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Grading the Ravens offense vs. the Patriots

Grading the Ravens offense vs. the Patriots

Whatever momentum the Ravens generated in a 38-6 rout of Miami two weeks ago evaporated in New England on Monday night as the Ravens lost, 30-23, to fall out of a playoff spot with three games left.

Frankly, only a couple of gifts by the Patriots in the form of fumbles deep in Patriots territory made this a game.

For most of the night, the offense -- with no running game, no rhythm, and certainly no sense of urgency late in the game -- resembled the unit that has slogged its way unimpressively through the first three months of the season.

And the defense was picked apart by Tom Brady, who even without favorite target Rob Gronkowski threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns.

It's time to hand out the report cards for Monday night's game, beginning with the offense.

 

QUARTERBACK: C-

For the second straight week, Joe Flacco set a franchise record for completions, as he was 37-for-52. But all that slinging the ball around added up to just 324 yards, as the Ravens used dumpoffs and checkdowns as the major portion of their offense.

The Patriots dropped back in zone coverage, but Flacco gave up too quickly on downfield options and dumped off to a running back. Flacco's accuracy was not what it needed to be, either. He underthrew receivers at times, and even some short completions were high, hurting the chance for yardage after the catch.

Overall, Flacco looked too much like the inconsistent Flacco from earlier this season.

And it's up to Flacco to come up with better options than a 1-yard dumpoff on third-and-12.

 

RUNNING BACK: B-

Each week the Ravens say they won't abandon the running game, and then each week they do. Monday night, the Ravens ran the ball just four times in the first half for a total of 7 yards.

Kenneth Dixon finished with 39 yards on a 11 carries and also had a team-high eight receptions (on a team-high 11 targets) for 42 yards. He runs hard every time in the ball is in his hands and continues to impress.

Terrance West was a missing man much of the night. He played just 14 snaps and finished with two carries for 2 yards. He also had four receptions as the running backs remained too big a part of the Ravens passing game.

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk had a career-long 40-yard catch-and-run reception, but he was also overmatched as a lead blocker on the play that resulted in a safety.

OFFENSIVE LINE: C

Flacco was sacked twice, but it didn't appear to be a breakdown in protection that led Flacco to dump off the ball so often. Jeremy Zuttah was beaten badly on a sack, and the Ravens were hurt by a few key penalties. A Rick Wagner false-start penalty on 2nd-and-1 led to a punt two plays later.

The Ravens averaged 3.0 yards a carry. With first-round pick Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda on the left side, it seemed curious how often the Ravens ran to the right.

TIGHT ENDS: C-

The Patriots game plan seemed to be to deny the middle of the field, where Dennis Pitta had done so much damage against the Dolphins. Pitta was a nonfactor with four catches for 18 yards.

Darren Waller caught a 3-yard touchdown and Nick Boyle had three catches for 15 yards. But there wasn't much yardage after the catch for this group, which is a problem when they routinely run patterns short of the first-down marker on third down.

WIDE RECEIVER: C

The Ravens threw as many passes to running backs as they threw to Mike Wallace, Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman.

Mike Wallace had five catches for 52 yards, but he had a couple of passes slip through his hands, although Flacco also underthrew him at times and overthrew him at others. Wallace shouldn't have to make a leaping catch on a 4-yard pass.

Breshad Perriman (3-52) had a 47-yard catch on one of the rare balls that Flacco aired out, and Steve Smith had four catches for 57 yards.

Kamar Aiken had just one catch. Like all the Ravens receivers, he wasn't targeted often enough considering Flacco threw the ball 52 times.

More Ravens: RAVENS SAFETY ERIC WEDDLE TAKES BLAME FOR PATRIOTS' FINAL TOUCHDOWN

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Lamar Jackson ‘honored’ at the chance to break Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record on Sunday

Lamar Jackson ‘honored’ at the chance to break Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record on Sunday

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson didn’t grow up watching Michael Vick play football in Atlanta. He was too young. 

