O'HARA'S FINAL THOUGHTS: Ravens armed for mind game with Stafford

Posted Dec 3, 2017

Mike O'Hara shares his final thoughts heading into Sunday's Lions-Ravens matchup.

BALTIMORE – Lions-Ravens Final Thoughts: Ravens armed for mind game with Matthew Stafford; Kenny Golladay and the “Judge;” Random Thoughts – perceptions/realities of a 6-5 matchup, Miles Killebrew’s view, sticking with my pick and more:

QB mind game: Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees talked first about Matthew Stafford’s physical skills when asked during the week about defending the Lions’ passing game, but he switched quickly to the mental side of the game.

Stafford’s arm talent is legendary, and Pees did not pooh-pooh it.

“His accuracy, the velocity on the ball, he can make every throw – every throw,” Pees told the media covering the Ravens.

“There are some guys who just throw it hard and can’t put a touch on it. There are some guys who can put a touch on it and can’t throw hard. He can do it all. To me, he really is a complete quarterback physically.”

But what impressed Pees even more – and what poses a challenge for the Ravens’ pass defense – is how Stafford runs the offense.

Pees compared it to how it’s done with the New England Patriots. There is no question that the quarterback is in charge.

“The other part of it is, he runs the show,” Pees said. “It’s similar to New England. Not the scheme necessarily, but he runs the show, which means that the coaching staff and everybody else feels like they have enough faith in him that he can audible to anything, he sees the big picture, checks everything at the like of scrimmage if he needs to.

“If you have a quarterback with his physical skills and his mental skills, you have a complete quarterback.”

“Judging” Golladay: Rookie receiver Kenny Golladay laughed when asked if he is the Lions’ version of Aaron Judge, the Yankees rookie who took baseball by storm with his prodigious home runs.

Golladay goes deep for the Lions. In his three games since returning from a hamstring injury Golladay has six catches for 177 yards, an average of 29.5 yards per catch, with catches of 50, 40 and 41 yards.

“I’m just trying to make a play for my team, when the ball comes my way or my number is called,” Golladay said. “It’s not like I’m a secret weapon. I just out here to make a play and help my team win.”

Golladay’s two TD catches came in the regular-season opener. One was a lunging 45-yard catch. Golladay can create some space for teammates underneath Baltimore’s secondary with a big catch or two.

All rise?

Random Thoughts: 

Joe Flacco, short stuff: Of all his stats that rank near the bottom among the league’s quarterbacks, Flacco’s average of 5.3 yards per pass attempt could be the one that benefits the Lions most. Many experts consider average gain per pass attempt the key stat in determining an offense’s ability to dictate.

The higher the average, the more likely an offense is throwing when it wants to, not when it has to pass when the defense has the advantage.

Ravens, rising stock: They’re 6-5 and the sixth seed in the weak AFC playoff field, and they made a good impression with a 23-16 win over the Houston Texans on Monday Night TV. The Texans are 4-7 and have lost four of their last five.

Lions, falling stock: They’re 6-5 and the eighth seed in the powerful NFC playoff field, and they fizzled with a 30-23 loss at home to the Vikings on Thanksgiving Day on national TV. The Vikings are 9-2 and have won seven straight.

Perceptions, bottom line: Obviously, it’s more than perception in terms of where the teams stand in their playoff races, but how teams are viewed from week to week is based primarily on whether they won or lost their last game. And that’s a fair judgment.

Quoth the Ravens’ D: They feel they’re not getting enough respect for their pass defense because of the caliber of quarterback competition. They’ve faced rookies DeShone Kizer of Cleveland and Mitchell Trubisky of Chicago, and a series of backups – most recently Tom Savage in the win over the Texans Monday night.

Savage had no TD passes, two interceptions and a 57.5 passer rating for the game. Savage’s passer rating for the season is 68.0.

The Ravens will get a better test today from Stafford and a good set of receivers.

Quote to note: From Miles Killebrew, set to start at strong safety in place of injured Tavon Wilson: “We’re in a position now where every game is win or go home, essentially for us. There is a sense, an air in the building, that, ‘Hey, let’s go out there and do this. Let’s win the game.’”

Sticking with my pick: The Lions are slight underdogs against the offensively challenged Ravens, and most experts are predicting a close game. It would not be a surprise if the Lions win because of their 4-1 road record, but the edge goes to the Ravens because of their defense.

Pick: Ravens 20, Lions 19.