Ravens did what they were supposed to do against Rams

September 25, 2011|Mike Preston

ST. LOUIS — — The Ravens' 37-7 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday was more like a practice than an actual game, but the victory was definitely a good sign.

Few will jump to such lofty conclusions as they did after the Ravens' big victory against Pittsburgh in the opening week, but the Ravens crushed the Rams, and that's exactly what good teams do against bad teams.

You pummel them. You bludgeon them and smack them around from the opening whistle until the final gun.

At the same time — especially early in the season — you're building confidence, and the Ravens won their first road game of the season after being upset in Tennessee last week.

Again, there is no reason to go overboard with excitement, but it was nice seeing rookie receiver Torrey Smith and quarterback Joe Flacco hook up for three touchdowns. With regular starter Lee Evans bothered by an ankle injury, it's good to know that Flacco has confidence in Smith, his backup.

Backup running back Ricky Williams showed explosiveness which we haven't seen all year, and backup guard-center Andre Gurode turned in a solid effort at left guard, even though he struggled run-blocking against Rams defensive tackle Justin Bannan.

Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano mixed up his defenses well and kept the Rams off balance, which wasn't the case last week against the Titans. And the Ravens got inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and nickel back Chris Carr more playing time than in previous weeks.

This is the kind of dominance you want to see against a winless team like the Rams.

"I'm proud of the way we came out, proud of the way we attacked, in all three phases, the passing game especially," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. "Torrey Smith, what can you say? Talk about a breakout performance in the first quarter that is pretty historic there. For Joe to get all of those guys involved was big. Our defense got after it, and they stopped the run, which you have to do against these guys. They also kept [Rams quarterback Sam] Bradford on the run. Now we want to build on this kind of stuff and transfer this to Sunday night."

One critique

Harbaugh caught a lot of criticism from local TV announcers here for attempting to run up the score and not taking Flacco out late in the game.

Harbaugh said he kept Flacco in because he wanted to develop more timing between his young receivers, running backs and an offensive line that hasn't played much together. His explanation is solid, but you don't jeopardize your entire season this early. It's one thing to send a message to the Steelers, but there was nothing else to gain against the Rams.

I'd prefer to have had Flacco standing on the sidelines with six minutes remaining and his baseball cap on backwards. But at least Harbaugh's decision was logical.

St. Louis slumming

The Rams are truly horrible.

Three times in the first half, they forgot to block outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, the Ravens' best defensive player. And it was just strange watching Smith repeatedly blow by left cornerback Justin King and safety Darian Stewart.

Smith was so fast that he and Flacco left the Rams flat-footed and delusional.

"It's not like we just went out there and just got smashed. We had guys in the right areas," said Rams safety Quintin Mikell. "It's just one of those things where a tip here or a tip there and there goes a different game."

Huh?

Corner concern

Ravens starting cornerback Cary Williams is starting to scare me. Enough said.

Rice hitting stride

There are few, if any, running backs that can run a screen better than the Ravens' Ray Rice. He is short, which helps him hide behind the offensive line, but he sets up his blockers extremely well and has great vision.

Once he comes off the block, he has great acceleration and few can tackle him in the open field.

Feisty moments

St. Louis fans were unhappy when right tackle Jason Smith was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty midway through the third quarter, but he deserved it. A number of the Rams offensive linemen were taking cheap shots at Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis, and I liked it when defensive tackle Arthur Jones came to Lewis' defense, and shoved Smith to the ground.

Even after that play, the Rams still took a couple of cheap shots at the Ravens players, and deep down, I'm wondering if that's why Harbaugh attempted to run up the score.

Mixing it up with Leach

Besides throwing the ball downfield more often, Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron threw in a couple of hitches, a slant and a bubble screen.

Now, he just needs to fine tune that pass to fullback Vonta Leach in the flat. It's OK if Leach is going forward, but when he is going horizontal, he can't stop and turn that big 260-pound fame.

Getting his wish

Flacco had some interesting statements about the Ravens' offensive game plan for the future. He'd prefer the Ravens open up the passing game and attack.

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