Well, disappointing week for sure. Not to rehash what's already been said, but its never easy to swallow a loss to the Ravens, particularly a winnable game. But, that's not what I am here to talk about. Rather I want to start a general discussion about the state of our guys going into the bye. My thoughts after the jump...
First of all, hats off to the Ravens, they played a solid game and earned a W. We made a number of costly mistakes to be certain, but they capitalized and made plays when it mattered. (On a side note, Boldin was a great acquisition, the guy is a beast)
Now, onto the real purpose of this post. Going into the bye week seems an excellent time to take a step back and take a hard look at where we realistically stand and the general state of the team. So, I would like to open this thread to a general discussion on just that.
1. While any loss is certainly an unpleasant one, I think we can gleam some good out of this particular debacle. For one we proved that even without our starting QB we can realistically win a tough game against a talented opponent. Despite what the stats may indicate(210 yds of offense), at no point did it feel as thought we were outmatched. We handled a tough pass rush as well as could be expected (on more than one occasion I counted between 5-8 seconds of time for Batch to make a throw.) And perhaps more importantly, Mendenhall is definitely showing why we picked him up in the first round. He has yet to be definitively "stuffed" this season. He's running hard and smart, hitting holes with authority. One can only assume that the running game will improve with Ben in the game as he commands the respect of a defense and makes it far precarious to load the box. By the way, Mendenhall is currently the NFL's #2 rusher.
2. Isn't it nice to finally at least something resembling an offensive line. Adams, for all his miscues, has proven to be a definite asset in the running game in particular. Pouncey has exceeded any possible expectations. And Legursky has been a pleasant surprise filling in at guard. In short, Sean Kugler seems to have pulled this line into a budding semblance of shape.
3. The defense has been lights out. This game was certainly a low point, but that happens. The defense is exceptional and I think that will be evident against Cleveland. Particularly reassuring is the emergence of Tomlin's draft picks, most notable Woodley and Timmons. Timmons is opening the season with a pro bowl caliber campaign and, if I'm not mistaken, once again led the team in tackles and currently leads the NFL. Ziggy Hood has played well in the rotation and I would not be shocked to see him in the starting line-up next season.
4. Our special teams are playing well in nearly all phases. Sepulvada is playing well and the coverage units are doing their jobs. The only cause for concern that I can see is Reed. I think its too early to start calling for his head as some have done, BUT his misses are disconcerting. The 49 yarder yesterday was forgivable, the 42 yarder however was an issue.
5. There is no way to know for certain what condition Ben will be in when he gets back. Although all indications are/have been good. Under normal circumstances I would detest a bye week this early in the season (to some degree I still do), however given the situation, I do think it quite good that BB will have the time to get readjusted within the offense and lets not fool ourselves he will need to readjust. I firmly believe this team will be a force when Ben gets back, particularly as Hines put it a "mad Ben." Ben, for really the first time since 2005, has an offense behind him that does not necessarily need him to win. That is a very good thing because one thing about BB that is often overlooked is that he is one of those rare players who elevates the play of those around him. To put it simply, the offense is better simply with Ben present.
6. I hate to make predictions this early in the season, but with a team that is more well rounded than its been in years, a offensive line that appears to be coming together, a running game that we can rely on and a Defense in terrifying form, its hard not to be optimistic. I think 12-4 is certainly realistic and 14-2 in well within the realm of possibility.
Well, those are my general thoughts for what they're worth. Sound off below with your own.