It’s been 5 days since the debacle at Paul Brown Stadium and fans’ emotions are still running high over the loss to the Bengals. Let me add my name to the list by saying that I am as upset as any fan over the way the Ravens, and Joe Flacco in particular, played on Sunday.
Given that it’s his third year in this offense, Flacco’s performance was inexcusable. I’m not a technique evaluator by any means, but even I could see that he was forcing his passes and throwing off the wrong foot. Some of his passes went directly into coverage. The only decent pass he completed was the 31 yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason which was, not coincidentally, the only decent series of downs Flacco played all game.
Cam Cameron doesn’t get off the hook, either. Where were the crossing patterns to the middle of the field that we saw in preseason and during the Jets’ game? Because TV coverage always follows the ball, I couldn’t be sure if the receivers weren’t getting separation or Cameron was calling the safe fade routes to the sidelines. Afterwards, I watched the Redskins-Texans game and I saw things that evidently are alien to Flacco, Cameron, and Jim Zorn. Screen passes, misdirection plays, pump fakes, Wow!
The other problem was Not Enough Ray Rice. The guy is totally underutilized. He can run, he can catch, and he’s got the speed to pull away from linebackers and most defensive backs. He’s not being used effectively. Cameron said this week that Ray can be used more. Well, do it!!
All that said, it’s a little early to panic over the lack of Ravens offense. In the days since the Ravens lost to the Bengals, I’ve heard some strange things on Baltimore sports radio, from benching Flacco to firing John Harbaugh – and everything in between. We do neither, particularly the latter, at this point. However, Tony Lombardi made some telling points in his column earlier this week where he made the strong case that Joe Flacco has been a consistent underachiever against quality, playoff teams. It’s true. As Casey Stengel once said, “You can look it up.”
The Ravens were assessed two blatantly incorrect penalties that led, directly or indirectly, to 6 Bengals points. A friend pointed out that the Ravens would have won the game without those two calls. Maybe. But would you have been satisfied with another 10-9 win? With the way the offense played? With the way Joe Flacco screwed up? No. It’s best to lay the cards on the table now, and work to get the problem resolved before the Pittsburgh and New England games.
Am I concerned? Yes. Time to panic? Not yet. Here are this week’s Studs and Duds.
The Ravens Defense has played lights out against two playoff-caliber teams. They are ranked # 2 in total yards allowed, # 2 in passing yards (a pleasant surprise) and # 13 in rushing yards. They’re tied for 5th in points allowed, and have not given up a touchdown all year. What more can you ask?
Joe Flacco: ‘Nuff said.
Offensive Line: Flacco’s quarterback problems are not being helped at all by the inconsistent play of this patchwork line. Marshall Yanda is a mauler but out of place at right tackle. Tony Moll and Oneil Cousins are nice backups, but nothing more. I’m despairing of ever seeing Jared Gaither on the field again.
The Special Teams generally played well, but they allowed a 60 yard kick off return that cost the Ravens 3 points. With the offense in the tank right now, there’s no margin for error.
Around the Ravens and Around the League – a Fan’s Football Tweets
· Derrick Mason is not talking to the media for the rest of the season – until he decides to. He needs to take up his argument with the person whose writing I think goads him into this behavior – Sun columnist Mike Preston.
· There’s a reason (actually, there are several) why Cleveland traded their best WR, Braylon Edwards, to the Jets last year. If they did their homework, Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum would have seen this coming.
· Lord Favre and the Vikings are 0-2 and not looking good while they’re at it. Is age and injury finally catching up with the Ole Gunslinger?
· Giants’ running back Brandon Jacobs was fined $10,000 for what Jacobs said was an accidental fling of his helmet into the stands during the Colts-Giants game Sunday night. The helmet struck one fan and narrowly missed others. Jacobs explained it got stuck to a sticky part of his leather glove when he was trying to fire the helmet to the ground near the Giants bench. Sure it did.
· By comparison, Bart Scott was fined $25,000 for verbally abusing game officials and throwing an official’s flag into the stands near the end of the Ravens’ loss to the Patriots in December 2007. That must have been a really heavy flag.
· In a move that stunned the league, Eagles head coach Andy Reid replaced Kevin Kolb at starting quarterback with Michael Vick. No comment here on Vick’s past but, as far as I’m concerned, neither is better than the quarterback that Reid traded – Donovan McNabb.
The Cleveland Browns pay a visit to M&T Bank Stadium this week in what has been called by many observers the “Joe Flacco Gets Well Game.” Oniel Cousins, Lardarius Webb, and Cary Williams should all make an appearance to bolster the offense and defense. Jake Delhomme may not play so the Browns might have to start career backup Seneca Wallace at quarterback. The Brownies are rebuilding again and have modest talent on either side of the ball, but a star in all-everything Josh Cribbs. The early line is Ravens -10.5 and, given that it’s the Ravens home opener, it should be a rout. But after watching the Ravens’ underperforming offense over the past two weeks, I’m a doubter. I want consistent play out of Joe Flacco. I want consistent use of Ray Rice. I will resist the Purple Kool Aid until I’m sure.
But I can’t. Resistance is futile.
Ravens 27, Browns 6.