Sunday, January 16, 2011

Reflecting on a terrible football game

My dad and his cousin traded emails for a little while after the Ravens game, including me in the mix. I went to a neighbors to watch the Pack slaughter Atl in the second-worst game of the day and drink a good bit to drown my sorrows, so I missed much of it. Upon returning home, I replied. Below is the email - edited only to remove the swearing - because, as it turns out, it's pretty reflective of my general thoughts about the game.

Back when Patrick, Jim and I started this blog, Patrick and I disagreed about whether the Ravens/Titans '08/'09 season playoff game was a great game. Patrick eventually agreed that it was. He chatted with me tonight and said almost exactly what I say below to my family in the email...people will call this a great game. But it wasn't. It was a giant, sloppy mess, riddled with errors, played by two teams that hate each other, but neither acting like they wanted to win. With that said, onto the email.

Begin email:
The second half of this game was some of the worst football I’ve ever seen the Ravens play. This goes back to before the ’00 team when the Ravens flat out sucked. Both the offense and the defense failed on such epic level’s it’s beyond disgraceful. Cam’s play-calling wasn’t great, but for Ravens fans to blame it on him – and there are plenty right now – is laughable. One can easily argue stepping on the Steelers’ throats is the better move. However...
- You are winning by 14 points with one of the best defenses in the NFL, and
- You have all the momentum and the crowd dead silent.
The theme for the second half has got to be error free football. It literally CANNOT be anything but “go out there and try to kill these guys early in the second half, but DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES make any mistakes that gives them life. So let’s review what they instead do...

1) Ray Rice decides to carry the ball like a loaf of bread. Clark wasn’t even trying to strip him or punch it out, his hand just happened to hit it on the tackle and out it comes.
2) Flacco, under little pressure, decides to air it out to Heap in double coverage and puts it 5 yards too far for an easy INT.
3) Birk snaps the ball early and then doesn’t even realize it (how he doesn’t know Flacco doesn’t have it is beyond me) for another short-field turnover.
4) Flacco gets chased from the pocket. No one is open. He’s 9 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Throw it away, no grounding, no problem. With no real pressure on him, he instead simply runs out of bounds for a 9 yard loss. Um, WHAT???
5) Marcus Smith holds a special teams defender, nullifying a TD when the defender wouldn’t have even come close to Webb had he never touched him.
6) Flacco throws a pass to the only spot on the field that could get to Boldin without the two defenders covering him being able to make a play on the ball. Yes it was a low pass. It also hit Boldin in the chest. In the end zone. On 3rd down. FG next play.
7) On 3rd and 19 with 2:07 to play, the clock stopped, ball at the Steeler 38 yard line, the Ravens drop 8 into coverage and STILL allow the Steelers #4 receiver to get behind everyone, not only converting the 1st down, but setting up 1st and goal from the 5 which they eventually convert to a TD. I wrote this play up on the Ravens board and cut-pasted it below if you want to read more about how gigantic a failure this play was. Realize this was a thread blaming Mattison for this play failing, and my essentially saying, “Um, no, Mattison is in no way at fault.”
8) Cody gets a defensive holding penalty on a big stop on first and goal.
9) Flacco yet again fails to get rid of the ball before the pocket collapses on 3rd and 10 at mid-field with 1:10 to play and takes a sack, forcing the Ravens to take their final TO and suffer 4th and 18.
10) Flacco finds a wide open TJ Houshmazilly 21 yards down-field at the sideline with over 60 seconds to play. He hits him in the hands for a sure catch-and-fall-out-of-bounds leaving 60 seconds to go 35 yards to tie the game. BUT WAIT! NO! Hoashmazoad <> Championship and drops the ball. Game over.

Counting kicks, punts, etc up until Pitt is kneeling for the win, there were 80 total plays with some sort of football action associated with them in the second half. Those ten plays above are not tiny, semi-meaningless errors. They are GIGANTIC F******* FAILURES. 10 plays out of 80 where the Ravens completely, totally failed, in a half where all they had to do to win was play error free. It is hard to imagine an NFL divisional round playoff team capable of an error rate so high.

Assuming they watched, NE has to absolutely be licking their chops. The first half was almost as bad, on both sides. Even the two huge Ravens-turning plays were terrible plays on one or both team’s parts. Suggs got a nice fumble on his sack, but then 21 out of 22 players fail to realize no one has blown a whistle, so everyone stands there and stares at the ball till Redding comes from about 7 yards out, picks it up and reads a chapter of War & Peace before taking a leisurely stroll into the end zone. The other play, the Mendenhall fumble deep in their territory, was caused by Mendenhall rolling up on Kemo’s elbow…his own man knocked it loose.

Pundits and talking heads will spew garbage about what a hard-nosed, well fought battle this game was, and how great a game it was. But the truth is, it wasn’t. It was a terrible game where neither team played like they wanted to advance. Odds are pretty good New England will rout the Jets tomorrow, and then destroy the Steelers next weekend.

---------------------------------------- Posted to the Ravens message board ----------------------------------------
Such a gigantic f****** FAIL by the players on so many levels it's not funny. This isn't a busted defensive scheme, and it's stupid to suggest that we should have rushed more than 3 players on a 3rd and 19 when a receiver gets by people. Sorry [poster], I respect you a lot as a fan, but you - and anyone else trying to blame Mattison - are dead f****** wrong.

1) Nakamura gets called for illegal contact. They get a 1st down anyway.

2) Before the ball is thrown, Nakamura contacts his man 17 yards down the field and releases him to the deep safety. Now, you need to fully grasp the magnitude of this stupidity. First, if you're releasing a receiver, it's cause there's someone else short that you're worried about covering. I've got the TV on, paused at the moment he releases his receiver right now. Nakamura is 1/3 of the way from the hash to the sideline, at the Ravens 44. Draw a box from the middle of the hash marks to the Ravens 44 to the sideline to the Steeler 30...there is NO receiver there. How Nakamura doesn't turn his hips and run with the receiver is beyond stupid. Second, even if you are covering underneath, it's 3rd and don't release to cover an underneath route at the 1st down line on third and super-long. TURN YOUR GODDAMNED HIPS AND RUN WITH HIM YOU F****** IDIOT!

3) Nakamura releasing his receiver freezes Landry to the inside. The reason Landry's late on the outside coverage is cause he has to pick up Nakamura's man. Landry may be - IMO - the worst starting safety in the league, but he's not at fault on this play.

4) Webb completely fails on this play. Brown lines up on the Steeler 37. Webb is on the freakin' yards in front of the 1st down marker. Webb doesn't seem to recognize it's a go route till Brown's in full stride on the Ravens 48, Webb on the 42 and Ben starting his throwing motion. This is beyond ridiculous. Watching it in full speed, Brown is in a dead sprint at the Steeler 42 yard line. That's 10 yards of dead sprint he's running before Webb decides he's gonna turn and try to run with him. Naturally, by the time Webb's hit his stride, Brown's behind him. Massive f****** fail by Webb. The only explanation is that he thought he had safety help over the top. Which he should have, had Nakamura not released his man to Landry.

So essentially I put 60% of the blame on Nakamura and 40% on Webb for completely blowing that play. Notice how 0% of the 100% total blame goes to Mattison. There's NO excuse for the players not executing on that play. None.


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