Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox
September 10, 2012
The run defense was much better in the second half, but it could remain a concern going forward.
Even in a 31-point win, there will be nitpicking. That doesn't mean I'm happy to do it, but there is no such thing as a perfect football game. If you didn't tune into Monday night's game, it was actually competitive for the first 40 minutes or so, and the main reason was that the Ravens had no answer for BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who signed with the Bengals in the offseason after carrying the majority of a light load for the pass-happy Patriots. In the first half, Green-Ellis slashed his way to 62 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. He twice converted on 4th-and-short situations on Cincinnati's lone touchdown drive late in the first half, which was capped off by his 6-yard scoring run. The struggles aren't excusable, but they are understandable given that the Ravens let two stout run defenders, Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding, walk in free agency and are without injured linebacker Terrell Suggs.
"We've got to stop the run better on first down, without question. We did not do a good job with that," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, one of the few times his smile faded after the win. "There were a lot of second-and-3s, third-and-1s, and that's going to be tough to defend no matter what you do, so I think it starts with that. ... They ran the ball on us really well."
But in the third quarter, the Ravens seized control of the line of scrimmage, holding Green-Ellis to 15 yards on five carries. After the Ravens offense started to set the scoreboard on fire, he touched the ball just once in the fourth quarter, running for 14 yards. The Ravens' tackling was spotty at times early, including after a flurry of short passes by Andy Dalton, but their stop of Dalton on a quarterback draw near the goal line early in the third quarter was a turning point.
Preventing Dalton -- who is not a dual-threat QB, but who is also by no means statuesque -- from scrambling is one thing. Corralling Michael Vick is another. Sorry for breaking Ray Lewis' 24-hour rule here, but the Ravens play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, and they will have to contain Vick, maybe the most dynamic running quarterback in NFL history. Yes, he is flawed as a passer, but that man can run. So can LeSean McCoy, their All-Pro back. With their speed running attack, they pose a different challenge than the bruising Bengals, but open-field tackling might be be even more critical.
"We have to get these mistakes out of the way and we have to move on," Lardarius Webb said.