Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Play Like a Raven – Week 1

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PlayLikeaRaven

Here at the Nest, we decided that, since Rex Ryan wants to take his “Play Like a ____” slogan with him to New York, Monday night’s game would be played for the rights to continue to use the phrase here. Had the Ravens lost the game, we’d have let Rex have it, and would have been forced to come up with some other name for our weekly awards post.

Of course, the Ravens won the game, so “Play Like a Raven” lives on here at the Nest.

Played Like a Raven – Anquan Boldin

The first time Anquan Boldin steps on the field for the Ravens is also the first time he receives this honor – hopefully this is but a sign of things to come from “Q.” In Boldin’s first action in purple and black, he was the best player on the field wearing those colors, at least when the Ravens had possession.

Q hauled in 7 passes for 110 yards, including receptions on 3rd-and-9 and 3rd-and-7 to convert first downs. Early in the 3rd quarter, with the team backed up on their own 11-yard line, Boldin got open down the seam for a huge 38 yard pick up. Two plays later, he found room down the left sideline for a gain of 27. According to the ESPN broadcast, Boldin had only ONE reception of 21+ yards in all of 2009, and he had just doubled that number in the last three snaps. So, for all we’ve heard about Boldin not being a “deep threat,” is that really the case, or was he just not utilized in that capacity in Arizona, where they had Larry Fitzgerald to fill that role.

Boldin also got in on the “get held by Antonio Cromartie” party (I gots rhymes, yo), which resulted in another Ravens’ 3rd-down conversion.

The only critique of Q would be if Jon Gruden was correct in his analysis of Flacco’s interception. In Chuckie’s view, Boldin was likely supposed to run a post on the play, and get his man (Cromartie) out of the play, which was designed to go to Todd Heap. Instead, Boldin hung out by the sideline, looked for the ball, and Cromartie pounced for the pick. Now, I haven’t talked to Q, Heap, or Flacco, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of Gruden’s assessment. However, if his words are true, it’s simply a matter of Boldin getting comfortable in his new offense, and issues like that will work themselves out sooner rather than later.

Anquan Boldin – welcome to the Ravens.

Honorable Mention – Sam Koch

Koch not only had a solid night punting the ball, but made a touchdown saving tackle on Jim Leonhard. Koch, who was a linebacker in high school and who Goob calls “the bodybuilding punter” showed that he can still hit a little bit.

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Tom Zbikowski

Oh, Zibby, Zibby, Zibby.

I’m sure you’re all groaning reading this, knowing exactly what I’m talking about.

With the Ravens clinging to a 10-6 lead near the end of the 3rd quarter, and having just forced ANOTHER Jets 3-and-out (which drew lusty boos from the hometown crowd), Zibby went back to receive a Steve Weatherford punt. Weatherford dropped the ball beautifully at the sideline on the Ravens’ 6-yard line, where Zibby was waiting. A fair catch was probably not completely necessary there – I just watched the play again on DVR and Tom could have easily caught the ball, skipped forward to about the 10, and went out of bounds.

Zibby had other ideas though. Forgetting momentarily that he was no longer returning punts for the Fighting Irish, he ran backwards diagonally from the 6-yard sideline to the middle of the field at the Ravens’ goalline, attempting to reverse field and run around the punt coverage of the Jets. Proving that not many players in the league can successfully pull off such a feat, let alone a white dude (no matter what Madden ’11 would have you believe), he was corralled by New York easily and very narrowly avoided one of two equally disastrous outcomes. Not only was he nearly tackled for a safety, but he lost the ball as he hit the ground, almost fumbling and giving the Jets a gift touchdown.

At that point in the game, a big special teams play was pretty much the only way the Jets and their anemic offense were going to regain the lead. After that debacle, the Ravens spent the next 10 minutes of game clock severely hampered by dreadful field position. On the ensuing possession, they punted from their 13, then the Jets punted from the Ravens’ 40, pinning them at the two. The Ravens managed ONE yard, and punted from the three. After a 22-yard return, the Jets set up shop from the Baltimore 35, got five yards and kicked a field goal for the game’s final points.

Luckily for Zibby, the defense (which he was, admittedly a part of) held despite his putting them in a terrible situation. Three points seems a small penance to pay for the kind of bone-headed play he made in running back into his own end zone.

He wasn’t quite done yet though. With 6 minutes to play, and the Ravens still clinging to that one-point lead, Zibby lined up under a Weatherford punt at the B’More 27 yard line, AGAIN eschewed the fair catch, and was immediately popped for a one yard loss. Again, a big special teams play was exactly what the doctor ordered in that situation for Gang Green. Thankfully, Zibby held onto the ball, but he had no business not waving the white flag there.

Here’s what Zibby had to say, courtesy of the Baltimore Sun:

“I took a chance on [the big mistake],” he said. “I lost track of where I was. I lined up on the 15, and I thought I was drifting more left, but I felt myself going back a little bit. I didn’t know I was that deep.”

John Harbaugh had this take:

“I thought he did a nice job of catching the ball and securing the ball, but I think he tried too hard to make a play,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Sometimes guys will do that in their first outing. You’ve got to respect the guys covering a little bit more and take the ball north and south. … Zibby will learn from that. We had a good conversation about it on the train, and it was good-hearted. He’ll be fine, but we need better.”

Harbaugh wouldn’t go as far to say that he is not considering other options on punt returns. Chris Carr averaged 8.2 yards on 32 punt returns last season.

“We’ll see,” he said. “We never rule anything out. Chris Carr’s an option and so are some other guys. But Zibby, I think he’ll be good at it.”

I’m not against giving Zibby another crack or two at it – but any more brainfarts like the one at the Meadowlands, and other options need to be explored, and quickly.

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