Welcome to the Ravens Ten-Pack, where I’ll go medium depth on 10 Ravens topics that came from the previous week’s game. This was initially a Tuesday thing, but now it's a Monday thing, so read ahead for notes on Jimmy Smith, C.J. Mosley, the Ravens' offensive gameplan, and their inability to deal with pressure.
1. The early-game decision-making by both John Harbaugh and Colts coach Chuck Pagano was telling Sunday. The Colts went for it on fourth down on the opening drive, and the Ravens opted against a field goal on fourth down in the second quarter — which resulted in a silly play-action sack for quarterback Joe Flacco. I think both teams were expecting a shootout where three points wouldn’t have been enough. In both cases, it probably would have.
2. Rookie C.J. Mosley was one of just a handful of game changers on defense, making 14 combined tackles, intercepting his first career pass in the red zone, and forcing an earlier interception on a blitz of quarterback Andrew Luck. He leads all rookies with 49 total tackles, good for sixth in the league. His presence in the middle of the Ravens defense is pivotal, given the limitations of age that we’re seeing with Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Daryl Smith at the second level.
3. Three of the four Colts sacks were by players blocked by rookie left tackle James Hurst, who after an anonymous (in a good way) debut against Carolina was attacked by Pagano’s blitz-happy defense. It would have been a fourth sack had Flacco not hung in and made a second-quarter screen pass throw to Justin Forsett on third down. It’s disappointing for Hurst to have had such a game in Indianapolis, just a short drive away from his hometown of Plainfield, Ind. He’ll likely have a few more shots before starter Eugene Monroe returns and will be tested again on the road this week against Tampa Bay.
4. The Colts pass rush, as a whole, took the Ravens out of rhythm in the passing game. Last week, Flacco was nearly perfect on third down and in the face of pressure. On Sunday, he was neither. Flacco was two of 10 for 46 yards when under pressure Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus, and by my count, completed four of eight passes for 34 yards, one first down, and one interception on third down. Neither of those is going to get it done, and judging by how different those numbers were a week ago, it’s clear something better is possible.
5. The Ravens pass rush didn't do much to impact the game, aside from fourth-year man Pernell McPhee, who had two tackles for loss and his first sack of the season. This unit was limited by injury, though. Defensive end Chris Canty was out through injury and illness, and Suggs was limited by a groin injury. Both of those guys still have it, when healthy, but that’s a big qualifier with as many games as they have under their belt, and we just saw the result when they aren’t firing on all cylinders.
6. This year’s two Ravens losses mirror each other in one big way — the team wasn’t able to sustain any kind of running game, and didn’t seem terribly interested in doing so. The running attack averaged six yards per carry (15 runs for 90 yards) and was buoyed by the return of Bernard Pierce, who ran four times for 30 yards. The Ravens enjoyed a three-game winning streak because they were able to run the ball, tire out defense, and keep their own off the field. Perhaps the track meet mentality that led to the coaches’ early-game decisions affected the game plan, as well.
7. Your weekly Jimmy Smith update in this space only confirms what you saw on your screens yesterday. Smith didn’t shadow any of the impressive Colts receivers. Instead, they moved receivers away from Smith if they wanted to get them the ball. Smith was targeted five times for one completion and two yards, according to PFF. On the season, he’s been targeted 24 times for 12 catches, 67 yards, and no scores. He’ll be well tested against the tall Buccaneers receivers this week, and then Atlanta’s Julio Jones a week later.
8. By comparison, it was more of the same for everyone else. Cornerback Asa Jackson was thrown at in coverage nine times for seven catches and 67 yards. Cornerback Lardarius Webb, who effectively made his season debut, also allowed seven catches on 10 throws for 91 yards. Webb made some good plays, too, and working him back into a regular rotation and finding a set of defensive backs that jells is going to make a big difference for the defense going forward.
9. Second-year fullback Kyle Juszczyk was tabbed as the ready-made replacement for tight end Dennis Pitta, but that hasn’t happened since the beloved tight end went down. In the two full games since he was injured, Juszczyk has two catches for eight yards on three targets, including one incompletion on Sunday. He’s done well in run blocking — a fullback’s primary job — but perhaps teams are accounting for him more in Pitta’s absence.
10. Receiver Marlon Brown was buried a bit earlier in the season, but he has emerged as the team’s third receiver over the past two games. Brown played 30 snaps Sunday, compared to eight from Jacoby Jones and six for Kamar Aiken, according to PFF. He probably could have made a play on the desperation deep ball on the game’s final drive from Flacco, but that’s nitpicking. In games like this when neither Steve Smith nor Torrey Smith makes an impact, Brown could have an opportunity to step up.