Boy, oh boy. Was it nice to see the purple uniforms (well, white) back on the field.
On a picturesque Baltimore night, the Ravens began their 2014 season in grand fashion, drubbing the 49ers and Jim Harbaugh by a score of 23-3.
On the first possession, the Ravens defense appeared somewhat suspect — the defensive line was getting pushed back. The 49ers were finding receivers open downfield. Things didn’t look great. But the Ravens, in classic fashion, bent without breaking, allowing a field goal to go down 3-0.
Those were the only points the 49ers would score all night.
Joe Flacco led the Ravens on an 80+ yard drive that was damn near perfect. In one of the most crisp performances in recent memory by a Ravens offense, the Ravens were getting chunks of yards whenever they wanted — be it through the air or on the ground. It was capped off inside the 5-yard line by a Bernard Pierce touchdown run, finishing the work that Joe Flacco and Ray Rice had done.
The Ravens never looked back. Here are the notes on the game:
On the Ravens first drive, there were some lapses. However, after the butterflies, the Ravens defense — led by their first-round pick, C.J. Mosley, really started to come around. Mosley made three specific plays that forced me to take notice. First, there was an instance where the running back was headed for the a-gap — all of the blockers were handling their assignments — but Mosley drove forward and clogged up the hole, forcing the running back to run into congestion and eventually a loss. The next was on a screen play, where the offensive line for the 49ers executed their jobs successfully, leaking out towards the flat with the running back. Mosley sniffed the play out from a mile away, and was between the group of 49ers waiting for it to develop — eventually resulting in an incompletion. The final play was when he recorded the Ravens’ first sack of the game. He shot through the line, along with Pernell McPhee, and showed not only an extremely powerful pass rush, but also the ability to disengage from blockers and find the ball.
Essentially, Mosley was impressive in all facets of the game. He could be an absolute difference maker on defense.
In a performance as good as this, you have to nitpick when choosing the least valuable player. But on the 49ers first drive, it was obvious that Colin Kaepernick was targeting Brown. There was a 17-yard completion, and then another pass that resulted in a penalty against Chykie (although it was a ticky-tacky call). In any event, it is apparent that opposing offenses are going to go after Brown repeatedly and force him to prove his ability. It wasn’t an especially poor performance from Brown, but you want to see a little more from him if he remains in the cornerback rotation.
I mean, is there much else to be said? The Ravens, who averaged 3.0 yards-per-carry as a team last season, just rushed for 237 yards against the 49ers, albeit in the preseason. But for all the hype about a Kubiak offense producing no matter who carried the football — that’s exactly what happened. Ray Rice looked quicker and more decisive than he did at any point last season. Bernard Pierce showed good decision making and a strong finishing touch. Justin Forsett displayed his open field savvy while also flashing a more bruising style than expected. Meanwhile, Lorenzo Taliaferro was, in a word, efficient. He rushed for 73 yards on 13 carries — no individual highlight to “wow” you, but a clinic in consistency. He falls forward, and he finds the creases and makes the most of every play. Great first impression from Taliaferro. Oh, and undrafted running back Fitzgerald Touissant also looked good.
And then, on the aerial side of things, Flacco looked good. On his only drive, he moved with a pace unseen before. It was methodical, and with the running game working so well, the defense was on their heels. This made Kubiak’s patented play-action attack all the more potent. Let’s just say it was a great first impression for the Flacco-Kubiak pairing as Flacco completed 80% of his passes. Tyrod Taylor looked good in his time, despite one interception. It isn’t hard to see why he would like Kubiak’s offense, as Taylor will frequently end up out of the pocket and running. At times his pocket presence left some to be desired, but in all, the offense seems to provide options for the quarterback.
The number of yards the San Francisco 49ers managed in the game. 66 of those came on the opening drive.
Yes, much of it came against Blaine Gabbert. Yes, it is only the preseason.
But the Ravens defensive front looked strong, and the rotation on the line will give a lot of offensive lines headaches. If the Ravens can sort out their secondary — Asa Jackson looked great, coming up with an interception on one notable play — then they could have a very good, very fast defense. Once Mosley turned it on on the second drive, the defense turned the corner.
What this win means
Well, it means we can look forward to next week’s performance. This is a game of consistency, and the Ravens have set the bar high.
This win means that the Ravens are deep at some useful positions. They have playmakers at running back and wide receiver on the third-string that look like legitimate first-team candidates. The offensive line looked like they were in mid-season form.
This means the Ravens fans know what “good” looks like. Let’s see if it can be maintained. One thing is for sure: when you run the ball that well and keep the other offense off the field, good things happen.
The Ravens will travel to Dallas to square off with the Cowboys on Saturday, August 16 at 7 p.m., where the Ravens will look to stack quality performances. Let’s see if Rolando McClain can stop this rushing attack.