In Jaworski's tale of tape, little hope for Ravens upset

The Baltimore Sun

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. -- It's Wednesday morning and Ron Jaworski is already disgusted by the word "blueprint."

He has been hearing it for a week in connection with the Philadelphia Eagles' surprisingly close loss to the undefeated New England Patriots. By pressuring Tom Brady and blanketing Randy Moss, the theory goes, the Eagles frustrated a previously unstoppable offense.

Jaworski, an ESPN analyst and former Eagles quarterback, has examined tape of the game, rewinding as many as 10 times on each play to make sure he hasn't missed anything.

He pretty much thinks the "blueprint" theory is hooey.

Brady completed 34 of 54 passes for 380 yards. He dropped back 57 times and was hit exactly four. His team averaged a whopping nine plays per drive.

"If I had put together games like that," Jaworski says in what is rapidly becoming the chorus of the day, "I would've been on my way to [the Pro Football Hall of Fame in] Canton."

Jaworski is preparing for tonight's Patriots-Ravens game, which he'll analyze from the Monday Night Football booth at M&T; Bank Stadium. He's also devising segments for his weekly NFL Match-Up show on Sunday mornings. His routine for both includes full days of watching tape Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Jaworski peers at the same footage used by coaches, which shows each play from side and overhead angles that allow him to see every player on the field. He plays, rewinds, plays, rewinds for hours at a time in his dimly lit office at the sprawling suburban headquarters of NFL Films.

This morning, he's trying to figure out whether the Ravens have any chance to topple the Patriots.

Truth be told, he's not seeing it.

As he watches the Ravens' loss to the San Diego Chargers from last week, he sees mistakes that are simply uncommon for a good team.

On one early play, tight end Quinn Sypniewski and receiver Derrick Mason crash into each other.

"That shouldn't happen," Jaworski says. "They've been running that play since minicamp."

Another time, the Ravens fail to put a body on Chargers superstar linebacker Shawne Merriman, who tackles running back Willis McGahee for a loss.

"When your right tackle blocks like this, you've got a problem," says Jaworski's Match-Up producer, Greg Cosell.

Later, McGahee has room for a big run on the outside, but Mason whiffs on a block and McGahee is stopped for a 1-yard gain.

Throughout the game, quarterback Kyle Boller alternates sensational throws with ones on which he looks unbalanced and misses by several feet. On one play that leads to a fumble, Boller's eyes remain locked on a receiver who is overwhelmed by three defenders.

"It just bugs me because Kyle's got talent," Jaworski says. "This stuff makes me wonder if he's accepting coaching."

Sometimes, the Ravens' mistakes don't lead to bad results, but pile up enough of them, especially against a team as opportunistic as the Patriots, and lopsided losses follow.

A team must score early and often to have a chance against New England, Jaworski says. Eagles quarterback A.J. Feeley consistently spotted favorable matchups between his receivers and the Patriots' linebackers and safeties.

But he also was working with a solid receiving corps and perhaps the best pass-catching running back in the league in Brian Westbrook.

"The Ravens are not that kind of team," Jaworski says. "They don't have that kind of weapon out of the backfield. They don't have the weapons to exploit the Patriots' defense."

On defense, Jaworski expects the Ravens to blitz often. But they haven't done it effectively this season, allowing a 98 passer rating when they've rushed.

Cosell says the Ravens have lost their signature ability to send unblocked defenders surging into the backfield. That has left a heavy burden on a secondary that was always vulnerable and is now riddled with injuries.

Jaworski said the mix could be especially disastrous against Brady, who handles pressure beautifully and sees all the soft spots in a vulnerable secondary.

"Spin this forward," he says, watching the Ravens' defense against San Diego, "and Tom Brady will light you up if you leave these kinds of voids downfield."

Jaworski is troubled by a play on which Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers drew Ravens safety Ed Reed to one side of the field with body language and then exploited the wide-open middle of the field with a touchdown pass.

Brady is a master at steering defenders with head movement and then firing to the areas they've abandoned. Jaworski feels certain Brady will try to dupe Reed.

But even if the Ravens do everything right, Jaworski sees little hope of stopping a New England pass offense that is the best he has encountered.

"The only way to stop them," he concludes, "is to keep Tom Brady off the field."

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