By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — The Baltimore Ravens look like a daunting, looming obstacle after tearing apart the Cincinnati Bengals, 44-13, on Monday night. As the complete polar opposite, the Eagles looked shredded in their taut 17-16 victory over the young Cleveland Browns in their season-opener.
In past years, the Ravens relied heavily on a strong running back and a stubborn defense. But the maturity of Joe Flacco, from nearby Audubon High School in South Jersey, has given Baltimore an added dimension.
Running a no-huddle offense, Flacco completed 21 of 29 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns in being named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
It’s slowing down the suddenly offensive explosive Ravens that will be the practice priority for the Eagles this week.
“I understand that they do a lot of different things, but as long as we understand how they’re going to attack us and understand the formations, we’ll be fine,” said Eagles’ free safety Kurt Coleman, who two interceptions, including the game-sealing pick in the final minute against Cleveland. “It’s a team game [not a game the defense has to win]. The offense went down and got us the win last week. So this isn’t a defensive thing, but we do have to hold our own on the outside.”
Another concern is stopping tailback Ray Rice and the receiving trio of Anquan Bolden, Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta, who combined for 193 of Flacco’s 299 yards passing.
Then there is Flacco, who’s gradually improved and taken more pressure off the defense.
“The no-huddle creates substitution factor, and the mismatches then, and obviously the fatigue because you want that rest in between plays, but you almost get caught up in something and they’ll hit with the play-action deep ball,” Coleman said.
“We’ve been preparing for the no-huddle since the off-season. Flacco has been getting better every single year I’ve been watching him, especially his first game Monday night, he looked tremendous. Being able to sit in the pocket, he made a lot of great throws. He has one of the top arms in this league and he had command of this offense. He’s going to present a lot of obstacles for us. We’ll spend a week of game planning and we should be ready to play him.”
Injury Update: Eagles’ coach Andy Reid reported that Jeremy Maclin suffered a hip pointer and did not practice on Wednesday. Riley Cooper did return to practice for the first time since fracturing his collarbone.
“He’s actually made progress here over the past couple of days,” Reid said about Maclin. “That’s a good thing. He’s feeling better. I wouldn’t list him as out today. That’s not how I’d list him but he’s not going to practice either.”
Can Vick Bounce Back?: Michael Vick had problems with detecting Cleveland’s various blitzes. Reid was asked whether or not Vick had problems with his progressions, finding his secondary and third receivers on routes.
“Listen, I know we’re focusing all on Michael here,” Reid said. “I think everybody, offensively, starting with me, we need to all do better. We need to protect better so he’s not moving all around in the pocket. The receivers have to run their routes better and more aggressive. Michael’s got some things. The running backs have to protect a little bit or get open in certain situations. So, there are a whole lot of things that we can work on here. I know it all falls onto Michael, but there’s a little bit more to it than that.”
As for Vick, you get the impression he’s trying to erase the four interceptions he threw against Cleveland, one returned for a touchdown that gave Cleveland a 16-10 lead.
“I really haven’t listened to what people are saying,” Vick said. “I don’t really feed into that. This is a tough game and it’s never easy. Like I said, give a lot of credit to the Cleveland defense last week. We’re onto Baltimore now and it’s all about getting better week in and week out and bouncing back from it. That’s what I plan on doing.”
Vick hinted he may tuck the ball and run more against Baltimore, returning to “the old Vick.” Reid said Vick got in early Monday to break down film and has been working diligently to correct the mistakes he made against the Browns.
“There are plenty of throws that I wish I would have had back and that I wish I would have pulled down and maybe checked it down or ran with it,” Vick said. “It’s options. The thing is, I know why I did the things that I did and it wasn’t like mental errors.
When it’s mental errors, that can become a problem but that’s not the case.
“I think it’s decision-making, pressing, and not pressing as hard to try and make things happen when things aren’t going your way. One thing you can’t do in this league is you can’t force throws and you can’t try to stick a ball in a tight spot when a guy is not really open and try to make something happen at that given time. You just have to work your way down the field and take what the defense gives you. Play keep away and keep it simple.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.