Ravens should have used Rice more

September 19, 2010|Mike Preston

Cincinnati — On a day when a lot of things are going badly, the Ravens should go to the one thing that works. His name is Ray Rice.

The Ravens, though, virtually ignored Rice in a game where their passing offense failed, quarterback Joe Flacco performed poorly, and the team was the recipient of some bad officiating.

But instead of returning to old school football and relying on a strong defense and running game, the Ravens made Rice an afterthought in a 15-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

You knew this was going to happen. Just because the Ravens added receivers Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte' Stallworth in the off season, the Ravens were going to become pass happy riding on the arm of third-year quarterback Flacco.

Hopefully, a lesson was learned Sunday. In a game when Flacco is struggling (four interceptions), it is OK to turn Rice loose, especially when your receivers can't get enough separation to slide a credit card in between them and the defenders.

Rice, one of the top running backs in the league, gained 87 yards on 16 rushing attempt. That's right, 16 times. And instead of giving the Bengals a steady dose of Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain, the Ravens kept allowing Flacco to throw and throw, and struggle.

"The key to keeping Flacco without any rhythm is keeping No. 27 hemmed in," said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. "We're not going to pat ourselves on the back much, it was a hard-fought football game and we came out ahead."

Lewis should give an assist to the Ravens. Wake up, fellas. Don't believe your own hype. Get a feel for the game, and go with what is working, and Sunday it was pounding away at the Bengals.

One other thing: Why can't the Ravens have passing success against a team that plays 2 deep (see the Bengals and Indianapolis Colts)?

Bogus calls

The roughing the passer call on Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs with 5:36 left, which eventually led to a 38-yard field goal by Mike Nugent was atrocious.

What was Suggs supposed to do, freeze his body in midair and allow quarterback Carson Palmer to escape his grasp for fear of landing on him to hard? If the quarterback had been Jay Cutler or Brady Quinn, it would have been a no-call.

It's time to stop protecting the pretty boys. Also, the tripping penalty on linebacker Ray Lewis with 2:03 in the third quarter stunk, too. Lewis appeared to get blocked, and then rolled into Palmer after making a second effort to sack him.

Instead of getting a sack on a hustling play, Lewis got a 10-yard penalty, which resulted in another Nugent field goal. We won't say these stupid penalties cost the Ravens the game, but they had an impact.

"This is not Pop Warner football," said Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson. "Carson Palmer is a big, strong guy, and these guys can embarrass you if you're not going hard."

Poor showing

Houshmandzadeh dropped three passes. They were tough catches as he tried to leap over Bengals defenders, but if he gets his hands on the ball, he should make the catch.

It wasn't a great homecoming for Houshmandzadeh, who spent eight seasons with the Bengals.

T.O.'s missed chance

Bengals receiver Terrell Owens had a possible long touchdown pass bounce of his facemask late in the third quarter after he had gained a stop on Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington.

If Owens had tried to catch it with that big mouth of his instead of his hands, he would have swallowed it up and scored.

Relax, Baltimore

They'll be warming up the golf cart, waiting to bring backup quarterback Marc Bulger in from the bullpen for Flacco. Just because Flacco had a bad game, the world will come to an end in Baltimore.

Flacco's critics will be comparing him to Kyle Boller, and they will demand general manager Ozzie Newsome be fired. They'll suggest offensive coordinator Cam Cameron burn his playbook (maybe the section over cover-2), and demand the return of Don Shula as head coach.

I suggest everyone chill out. The Ravens lost to a team with good defensive backs and a decent front seven, a team that was embarrassed on the road last week and was playing its first home game. The Ravens were also operating on a short week.

Reality check: No one should be that surprised at the Ravens' loss.

Improved secondary

One good sign was the play of the Ravens much-maligned secondary. The group held Cincinnati to 167 passing yards, and the Bengals averaged only 10.4 yards a catch.

The impressive play eased a lot of concern about the backend of the defense, and the Ravens were still without injured safety Ed Reed. The Ravens did a nice job of mixing and matching the Bengals as Baltimore played eight different defensive backs.

Now this week, they need to work on catching the ball. The Ravens dropped two possible interceptions that might have been returned for touchdowns.

Fewer slants

The Ravens might have to ease up on those slant patterns. We can see them coming in the press box, and cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones looked as if he were the receiver instead of Boldin when he picked off a Flacco pass in the second quarter.

Critiquing Carson

Much has been made about the return of Palmer and how he is playing like the Palmer of old again, but I don't see it. He throws off balance, rushes his passes and tries to force them into windows when there is no room If the Ravens had any type of offense Sunday, the Bengals are the losers.

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