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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.

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Marquise Brown is ready to make big second-year leap for Ravens after bulking up 20 pounds

Marquise Brown is ready to make big second-year leap for Ravens after bulking up 20 pounds

Marquise Brown was hardly himself in his rookie season.

Not only did he have a Lisfranc injury in his foot that hampered his health all season long, but he also played portions of the year at less than 160 pounds. 

On the surface, his numbers didn’t take a hit. He was second on the team in targets (71), receptions (46), yards (584) and touchdowns (seven), but he had more to offer than what he showed in 14 games last season. 

This offseason, he added 20 pounds of muscle and, as he said Wednesday on a Zoom call with reporters, is up to 180 pounds. His foot is feeling better. And Marquise Brown is himself once again.

“I feel I got bright days ahead,” Brown said. “I feel 100 times better than I did last year. So, all I got to do now is focus on the plays, focus on the stuff that I’m supposed to focus on, instead of focusing on my feet and trying to stay healthy.”

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Brown’s added weight was the product of a mindset he had about trying to allow himself to undergo the rigors of an NFL season easier than he had a year ago. 

Whenever Brown would catch a pass, he would scurry out of bounds or dive forward to could avoid a hit. While that was certainly a product of the weight he played at and his desire to protect himself, it also had to do with his injured foot, too. 

He wasn’t able to run as fast as he did at Oklahoma, and he still isn’t quite at that speed, either. 

“Sometimes, I would try to make a cut that my foot wasn’t able to make, and I would go down,” Brown said. “Or sometimes, I just know that I’m not going to be able to make that move, so I’ll go down. It was more about getting the yards that I could get, get down, get ready for a next play. It was better for me to be in the game than to be out the game.”

Brown feels better now, and not only that, his teammates have taken notice, too.

“I could tell he put on a lot of weight,” Willie Snead said. “He’s put on a good amount of weight, and you can tell he’s solid now. I know the first thing he said coming into the building is, ‘I’m trying to block somebody. I’m trying to set the tone in the run game, man.’ I could just tell by his build that he took that part seriously.”

The Ravens sent him a GPS tracker while he trained in the offseason, so that while he added the weight, he didn’t lose any of his patented speed. Brown said he’s been able to keep his speed, despite the increased weight now on his 5-foot-9 frame. 

As the team’s top wide receiver, Brown will have an increased workload in his second season not only due to his progression with quarterback Lamar Jackson, but also the Ravens’ desire to pass the football more than they did a year ago.

It's for that reason the Ravens will put a lot more weight on his shoulders this year, as expectations for the organization are sky-high entering the upcoming season.

In that regard, it’s probably a good thing Brown will be a bit bigger in 2020.

“What people fail to realize, when I was at ‘OU’, I was 173-170, so I honestly just gained about 10 pounds,” Brown said. “I actually lost weight last year. To me, I feel back to normal, sort of to say. I feel like myself.”

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Tom Brady is ready to 'embrace the challenge' of starting over in Tampa Bay

Tom Brady is ready to 'embrace the challenge' of starting over in Tampa Bay

Even for the greats, the NFL offseason is a grind.

For the first two decades of his career, Tom Brady called New England home. Over that span, he's had just one head coach, Bill Belichick, and three full-time offensive coordinators: Charlie Weis, Bill O'Brien and Josh McDaniels.

Year in and year out, things remained relatively the same in New England. But with Brady leaving behind the only NFL franchise he's known for Tampa Bay this offseason, the quarterback has had to tap into a different mental state this offseason, one he hasn't been in for nearly 20 years.

"It’s been different having the opportunity with this time to move and, for example, study my playbook," Brady said Thursday via Zoom in his first media session of training camp. "I mean, I really haven’t had to do that in 19 years. You forget, 'Man, that is really tough.' Like all the different terminologies and you’re going back a very long time in my career to really put the mental energy in like I did."

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For any quarterback, switching teams is a difficult task, even for greats like Brady. However, the move this offseason has been even more difficult due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which effectively eliminated all organized offseason activities across the league.

Training camp has started league-wide, but teams are still a couple of weeks away from real, padded practices. Right now, clubs are mainly doing walkthroughs and installs, working on things that would have already been taught during minicamp and OTAs in a regular offseason.

For Brady, that's also been a difficult adjustment.

"Mentally, that has been the thing that obviously has its challenges and I think you couple that with the coronavirus situation it became even more difficult," Brady said. "I think conversations we probably would have had in April we are having now. I think that part is a bit challenging too."

However, the six-time Super Bowl champion is hoping to embrace the challenges of this pandemic-riddled offseason, rather than to use it as an excuse.

"The only thing you can do is adjust to the situation the best way you can, put as much time and energy in now as we can into it and I think the reality is the clock is ticking on everybody," Brady said. "We’re going to have to work as hard as we can and not waste any minutes of any day trying to get used to one another, embrace the challenge and see it as an opportunity to see what we can become."

And while the quarterback is still in the process of learning Bruce Arians' offensive system in Tampa, Brady reminded us in typical Brady-fashion that he's not worried about the challenges that come with it.

"Mentally, I feel like I have all the ability," Brady said. "I’ve seen every defense. There’s no play I haven’t run. There’s no defense I haven’t seen."

Stay connected to the Ravens and Orioles with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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