|Ravens OLB Albert McClellan had a solid game Sunday against the Eagles that included six tackles, two for losses. (US Presswire)|
The knee-jerk reaction from Sunday’s 24-23 loss to Philadelphia was to blame late play-calling and criticize quarterback Joe Flacco for a second half that saw him complete just eight of 22 passes.
But after reviewing the film, it’s apparent the performance wasn’t as bad as it might have looked live. In fact, there’s more reason for optimism than disdain.
McClellan the edge setter: OLB Albert McClellan saw 56 snaps against Philadelphia and easily had the best day of any defender. McClellan had six tackles with two of them for a loss. He also had a pass deflection that he should have picked off in the third quarter and a fumble recovery off a botched Philadelphia handoff.
But what stood out on film was McClellan’s ability to set the edge in run support. McClellan played an integral role in forcing Eagles RB LeSean McCoy back inside each time Philadelphia tried to bounce him outside. The Ravens may have stumbled upon someone who could potentially become a future Jarret Johnson, who left Baltimore for San Diego this past offseason.
Soft zone exploited: Most of Eagles TE Brent Celek’s 157 yards came while finding soft spots in the Ravens' zone defense. On the first play from scrimmage, Celek ran down a seam past LB Ray Lewis and in front of S Bernard Pollard for a big gain. In the second quarter, QB Michael Vick found Celek wide open for a 28-yard gain in the middle of the field.
The Ravens defense hasn’t been much of a zone defense historically, but playing against Vick will force you to change that. In these zone situations with Lewis being the closest defender, Celek caught four passes for 88 yards. With Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski on deck this week, the Ravens will need to adjust the coverage to make sure everyone is accounted for.
Frustrated Flacco: At times during the second half, Flacco appeared flustered, whether it was a look he gave a referee or how downtrodden he appeared on the sideline. But outside of a costly interception he threw into triple coverage, most of his incompletions were placed where the defender wouldn't be able to intercept it. In the second half, the Eagles pressed the Ravens receivers at the line of scrimmage and were burned only once, on a 40-yard reception from Torrey Smith (which wasn't the best of throws considering how open Smith was). The Eagles defensive backs became increasingly more physical as the game wore on and drew a couple of illegal contact penalties in doing so.
The Ray Rice debate: In the first two quarters, Rice ran for 78 yards on seven carries (11.1 yard average). The Eagles practically handed him running lanes and he gashed them on each opportunity. Once the second half kicked off, the Eagles loaded the box with at least eight defenders -- sometimes nine -- trying to play as close to the line of scrimmage as they could.
With all the talk that Baltimore needed to run Rice more in the second half, it actually did. He got nine carries in the game's final two quarters, with only two of those going for more than three yards (9-yard and 6-yard gains). Rice did most of his damage (16 carries, 99 yards) behind LG Ramon Harewood, running for 45 yards on three carries. Harewood did a good job getting to the second level to aid Rice on two of these three runs.
Pass or run? Once Flacco threw incompletions on his final two passes, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron became an immediate lightning rod for blame. He was mostly criticized for not running the ball in short yardage situations late in the game. But if you watch the third-and-1 play from the Baltimore 46, you see Flacco had TE Dennis Pitta in the left flat for a first down. Pitta fought off a jam and earned separation. If Flacco delivers a good ball, Pitta gets out of bounds and the Ravens continue the drive. Instead, Flacco sailed the ball over Pitta’s head and behind him.
On the next play, fourth-and-1, Philadelphia’s wide-nine defensive look got the best of tackles Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele one last time. With two defensive ends glaring down at him, Flacco rushed a ball that Rice didn’t have an opportunity to catch. The Ravens could’ve run the ball there, and it might’ve worked. But it wasn’t like the passes called were bad plays pre-snap.
Follow Ravens reporter Jason Butt on Twitter: @CBSRavens and @JasonButtCBS.