There is no doubt that the loss to the Oakland Raiders put a damper on the start of the season for the Baltimore Ravens. All is not lost. Here are three positives and three areas of concern that can be pulled from the Ravens loss to the Raiders:
The Ravens found another threat in the passing game
Much has been made about the Ravens lack of play makers outside of Steve Smith Sr. They needed to find another player that can alter the game plan for opposing defenses. Crockett Gillmore may be the answer. He was able to break big plays on a seam route and deep cross. The Raiders had to make a halftime adjustment because of how Gillmore played in the first half. He will continue to be a favorable matchup against most teams.
The running game showed signs of reliability
The Ravens ran the ball well when they attempted to. Justin Forsett carried the ball 15 times for 68 yards. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry. Forsett picked up a couple of crucial first downs in third down situations. One of the first downs that he picked up was on 3rd & 15, just before halftime. He gained 15 yards on a dive play which breathed life into the Ravens final first half drive. Lorenzo Taliaferro made his 2015 debut and gained 34 yards on seven carries, an average of 4.9 yards per rush. Taliaferro also ran for a seven yard touchdown. This should provide reason for Marc Trestman to dial up more rushing plays in the coming weeks.
Joe Flacco wasn’t sacked once and had time in the pocket
The Ravens offensive line didn’t give up a sack against the Raiders. Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith were not able to get pressure on Flacco. The Ravens were able to execute some of their longer developing passing plays thanks to lack of quarterback hurries given up by their offensive line. This is definitely a positive after the constant duress that Flacco endured against the Denver Broncos in the season opener.
Poor coverage in the secondary
The Raiders were able to get big plays against both zone and man coverage from the Ravens. The game got off to a shocking start when Amari Cooper made a 68 yard touchdown reception against man coverage from Jimmy Smith. Smith failed to jam Cooper at the line of scrimmage and Cooper was able to convert an easy touchdown as a result. Kendrick Lewis also failed to provide any help over the top.
The Ravens also allowed Michael Crabtree to get open numerous times. He got open against two deep coverage and made a crucial catch late in the game. Will Hill was caught out of position when Carr rolled out to the opposite side. Derek Carr delivered the ball back across the field to Crabtree for a 29 yard touchdown. The Raiders were able to pass for 351 yards against the Ravens.
Lack of a pass rush
The Ravens did a bad job of defending Carr on boots and in the pocket. The Raiders were able to get Carr on the move and allow him time to scan the field for an open receiver. Carr had plenty of time to drop back and go through his progressions. Not having Terrell Suggs means that the Ravens need to manufacture a pass rush with creative blitzes. Kyle Arrington found some success on the corner blitz from the nickel spot against the Broncos, but Dean Pees didn’t utilize the nickel blitz against the Raiders and their young quarterback.
C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith didn’t get to blitz the inside gaps as much as they did in the season opener. Mosley found some success on the delayed blitz the previous week, but something that worked before was abandoned against the Raiders. Elvis Dumervil was playing a new position (rush OLB), but was not able to get much pressure on the quarterback either.
Poor tackling resurfaced from last season
The Ravens struggled with wrapping up last season and it caused them dearly. The Raiders developed a game plan to help their quarterback get rid of the ball quickly. They relied on a series of quick passes which will always make it harder to get pressure on the quarterback.
John Harbaugh said that they have to limit the quick passes to one or two yard gains to force the quarterback to hold onto the ball longer, hoping deeper routes will develop. This would allow the pass rush to have an opportunity to get to the quarterback. There were many times when the Ravens failed to make the tackle and a receiver was able to turn a short catch into a first down. An example of this is when Carr hit Crabtree as he settled in a window in the Ravens zone coverage. The ball traveled less than five yards, but Crabtree made the catch before he broke a Daryl Smith tackle and ran for an 11 yard gain. The play occurred on a second down with 11 yards to go.
Contrary to popular belief, the season is not over for the Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco said it best when he spoke about how they have to claw their way back one game at a time. They still have a full bank of divisional games left to play.