Who are the Baltimore Ravens?
If John Harbaugh stood together with his team in front of a mirror, what would they see?
What exactly does it mean to “Play like a Raven?”
The Ravens offense got off to a very fast start at the beginning of the season. Seemingly overnight the team morphed into an offensive juggernaut with Cam Cameron’s unit ranked among the league’s very best.
Meanwhile, the defense, an NFL powerhouse for the better part of a decade struggled mightily. To the surprise of everyone, the unit that defined the Ravens’ identity, the unit that so often carried the team suddenly became its weak link.
A mountain of praise was bestowed upon offensive coordinator Cam Cameron while criticisms were fired at defensive coordinator Greg Mattison as rapidly as Mayor Sheila Dixon spends gift cards.
Now, just beyond the season’s midpoint, the tables have turned and once again the Ravens’ offense is the team’s beast of burden. Over the course of their last seven games the Ravens have lost five times in large part because they have managed to score only 2 offensive touchdowns in the first half during those games.
A look at their last 3 games will reveal that the Ravens have hit pay dirt only twice on offense; once in the fourth quarter of their 17-7 loss to the Bengals and another during their 16-0 win last week against the Browns. Oh and let’s not forget that touchdown in Cleveland was a gift of sorts from Rob Ryan’s defense which had only 10 men on the field when Ray Rice slithered into the end zone.
Scoreboard operators across the land require a case of Red Bull when the Ravens are in town.
Did the Ravens rehire Brian Billick and Kyle Boller without telling anyone? The offensive futility is painfully familiar.
So where do the Ravens go from here?
Last week on these very pages I opined that fans should lower their expectations to maintain their sanity and that the Ravens are “a flawed team that needs another explosive player on both sides of the ball – a flawed team that at best is only slightly above average.”
For the most part, I dumped on the team’s chances to play meaningful football in January. Yet ironically after a heartbreaking loss to the Colts and an interesting weekend in the NFL somehow, amongst all of the smoldering wreckage of dashed hopes there was a glimmer of light. While the Ravens clearly remain only a slightly above average team, yesterday proved that the league is littered with teams that are at best only slightly above average.
The Steelers lost to the (3-7) Chiefs while the Bengals lost to the (3-7) Raiders. Meanwhile the Broncos lost their fourth straight after opening the season at 6-0. They seem destined to fade from the playoff picture.
The Jets have lost six of 7 and are now sitting at (4-6). Even the undefeated Colts haven’t exactly been dominant. During their last four wins they outscored their opponents by a combined total of 10 points.
Mediocrity has gripped the NFL like never before and as a result, as bad as the Ravens have been lately they remain in the hunt. A Titans win over the Texans tonight would positively impact the Ravens’ post season aspirations which surprisingly remain in the team’s control. Yet they must find a way to finish games or playoff hopes will be finished.
And it has to start this week when the Ravens host the Steelers.
“We need to get to a point where we get tired of stuff and it can’t be a, ‘Well, we’ll get it next time.’”, said Derrick Mason.
Thankfully the league’s championed parity keeps extending “next time” for the Ravens. But as Mason explains, the team is running out of life lines.
“Next time is coming to an end pretty soon and we need to get this stuff straightened out pretty quick.”
There’s still a chance for the Ravens in 2009. They still have a pulse.
But if Cameron doesn’t find the coagulants for his ailing offense those chances will bleed out and ultimately flat line before December arrives.