Welcome to the Monday Ravens 10-Pack, where reporter Jon Meoli hits on 10 stats, notes, and thoughts following a 29-7 Ravens win over the Atlanta Falcons. Read ahead for notes on the Ravens' exploding pass rush, stout scoring defense, and offensive depth chart.
1. On Saturday, I wrote about how the Ravens' pass rush didn't want much credit for what it was doing—instead, they attributed the five-sack performance to the improved pass defense and the scheme. Not buying it anymore. No team has three pass rushers like Terrell Suggs (one sack for a safety), Pernell McPhee (two sacks) and Elvis Dumervil (two sacks, tied for second in the league with seven). Suggs and Dumervil spread the offensive line out by rushing on the outside, McPhee picks a victim on the inside, and the rest of the linebackers and defensive lineman help collapse the pocket. The Bengals got the ball out quickly in Week 1 and neutralized that pass rush, and as McPhee might say, "they'd be some fools" if they don't again Sunday.
2. Counting this week, eight NFL teams have already had bye weeks, meaning they've played fewer games than the Ravens. And yet even with seven games played, the Ravens lead the NFL with just 107 points allowed, good for 14.9 points allowed per game. That's a fraction better than the Detroit Lions, a defense widely considered the best in the league. The Ravens are in the bottom third of the league with 2,421 yards allowed, but a league-leading red zone defense has kept the Ravens' opponents under 24 points in every game this year.
3. The main difference between Week 1 and Sunday is the pass defense. Against Cincinnati in early September, the Ravens had five players they used statically in the secondary, and didn't vary much of anything. On Sunday against Atlanta, four safeties and three cornerbacks rotated in on passing and running downs, allowing them to play personnel that. Debuting safety Will Hill obviously helps, but the emergence of rookie safety Terrence Brooks, a healthy Lardarius Webb at cornerback, and the upgrade Dominique Franks has provided over Chykie Brown at outside cornerback all factor into a defense that's given up the fourth-most passing yards (1,809) in the league, but is tied for the fewest pass touchdowns allowed (seven).
4. On that note, my favorite (and one of my colleague's favorite) tidbits of this piece: the weekly "Jimmy Smith, top-flight corner" update. Smith wasn't following anyone in particular Sunday, but he allowed just two catches on five targets in coverage for 28 yards. And just three of those yards came after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus. Smith's season totals remain staggering: in 281 snaps, he's been thrown at 39 times for 20 catches, 163 yards (42 YAC) and no touchdowns, according to PFF. I won't even be smarmy and ask if that's good. It is.
5. The rookie left side of the offensive line with James Hurst at left tackle and John Urschel at left guard wasn't as strong as it was last week against Tampa Bay, and now the race against the clock begins for starters Eugene Monroe and Kelechi Osemele to return from knee injury. Some have called Osemele the best guard in football while he was healthy, but Hurst's uneven performances lead me to believe Monroe is the one to have back if the Ravens can only have one against the Bengals. Urschel has been solid in run blocking and held his own in pass protection, so if Osemele needs another week, he can probably have one. I'd rush Monroe back, though. Hurst's three holds on Sunday really raised some questions.
6. Right guard Marshal Yanda is the highest-rated guard in PFF's grades, and it's not even close. His 21.8 overall rating in seven games is nearly seven grade points higher than the man in second place. There's a reason the Ravens run so much to the right side, and pick up nearly five yards per clip when they do it.
7. Jacoby Jones, whose muffed punt late in the first half stopped hearts at M&T Bank Stadium and piled onto his tough season, remained a factor in the return game but played a season-low four offensive snaps against the Falcons. By comparison, Michael Campanaro played 20 and Kamar Aiken was on the field for 17. Both had big first-down completions. Both, it should be noted, make less money than Jones as well. With Torrey Smith due a new contract this year and salary cap issues all over the field, it could be a situation where Jones' production isn't worth his pay.
8. Torrey Smith had a respectable three catches for 81 yards and a score, but he could have had a second touchdown when he drew his league-leading seventh pass interference penalty in the first quarter. He entered the game with six pass interferences drawn for 123 yards, according to Football Outsiders, and the penalty Sunday went for 36, giving him a league-leading total of 158 yards drawn on penalties. I bet if those were catches, his season would look a little different.
9. What a world we live in where Justin Forsett grinding out four yards per carry is a bit of a letdown game. What's more interesting is that the NFL's fourth-leading rusher was mostly spelled by Bernard Pierce, who has been the goal-line back the past two games and scored a second time. Pierce didn't run particularly well overall, but it seems like he's keeping the second back role while rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro continues to bide his time behind Forsett.
10. The last slot in this 10-pack will, from now on, be called the Accountability Corner, where I will take stock of my pregame prediction for the three stars of the game. Joe Flacco was my pick for the No. 1 star, and while his 258 yards, two scores, and two interceptions wasn't world-beating, he probably would have made the podium because it was a home game and he was the de-facto best player on offense. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams didn't get the opportunity to be the No. 2 star, nor did Falcons running back Antone Smith at the No. 3 slot. Those probably would have gone to McPhee and Dumervil in real life, with Dumervil taking the top spot. I'll do better next week.