Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Ravens 22 Rams 3 (The BATTLE OF THE BACKUPS)

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The Ravens pushed their record to 4-2 Sunday, beating up on the hapless (and winless) St. Louis Rams 22-3. Both teams were playing at less than full strength, trotting out players that certainly were not at the tops of the opening day depth charts at several key positions. Backup quarterback Gus Frerotte was expected to play for the Rams all week, but it took the late-week development of a stiff back to force Ravens QB Steve McNair to the bench in favor of Kyle Boller. That was not where the similarities ended between the two signal callers yesterday, though, as both spent most of the day running for their respective lives, taking big hits, and turning the ball over. Boller was sacked twice, fumbled, and was picked off in the red zone. Frerotte felt the pain worse, however, getting sacked 4 times, picked off 5 (a new Ravens record), and hurried or hit countless others. Boller must be commended for his effort yesterday, taking his licks and getting right back up for the next play. Had it been McNair underneath all those Rams jerseys yesterday, he almost certainly would have been injured, along with the Ravens post-season aspirations. Kyle’s play was better than that of just a “good backup QB”, as he was even able to make some plays that we’ve been hoping to see from McNair all season. Boller’s passes were crisp and his decisions sound. We saw 3 things from the offense for maybe the first time this season:

1. Passes thrown consistently past the sticks on 3rd and long;
2. Checks being made at the line; and
3. A hurry-up, no-huddle style offense.

All of these things were refreshing to see, and if nothing else, made for a much more entertaining game to watch than what we’ve grown accustomed to.

Boller is now 20-16 as a starter in his career, and a very respectable 15-4 at M&T Bank Stadium (bet you didn’t realize that). His numbers, while not gaudy by any means (18/30 183 yards 0 TD 1 INT), were enough to get the job done, and reflect the struggles of the offensive line more than his own play. The O-Line was horrendous, as is also evidenced by Willis McGahee’s season low rushing total of 61 yards against a team that had previously been completely inept at stopping the run. Third-string left tackle Jared Gaither was abused all afternoon, as was fellow rookie Marshall Yanda. The “elder statesman” of the group, 3rd year man Jason Brown, was hounded by mental as well as physical mistakes, twice being called for false starts in the 1st quarter, the 2nd of which forced the Ravens to attempt a field goal after originally lining up to go for it on 4th-and-1. Chris Chester had a holding penalty nullify what would have been Willis McGahee’s 2nd touchdown of the day. Just a poor effort all around from this group. The Ravens need to get healthy everywhere for the 2nd half, but especially up front; a defense like New England or Pittsburgh will flat out destroy the line we saw yesterday.

The Ravens defense continued to build on their superb play from a week ago. The pass rush was relentless, forcing Gus Frerotte to unload the ball under duress, make poor decisions, and be very inaccurate with his throws. The Rams’ receivers were short-arming passes, not wanting any part of the purple and black D over the middle. The D was able to hold St. Louis scoreless on a drive that started at the B-More 11 yard line, as kicker Jeff Wilkins missed a 35 yarder after the Rams managed -6 yards on 3 plays. Five different Ravens notched interceptions, Ed Reed, Derrick Martin, Corey Ivy, Chris McAlister, and Dwan Edwards. McAlister’s came as a gift though, when Frerotte severely underthrew his man who was wide open streaking past C-Mac.

The Ravens beat an inferior team handily, which is something good teams need to do. The defense held their opponent in single digits for a second straight week, the offense found the end zone, and Matt Stover was his usual reliable self. Thats been the formula for success here in B-More, and on this day it resulted in the 100th win for the Baltimore Ravens (79th with B.B. at the helm).

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