The Baltimore Ravens offense is a mess. The problems begin up front. They can’t run block and they can’t pass block and the problems were exacerbated by play calling that made former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron look like Bill Walsh.
The silver lining in the loss is that despite being outplayed and clearly outcoached, the Ravens were one defensive stand short of a chance to win the game in the end against a pretty solid opponent.
But moral victories do nothing to advance a team’s chances to compete for a division title in the NFL. Nor do emotional decisions by a head coach who is paid to lead and make rational choices amidst the enveloping chaos that characterizes the sport.
At the 5:22 mark of the second quarter trailing 3-0, Harbaugh decided to go for it on fourth and goal at the 1.
“You’ve got a high-percentage opportunity to make that fouth-and-1. I like our chances there,” Harbaugh said. “If we don’t make it, we’ve got them backed up on their own 1. I feel really good about making them punt out of their own end zone and field position coming back the other way.
“I think that was a good decision there.”
Fair enough but the decision to run the ball up the middle was not. Up to that point in the game the Ravens ran the ball 9 times for a total of 1 yard – ONE YARD!
Fast forward to the close of the first half with 12 seconds remaining and the Ravens facing a 2nd and 10 from their own 34. Facing a quarters defense and only 3 pass rushers, the Ravens would have had to advance the ball 31 yards to the Green Bay 35 to have a legitimate shot at a half closing field goal. Instead Nick Perry blew past Eugene Monroe to force a fumble and set the Packers up for 3 points of their own.
“I felt like we had a good chance with our kicker,” Harbaugh said. “We had a better chance to complete a pass or get an offensive pass interference than we did to have that happen.
“You’ve got confidence in your guys,” Harbaugh said. “You give your guys a chance to make plays in situations like that. They made a nice play, and it cost us three points.”
Of course hindsight is 20-20 but once again, Harbaugh got caught up in the moment emotionally and the Ravens paid the price.
THE GOOD: Joe Flacco statistically had a very good day particularly when he had absolutely no support from the running game, his offensive line or his play caller. Flacco was 20 of 34 for 342 yards and 2 TD’s but it could have even been better had he not missed on a couple of open receivers. Flacco failed to recognize a blitz in the third quarter while facing a third and 7. The Packers overloaded the Ravens right side with more rushers than the Ravens had blockers and it screamed for Flacco to hit the hot read which was Marlon Brown. Instead Flacco ignored the warning signals, was steamrolled by AJ Hawk and fumbled the football, fortunately recovered by Vonta Leach at the 9-yard line…Dallas Clark was very productive after the catch on two receptions and made a spectacular catch for the game’s final points with his 18-yard TD reception. He finished with 81 yards on 4 catches…Tandon Doss nearly eclipsed the century mark with 99 yards, 63 of which came on a deep post when facing a 4th and 21 with 2:40 remaining in the game to set up Clark’s TD.
Jimmy Smith had his best game as a Raven despite a missed tackle on a bubble screen to Jarrett Boykin that went for 43 yards. He was aggressive with the Packers receivers at the line of scrimmage and his INT off Aaron Rodgers was textbook coverage and really a glimpse of what Smith could be if he ever develops consistency…Arthur Jones continues to make plays and possibly even work his way off the Ravens roster in 2014. The soon-to-be free agent will command dollars the Ravens probably don’t have. He overpowered Jermichael Finley to take down Rodgers for a 6-yard sack in the first quarter…Terrell Suggs was excellent in run support with 10 total tackles.
THE BAD: Ed Dickson is a complete non-factor and this against a team that struggled to cover tight ends a week earlier against the Lions…Speaking of non-factors this season, there’s Vonta Leach…Ray Rice appears to be a shadow of the player he once was. The burst has vanished and that goes back to prior to his hip injury, and he seems to fall on contact. He also dropped a pass from Joe Flacco on the run that could have gone a long way.
James Ihedigbo is being exposed as a liability in coverage. Matt Elam wasn’t much better, particularly on the huge connection between Rodgers and Finley on third and 3 from the Green Bay 27 with 1:53 remaining. The play went for 52 yards, 45 of which were YAC…Lardarius Webb had a subpar game, as Rodgers regularly looked his way on in-routes to receivers, particularly Jordy Nelson. Nelson dropped one such pass in stride and could have been off to the races on the Packers’ first possession from 27 yards out. Webb was also responsible for a 63-yard scoring strike to Nelson from Rodgers although it’s possible Webb was hung out to dry by a safety who failed to provide top end support…When will Arthur Brown supplant Josh Bynes who did little to slow down Eddie Lacy?
THE UGLY: The list is long and starts with the offensive line. Monroe had a pretty decent game overall but he let Nick Perry get by him nearly untouched with 12 seconds to go in the first half despite the Packers rushing only three. He forced Flacco to fumble and it resulted in 3 HUGE points for the Packers. Kelechi Osemele’s regression since his rookie season borders on shocking. Has Mike Flynn secretly started wearing Marshal Yanda’s jersey? This slump of his has lasted at least 3 consecutive games. Gino Gradkowski looks clueless and continues to do all he can to retain his status as Pro Football Focus’ worst rated center in the NFL. Think the Ravens can coax Matt Birk out of retirement?
Some of the “credit” for the offensive line’s play has to be given to the coaching staff. First there’s Jim Caldwell whose personnel groupings completely tip the offense’s hand, particularly when Ricky Wagner strutted out on to the field 7 times as an additional tackle as referee Gene Steratore announced Wagner’s presence with authority to the free world. Each time the Ravens ran the ball. With those groupings that screamed run, Caldwell did exactly that 16 times on first down producing an average gain of 1.9 yards, 8 times for no gain or less. When throwing the ball on first down Flacco was 6 for 11 for 131 yards and a score for an average of 11.9 yards per play. Memo to Caldwell – THROW ON FIRST DOWN MORE! Targeting Torrey Smith just 3 times!!! Seriously? The Lions had a field day over the middle of the field against Green Bay a week earlier and one might think that the Ravens would like to get Smith on a crossing route or two with an opportunity for YAC. Apparently Caldwell didn’t see it that way.
The Ravens are the only team in the league based upon my quick research with a coach having the title of “Run Game Coordinator.” The bearer of that title, Juan Castillo has to take some of the blame for this woeful rushing attack. The Ravens average 2.7 yards per carry, a 37% drop from last season’s 4.3 ypc. Anyone that has seen a Ravens practice this season knows that Castillo is for all intents and purposes the team’s O-Line Coach. If this mess continues it is highly unlikely that Joe Flacco will keep his consecutive games streak in tact. Once Dick LeBeau watches the tape of yesterday’s game he will look to destroy Gradkowski. And when that happens, well, you know…
Special teams were anything but! Sam Koch netted just 31.9 yards on his nine punts including one from the Packers 37 in the first quarter that he sailed into the end zone…The Ravens allowed their second blocked punt of the season but fortunately Green Bay gifted it right back when John Kuhn muffed the recovery beyond the LOS…Tandon Doss opted for a fair catch after a Packers punt from their own 1 yard line at the Ravens 47 with room to run. Then with 1:56 left in the first half Doss let a short punt from Masthay hit at his own 48 and roll to the 30 when coming up to make the catch could have helped pave the way for a score. Instead 15 game seconds later the Ravens punted.
With 3 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a QB Hurry, Elvis Dumervil is this week’s POTG. Doom was dominant in the first half off the edge and disrupted Rodgers’ rhythm. His efforts forced the Packers to make adjustments at half that Dean Pees never countered. Had the Ravens recovered 1 of the two Rodgers fumbles forced by Doom the news today wouldn’t be so gloomy.