For possibly the first time all season, there's very little for Ravens fans - or needy reporters, like myself - to criticize coming out of a game.
The Ravens delivered a full team effort yesterday in Kansas City. Joe Flacco looked like the playoff-tested quarterback everyone hoped he'd be this time around, the defense did well to contain Kansas City's offensive playmakers (especially in the second half) and both coordinators stayed aggressive late in the game, allowing the Ravens to put away a fourth-quarter lead in convincing fashion.
All big pluses. But not everything was roses and gumdrops for the Ravens yesterday. There were a few areas which still need to get shored up for Baltimore to continue its playoff run.
Tackles Michael Oher and Marshal Yanda had a rough day, getting burned around the edges on more than a few occasions. Flacco was harassed most of the game, was sacked four times, hit seven times, and couldn't comfortably settle into his drops and go through his progressions. He did show off his mobility yesterday (people still don't realize that the big 6-foot-6 quarterback is surprisingly agile for a guy his size), rushing seven times for 26 yards and picking up a couple nice gains. And, to be fair, the offensive line did a better job giving Flacco time as the game progressed. But Flacco's a much better quarterback when he has the protection to remain in the pocket and survey the field. That's still a facet which must get better - and quickly - with the Steelers and their ferocious front-seven on deck.
Red zone efficiency
Yes, the Ravens scored touchdowns on their last two full drives and clinched the game. But prior to that, Baltimore had possession inside the Kansas City 15 on four occasions and only reached the end zone once. This includes their opening drive, when they had a first-and-goal at the Chiefs' 1-yard line, and a possession midway through the third quarter in which they were handed exceptional field position at the Kansas City 17 after a Ray Lewis forced fumble. For a while there, the Ravens were letting the Chiefs hang around despite dominating the game, which you never want to see. Overall, 2-for-5 in red zone efficiency isn't bad, but the Ravens simply need to get more touchdowns and fewer field goals going forward.
This point kind of goes hand-in-hand with the previous one, but the Ravens must find a way to get better results in their short-yardage situations. You've got three cracks at the end zone from the one-foot line and can't punch it in? Not acceptable. The Ravens haven't been able to find an effective rushing scheme in short-yardage situations this year, and they might have to get a little creative the rest of the way out. One possibility is they start spreading teams out wide and either throwing to their big, physical receiving targets against man-coverage, or handing off to Ray Rice or Willis McGahee out of a spread formation and letting them exploit the space between the tackles. Regardless, the jumbo formations haven't worked very often this year, and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron might have to start mixing stuff up.