The Baltimore Ravens started their season in nightmarish fashion losing to the Denver Broncos by the score of 49-27, led by seven TD passes from future Hall of Famer and arguably the game’s best ever regular season quarterback, Peyton Manning.
It happens sometimes. It has happened in the past.
Back in 1969 during week 2 of the season, the Baltimore Colts fresh off a bitter defeat at the hands of the New York Jets in Super Bowl III, were thrashed by the Minnesota Vikings by the score of 52-14. Quarterback Joe Kapp led the way with…you guessed it, 7 scoring throws.
Coincidentally, the Colts, like the Ravens did to the Broncos, beat the Vikings the prior season 24-14 in a Western Conference Championship Game.
History does have a way of repeating itself.
The Ravens loss was completely a team loss and there’s plenty of blame to go around – including the coaching staff.
The best-laid plans from Dean Pees were thwarted by Manning’s no huddle offense. Handicapped by “Hurry-Hurry”, Pees’ planned rotations were kept in check and the result was a defense not playing to its strengths and one that wore down without the rotations.
Jim Caldwell’s unit couldn’t get the running game untracked and without it, Joe Flacco was forced to throw 62 times to receivers with which he’s worked very little in game conditions this summer. Hey Juan Castillo, what exactly does a “Running Game Coordinator” do?
And then of course there was John Harbaugh’s blunder – the inability to challenge an obvious incompletion. Let’s not blame the cameras – let’s blame preparedness.
Corey Graham was convinced that Manning’s third quarter 3rd and 9 pass for 10 yards was incomplete. He pleaded for his coach to challenge the play. Manning with full awareness “Hurry-Hurried” his team to the line and got the next play off before Harbaugh could challenge the obvious incompletion.
Maybe they didn’t get to see the play. Maybe Harbaugh blaming NBC is credible. But while he’s pointing the finger of blame, how about sending a little of it in the direction of the man in the mirror.
Peyton Manning and the “Hurry-Hurry” is nothing new. When you play a guy like that you must have a plan in place for challenges. When a veteran defender who plays with poise screams for a challenge, Harbaugh should listen. And if he can’t burn the challenge based upon a player’s perspective of the play, make sure that someone on your defense gets a cramp and falls to the ground, preventing Manning’s next snap.
Guess what would have happened next?
A successful challenge.
And then after that?
A punt on 4th and nine.
And then after that?
Perhaps a different outcome.
And while we’re distributing some blame towards the coaches, let’s discuss the team’s roster configuration – a real head scratcher.
The Ravens have four cornerbacks despite the club’s understanding that corner injuries are regular AND that their two top corners are somewhat injury prone. Corey Graham, recognized often for his special teams skills probably sees less time with special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg’s squad as a result of the demands on him at corner. Chykie Brown rounds out the group and the thought of him having to start is a scary proposition.
Instead of depth at corner the Ravens opted for an unprecedented 5 safeties. The four not named Michael Huff have a combined 16 career starts.
Then there’s the offensive line. The Ravens are carrying nine O-Linemen, one of which (Jensen) hasn’t seen the practice field since July 29th. They are carrying 2 centers without experience at guard (Gradkowski, Shipley) and a third-round pick from 2011 (Reid) that didn’t even dress on game day. Marinate in that one for a moment.
Moving to the return specialist there’s no one to replace Jacoby Jones who is now out for 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL. They traded away a solid gunner on punt teams and a decent returner in David Reed for nothing. Bobby Rainey was released. Asa Jackson is suspended. Deonte Thompson has been unavailable for a month.
So who’s going to return the ball next Sunday?
Bernard Pierce? Hello! The Ravens roster lists only 2 running backs.
Who will return punts?
Lardarius Webb? Seriously! Here’s a guy coming off his second ACL injury in four seasons – one who signed a $50M contract to be a shutdown corner…that guy? Dare I repeat the Ravens have only 4 corners.
Don’t be shocked if Tandon Doss, as shaky as he was, returns to be a returner and to provide “depth” at the receiver position.
This is a mess that the coaches invited.
They are responsible for it.
And now they are accountable for a solution.