Ravens have prized possession -- a great set of receivers

They show that offense doesn't need a deep threat

September 13, 2010|Mike Preston

East Rutherford, N.J. — The Ravens proved Monday night that a team doesn't need a deep, vertical threat — not as long as it has a good group of "possession" receivers.

It has been a major criticism of the Ravens since last season and entering Monday night's game against the New York Jets. But the Ravens receivers made several big plays against the Jets, a team that has the best group of cornerbacks and safeties in the league.

But despite the talent and the depth, the Jets couldn't match up with the Ravens receivers, and it will be that way all year. Unless a team can get a constant pass rush on the Ravens, it's hard to match up with receivers Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and tight end Todd Heap.

The Ravens exposed Jets rookie cornerback and nickel back Kyle Wilson, and they torched New York veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who was supposed to be the perfect complement to All-World cornerback Darrelle Revis.

On one series in the third quarter, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco just threw jump balls to Boldin, who leaped over Wilson for receptions of 38 and 27 yards.

"Today was a joke," said Jets coach Rex Ryan. "They just threw it up there, and I don't blame them."

Despite 38 pass attempts, the Ravens ran the ball 35 times, a good balance. They didn't get a lot of rushing yards, but they still kept plugging away at New York.

Ravens 'D' dominant

Despite three turnovers in the first half from its offense, the Ravens defense outplayed its New York counterpart throughout the game. The Ravens squashed New York's running game, and controlled the Jets' offense wherever they started a possession on the field.

Going into the final 10 minutes of the game, the Jets hadn't converted on a third-down situation. New York converted only one of nine in the game.

Turnover, then adjust

The Ravens had a turnover on their first offensive play of the season when Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis and linebacker Bryan Thomas sacked Flacco and the Jets recovered at the Ravens' 11.

The Jets got only a field goal, but that play made the Ravens change their plans. The Ravens started out with a three-receiver package and then went with power formations using two tight ends or an unbalanced line for the remainder of the game.

Heap's mistake

Tight end Todd Heap had a strong training camp and preseason, so there is no excuse for his dropping that potential 29-yard touchdown pass midway in the first quarter.

Heap had beaten Jets rookie cornerback Kyle Wilson, and Flacco lofted the ball right into his hands, a pass that Heap has probably caught several hundred times throughout his career. Heap did finish with 11 receptions for 72 yards.

War of the words

The war of words between the two teams continued right up through the coin flip. Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis was chattering throughout the toss, and then had words with Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins before walking away without shaking hands, including those of former teammate Bart Scott, now a Jets linebacker.

Koch the tackler

The Ravens have an additional weapon on the team in Sam Koch. He's one of the NFL's best punters, but he's also an outstanding tackler.

When Jets punt returner Jim Leonhard broke loose on a 32-yard return in the second quarter, you knew he wasn't going to score a touchdown even though Koch was the last remaining tackler. Koch, a former high school linebacker, took Leonhard down at the Ravens' 37, saving a touchdown.

What talk?

When the Jets had a time to show their toughness, they backed off. On a third-and-8 from the Ravens' 17 midway in the second quarter, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez had a chance for a first down, but slid instead of trying to dive. He fell 1 yard short of a first down.

Then, instead of going for it, Ryan sent in field-goal kicker Nick Folk on fourth-and-1. With all of that yap this week, you'd figure Ryan would go for it.

Not missing Clayton

On a third-and-3 from the Ravens' 31 late in the second quarter, Flacco lofted a pass that newly acquired receiver Houshmandzadeh went up and hauled in over Cromartie for a 27-yard gain.

There is no way former Ravens receiver Mark Clayton makes that catch. No way.

Jets' weak link

It took the Ravens some time to figure it out, but the weak link of the Jets' defense was nickel back Wilson, a rookie out of Boise State, who ended up covering Boldin, Houshmandzadeh and Heap at times.

Longer preseason, please

The first week of games, including the Ravens-Jets game, makes it clear the NFL should increase the number of preseason games from four to six.

It's apparent with all the sloppy play that the teams can't get it right in four games.

Edwards' penalties

Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards had two costly penalties in the first half that had a major effect on the game. Edwards will never be accused of being one of the brightest players in the league, and now you know why he was virtually run out of Cleveland.

The Jets had 10 penalties for about 100 yards in the first half and ended up with 14 for 125 yards for the game.

Note to Zibby

Hopefully, Ravens coach John Harbaugh reminds punt returner Tom Zbikowski that he can't try to reverse field and try to outrun everyone after being pinned on the sideline.

That can happen in college football, but not in the NFL. This ain't Notre Dame.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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