped without a total collapse, and they must quickly forget about it. Flacco made a mistake, it happens, but it cannot happen again.
- When it’s all said and done, a win is a win. Baltimore needed this win or its playoff chances were finished, and they delivered. The run game was on point, Flacco played a mostly efficient game, aside from one play, and the defense didn’t allow a rookie QB to steal a win. I deem that a successful game battling in the face of adversity. The team, which has been conservative in the past with a lead, played aggressively. That is a good mentality going forward, but Baltimore’s Super Bowl MVP quarterback needs to make better decisions.
Week Sixteen Preview
- Baltimore quickly turned its attention to Pittsburgh following their thrilling win over Philadelphia. This game likely decides the AFC North standings in 2016. If the Ravens cannot win in Pittsburgh, they cannot win the division, regardless of the Week Seventeen outcome. This game will be much different than the first matchup back in Week Nine. Back then both Ben Roethlisberger and Terrell Suggs were coming off major injury. Since, neither has missed a game, and both are playing great football in their mid-thirties. If Baltimore is without Jimmy Smith, the defense will need to have an aggressive and creative game plan to get to Roethlisberger before Antonio Brown tears into the secondary. Smith has historically done a great job covering the wide receiver. Baltimore’s run defense must tighten up against Pittsburgh’s dual threat RB, as well. Look for this game to come down to the wire, a common theme in Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh.
Ravens’ Alex Collins Arrested
Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins was arrested early on Friday morning following a car crash about a mile from the Ravens’ team facility, according to a report from the Baltimore Sun.
Per the report: Officers responded to a report of a car that had crashed into a tree on the 10000 block of Dolfield Road at about 6:48 a.m. Friday morning, Baltimore County police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Peach said.
Collins, 24, was arrested, however charges were not made public at the time of this writing.
Ravens vice president of public relations Chad Steele told The Baltimore Sun that the team has spoken with law enforcement and is aware of the situation involving Collins.
Collins is coming off a down year with Baltimore after a breakout campaign in 2017. Collins managed only 411 yards rushing in 2018 and was placed on injured reserve back in December, ending his season early.
Ray Rice Says He Is Done With Football
Former NFL running back Ray Rice, who had been working to try and get a second chance in the NFL over the past couple of years, is no longer pursuing a comeback.
“I’ll be the first one to say it; I don’t have to retire to tell you I’m done with football” Rice said, during an interview on CBS This Morning.
“The pressure I was under of being a star, that was the person I hated the most.”
Rice was suspended indefinitely back in 2014 when a video surfaces showing Rice punching his then-fiancee, now wife, Janay Rice while the two were alone in an elevator.
Rice was never picked up by another team following the conclusion of his suspension, and his release from the Baltimore Ravens.
Rice said that he sees “similarities” between his situation and the one of former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, who was recently cut loose by the team when a video surfaced showing him pushing and kicking a woman in a hallway.
“Somewhere down the line everybody who’s sayin’, ‘Does he deserve a second chance for football?’ And this that and the other— I actually got my second chance” Rice said of Hunt, who cleared waivers and is now a free agent.
“During my darkest moments, and I used to ask myself, ‘How could she even be—want to support me?’ … That’s understandable. But I think what’s misunderstood about us is that the friends we were before the incident. That’s why, like I said, when I look at Kareem Hunt, I wanna know what his life was like. I want to know what happened in life. I know Kareem has apologized, and has expressed remorse for survivors of domestic violence.”
Ravens Trying To Entice Fans With Lower Concession Prices
The Baltimore Ravens are attempting to win back fans and their latest plan is making a big step toward doing just that as the team announced on Tuesday that they will reduce concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium in 2018.
The Ravens have been on a mission to bring back fans who were angered by some players’ national anthem protests coupled with their 3-year playoff drought.
A series of moves have demonstrated their efforts. The team invited fans to ask questions at a media pre-draft news conference held a question-and-answer session with fans at the team facility with owner Steve Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome, and also have had team president Dick Cass meet and talk to fan clubs.
While the team has sold out every game during their 20-year history at M&T Bank Stadium, empty seats grew in numbers as the 2017 season wore on, and the no-shows are very obvious.
The organization is taking this initiative very seriously.
“It’s something I would really like to take a hard look at, and at least, come up with select items that we can do,” Bisciotti said back in February of this year.
“If it means us … I can’t make Aramark do that with me, but I can make them go along as long as it’s my share of the profits that I’m waiving. Yeah, I’d like to take a look at that. I think we could probably do that.”
There is an official news conference scheduled for Thursday where the Ravens will officially announce price reductions on concessions.
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