The 2012 Baltimore Ravens have had many ups and downs to begin the NFL first quarter this season, both on and off the field. The Ravens found out that they lost Terrell Suggs for the first half of the season prior to the start of training camp, and wide receiver Torrey Smith found out that he lost his brother in a motorcycle accident just hours before the team’s third game. Through it all, the Ravens have come out of everything with a 3-1 start, which is good enough for a first place tie in the AFC North.
The Ravens look like a different team this season. Sure, many of the same pieces are in place with a team who was one dropped ball by Lee Evans or one kick made by Billy Cundiff away from reaching the Super Bowl. The defense is still a menacing force, and will only get better when Suggs makes his much awaited return.
But it is the offense which looks like no other Ravens team in recent memory. Ray Rice is still the best player on the team, but the offense no longer runs entirely through him. In fact, this has become a Joe Flacco-centric team who has turned to the pass, catching up to the rest of the NFL in a new pass happy league. Rice still plays a huge role for Baltimore, but this team starts and ends on the arm of the borderline arrogant Flacco.
Also helping matters is the emergence of Smith as the new No. 1 receiver in Baltimore. Anquan Boldin has taken a bit of a back seat, and the Ravens have also gone to the two tight end set often in the offense with Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. The most telling fact is that the Ravens rank as the No. 4 passing offense in yards, yet 12th in rushing yards. Whether you like it or not, times have changed in Baltimore. Take a look at the statistics on offense through the first quarter of the 2012 NFL regular season.
Joe Flacco: 99 completions of 156 attempts for 1,269 yards // 7 TD and 3 INT
Ray Rice: 64 carries for 317 yards // 3 TD
Bernard Pierce: 17 carries for 88 yards
Torrey Smith: 16 catches for 332 yards // 3 TD
Anquan Boldin: 19 catches for 249 yards // 1 TD
Dennis Pitta: 18 catches for 188 yards // 2 TD
Ray Rice: 22 catches for 174 yards // 1 TD
Jacoby Jones: 9 catches for 170 yards // 1 TD
On defense, the Ravens have actually struggled mightily against the pass, although they have faced a few solid quarterbacks through the first four games. They defeated the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns behind strong performances from Tom Brady, Andy Dalton and, well, Brandon Weeden. Two out of three isn’t bad. Baltimore’s only loss was a 24-23 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, who actually received a strong performance from Michael Vick. Still, the Ravens rank just 29th out of 32 teams in passing yards allowed. That number will have to improve going forward.
The rush defense has been a bit better, ranking 13th in rushing yards allowed per game. When Suggs comes back, both numbers should improve, provided he returns close to full health. Ray Lewis is still the leader of this defensive unit, but Haloti Ngata is a beast up front, and the team has also gotten some big plays from Dannell Ellerbe. Ed Reed leads the team in interceptions, but Ladarius Webb is becoming a force in the defensive backfield as well.
The Ravens have also been solid in the kicking game with rookie Justin Tucker. This is a tough division in which three teams could once again fight for six playoff spots, so the Ravens will have to be on top of their game throughout the 2012 season if they wish to contend for a Super Bowl championship going forward. With a steady offense and defense that should improve, the Ravens receive a B through the 2012 NFL first quarter on their report card.