Last Sunday afternoon, the Ravens fell to the Eagles, 24-23, in a last-minute heartbreaker. This brings the Ravens' record to an even 1-1. Despite the Ravens defense forcing 4 turnovers, including 3 in the red zone, the Eagles offense finished when it mattered the most. The first of those red zone turnovers came on the very first Philadelphia drive of the game, when Michael Vick's pass to the end zone fell into the sure hands of Bernard Pollard. The Ravens would give it back, however, when a sack-fumble on Joe Flacco gave the Eagles great field position early in the first quarter. The Eagles would take advantage, as LeSean McCoy scored from just a yard out. Flacco and the offense would respond however, when Vonta Leach ended a 7-play drive with the game-tying score. The Ravens weren't done however, adding a touchdown in the 2nd quarter on a 21-yard pass from Flacco to Jacoby Jones. As the Ravens defense continued to limit the Eagles, the Ravens added to their lead in the final seconds of the first half when rookie K Justin Tucker hit a 56-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 17-7 lead. The Ravens were not able to carry their momentum into the second half, however, and it cost them. The Eagles tied the game in the 3rd quarter with a touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin coupled with an Alex Henery field goal. Another pair of Tucker field goals (51,48) gave the Ravens a 23-17 lead late in the 4th quarter. The lead came with its fair share of controversy, as an offensive pass interference call on Jacoby Jones erased a touchdown that would have given the Ravens a commanding two-possession lead with just four minutes remaining. Looking back at the replay, the contact was going both ways, and should not have been a penalty. The Eagles then drove down the field, and finished with a Michael Vick running TD to give the Eagles the slim advantage. Flacco could not convert on a fourth down later on the Ravens' final drive, and the Eagles earned the W.
Player of the Game: Eagles TE Brent Celek-8 catches, 157 receiving yards
Key Takeaway from the Game: After using the no-huddle offense to burn the Bengals back in Week 1, the Ravens offense barely went to the no-huddle against the Eagles.We all want to see a consistent Flacco, but these are the defenses he needs to beat. The Ravens did not run the ball nearly enough. Ray Rice was extremely successful on the ground, gaining 99 yards on just 16 carries. But the Ravens continued to go to the pass game, where Flacco went just 22/42. Cam Cameron needs to run the ball more when Rice is having that kind of success.
On Sunday night, the Ravens will be back home to face the 1-1 New England Patriots on prime-time television. This is, of course, the rematch of the game no one in Baltimore wants to remember. Don't worry, I'm not going there. Both of these teams are coming off tough losses, with the Pats losing to the Cardinals at home last Sunday. This will be a homecoming for Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who spent 6 seasons on Bill Belicheck's staff in New England. You can bet he will have a chip on his shoulder. There are few surprises on offense for the Patriots. Tom Brady is the stalwart general under center for the Patriots. His top target is TE Rob Gronkowski, whose role is expected to increase with the injury to fellow TE Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots' newest threat on offense is Brandon Lloyd, who already has 13 catches for over 100 yards on the year. RB Stevan Ridley has provided a threat on the ground for the Patriots, which is just another weapon for defenses to have to worry about. On an interesting note, the Patriots re-signed WR Deion Branch this week to help replace Hernandez. The Patriots also re-signed Branch before the Ravens game back in 2010. In that game, Branch had 9 catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in a 23-20 Patriots win. Therefore, look for Branch to have an immediate impact on the Patriots offense come Sunday. The Patriots have improved mightily on defense with the acquisitions of DE Chandler Jones and LB Dont'a Hightower, a college teammate of Ravens rookie LB Courtney Upshaw. NT Vince Wilfork is a perennial threat to blitz the QB effectively, and with some early struggles by Ravens C Matt Birk, he could be a difference-maker. Also make sure to watch out for Ravens S Bernard Pollard, otherwise known as the "Patriots killer." In 2008, Pollard ended Brady's season by tearing his ACL in Week 1. Just a year later, Pollard's hit on Pats WR Wes Welker tore his ACL and ended his season as well. Last year, Pollard's tackle on Gronkowski in the AFC Championship Game sprained Gronk's ankle and made him a non-factor in the Super Bowl two weeks later. Just saying.
Prediction: There is no shortage of intrigue coming into this game. Both teams have their own beef with each other, and much of it will be solved on the gridiron. There is nothing more pleasing to the Ravens defense than seeing Brady eating grass, so expect a lot of blitzing. After a less-than-impressive performance in Philadelphia last weekend, this is a chance for the Ravens D to re-establish their place as one of the best defenses in the league. Flacco had one of the best games of his career last year against the Patriots defense, and will look to continue that success. In a comforting change of pace, I have Justin Tucker kicking a game-winning field goal in the final minutes of the game to give the Ravens a 23-20 win.
Key Matchups for Ravens vs. Patriots
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady Edge: Push
Analysis: Both of these players will be in Canton when their time comes. Brady will burn Reed on some plays, and Reed will burn Brady right back. This will be fun to watch.
Ravens LB Jameel McClain vs. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski Edge: Gronkowski
Analysis: This one isn't even close. Gronk is arguably the best TE in the league, and if McClain can limit him even a little bit, this matchup will be considered a Ravens victory.
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Patriots LB Brandon Spikes Edge: Rice
Analysis: Rice is too fast and too elusive for an inconsistent linebacker like Spikes. Spikes will have a few nice plays, but the unseen mistakes he makes will open up some holes for Rice.
Ravens WR Torrey Smith vs. Patriots CB Devin McCourty Edge: Smith
Analysis: With the exception of the first play against the Bengals, Smith has been a non-factor so far for the Ravens. A matchup against a cornerback like McCourty spells out a breakout game for Smith.
T Jah Reid-Leg-DBT
TE Aaron Hernandez-Ankle-OUT
DE Justin Francis-Ankle-OUT
RB Shane Vereen-Foot-QST
G Logan Mankins-Hip-QST
WR Brandon Lloyd-Thigh-QST
Well, that's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report. See you next week and go Ravens!
NOTE: Early Sunday morning, Torrey Smith's younger brother Tevin was killed in a motorcycle accident. Smith left the Ravens' hotel to be with his family, but word is that he wants to play tonight against the Patriots. John Harbaugh said that it's Torrey's call. If he is on that field tonight, he'll be playing with a heavy heart. My prayers and condolences are with Torrey and his family. RIP Tevin Smith.
UPDATE: Torrey Smith has re-joined the team and is expected to play tonight against the Patriots