When the Eagles are on Offense:
Which leads to the next crucial point for the Eagles and that is making sure Vick stays in the game. There are three keys to ensuring Vick plays the whole game. First, he must make better decisions when on the run. Vick took a lot of hard hits on Sunday. He was hit 19 times which is the most a quarterback has been hit in one game since the beginning of 2010. Second, the offensive line cannot allow Vick to get hit that much. Defenders were coming in untouched and pounding Vick on Sunday. Against the nasty Ravens defense, Vick won’t survive if the offensive line allows the Ravens to get the hits that the Browns did. Lastly, and most importantly, the Eagles MUST use LeSean McCoy more. Vick threw the ball 56 times on Sunday! That is totally unacceptable when the Browns ranked 30th against the run last year and they have an electric back like Shady in the backfield. McCoy had 110 rushing yards on just 20 carries last week and only had seven rushes at halftime. Shady helps to take some pressure off of Vick and it allows Vick to go a play (or two or three!) without getting driven into the ground. The Eagles must find more balance this week against the Ravens or else Ed Reed is going to have a field day picking off Michael Vick.
The Ravens defense is a force; it has been for years and, despite missing reigning 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, they look like they picked up right where they left off. Ray Lewis, who is still a force at age 37, had 14 tackles and a sack on Monday night. Ed Reed picked off Pro Bowler Andy Dalton and returned it for a touchdown. Their defensive line is locked down by nose tackle Haloti Ngata in the middle. Ngata, at 6’4’’ 340 lbs, clogs the middle of the field which helps slow the run game down but he can also get the QB (two sacks last week, five sacks in 2011 and 5.5 in 2010). Eagles center Jason Kelce and guards Danny Watkins and Evan Mathis are going to have their hands full with Ngata. Ngata draws double teams for obvious reasons but that also allows players to come through untouched on the blitz.
When the Ravens are on Offense:
As impressive as Rice was and as difficult as he will be to shutdown, the most eye-opening performance on Monday came from Flacco. Flacco completed over 72% of his passes and threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns. That is a QB rating of 128.4. Flacco spread the ball out among his receivers. Eight different Ravens recorded a catch with tight end Dennis Pitta leading the way with five receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown. On the outside WRs Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin compliment each other exceptionally well. Smith is a lightning quick receiver from the University of Maryland who can stretch the field while Boldin is a big strong possession receiver that has no qualms about going across the middle. The Ravens used the no-huddle offense a lot last Monday and they are expected to continue it this week against the Eagles. The no-huddle will try to knock the Eagles strong pass-rush off its game. It will be interesting to see what defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has planned. The ground game combined with the improved passing attack makes the Ravens a threat to any defense.
If there were any positives for the Eagles to take out of the game on Sunday, almost all of them would come from the defensive side of the ball. Safety Kurt Coleman and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie each recorded two interceptions. Coleman defended two passes while DRC defended four passes. DeMeco Ryans was all over the field in Week 1 as he led the team, along with Akeem Jordan and Coleman, with five solo tackles a piece. The Eagles defense played well as even rookie Fletcher Cox and Jason Babin each recorded a sack on Browns QB Brandon Weeden. The defense played well, holding the Browns to just nine points off three Phil Dawson field goals, but the Ravens offense is much more explosive than the Browns.
Special Teams and Prediction:
As for the Ravens, kicker Justin Tucker went 3-for-3 in field goal attempts and 2-for-2 from 40 yards or further. The Ravens offense was very efficient so punter Sam Koch only got two opportunities to punt (50 yards and 37 yards).
Overall, I think this is going to be a knockdown, drag-out game. I feel like last week’s poor performance was a wake up call for the Eagles offense and coaches. I expect a significantly better performance this week and I think that it is very possible the Eagles win the game but, more realistically, I think the Ravens are too strong on defense for the Eagles to sustain drives and not turn the ball over. It is not far-fetched to think Joe Flacco gets knocked back down a few notches playing against the Eagles secondary. But, in the end, I think Alex Henery misses another field goal which forces the Eagles to go for a touchdown on the final drive and it doesn’t happen.
Follow Steve on Twitter @SDolan3
Follow Whiz Wit on Twitter @WhizWitSports