That didn't stop Jackson, born when Vick had just finished his sophomore year of high school, from studying Vick's highlight tapes as a kid.

Now, on Sunday in Buffalo, Jackson has the chance to put his name in the record books ahead of his favorite player with the most impressive season a quarterback has ever had on the ground. 

With just 63 yards rushing, Jackson would rank first all-time for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. The record, as of Thursday, is held by Vick with 1,039 yards rushing. Vick set the record in 2006 with the Falcons.

“It would be an honor,” Jackson said. “Like I said, Michael Vick is my favorite player. For me to do such a thing, it’s incredible. He had that record for a long time, and it will be pretty cool. But I’m focused on the win, regardless.”

Jackson has led the NFL’s most dynamic offense through the first 12 games with a mix of rushing and passing that’s kept defenses on their heels. He ranks ninth in the NFL with 977 yards, which is more than five teams have as a whole.

Currently, Jackson has rushed for 1,672 yards in 28 games in his NFL career, good for 44th all-time. 

Over a 16-game season, he’s on pace for 1,302 yards on the ground, which would shatter Vick’s old record and put Jackson in another stratosphere compared to some of the best mobile quarterbacks the league has ever seen. 

Should he finish with 1,302 yards this year, he’ll be at 1,997 yards through his first two NFL seasons. That would put him 32nd all-time and about 500 yards away from cracking the top 20. 

So as Jackson adds to his place in history in the long term, there’s a significant record to break in the short-term, too.

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Ravens defense faces another challenge in dual-threat QB Josh Allen

Ravens defense faces another challenge in dual-threat QB Josh Allen

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — When Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson take the field on Sunday, they’ll set an NFL record before either one takes a snap from under center. 

The matchup pits the two second-year quarterbacks against one another in the NFL’s best matchup for rushing quarterbacks in history. 

The biggest difference, however, is how those yards have been reached. Jackson’s speed and acceleration is something the league hasn’t seen before, and while Allen can move, it’s not just his moves that make him difficult to bring around. 

“He’s a big kid, man, he’s like tackling a tight end scrambling,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “It’s going to be a great challenge. So we’ll see what happens on Sunday. He makes a lot of plays on his feet, that’s been their success the last five, six weeks.”

At 6-foot-5, Allen has been a problem for opposing defenses to bring down all season. He’s rushed for 430 yards (third-best for quarterbacks) and eight touchdowns (tied for sixth in the NFL).

“It's not like he's a pipsqueak or anything like that,” Josh Bynes said. “He's a big, solid quarterback, and he runs like a running back. That makes it a little bit more challenging, because he's a quarterback, as well. So, we just have to make sure we wrap up and we bring our pads with us and bring our feet and just make sure we get him to the ground.”

Allen’s size has made him a tall-task for defenses, which plays out in a deeper dive of the numbers. 

According to Pro Football Reference, Allen ranks 22nd in the NFL in yards before contact at 2.2. Jackson ranks first at 4.8 yards.

But Allen averages 2.4 yards per rush after contact, 13th in the NFL and first for quarterbacks.

“When you watch him, he can run and move around,” Chuck Clark said. “He’s more elusive than what people would say or think. He can definitely get out the pocket, extend the play and run the ball himself. They’ve got a solid offense, they’re effective at what they do.”

Allen rushed for 631 yards last season in 12 games — the same amount as he’s played so far this year. He’s gotten better as a passer from a year ago, having improved his completion percentage, yards-per-attempt and touchdown-to-interception ratio. 

But while his big-time arm is something the Ravens are still focused on, it’s Allen’s legs — and size — that pose an extra dimension to his game that can be dangerous for the Ravens.

“You just have to be fundamentally sound and make sure you wrap him up, drive your feet if possible,” Michael Pierce said. “With the penalties, you have to be very careful. But he's a physical dude, big, 6-4 guy, so yes, you have to be fundamentally sound and bring your pads with you.” 

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