A loss to the Baltimore Ravens’ archrivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, is always a bitter pill to swallow. The bitterness is made even more pungent when the team is forced to wallow in it throughout the bye week.
Truth be told it’s probably worse for the fans.
The players have bolted out of town, off on their mini-vacations before they return to prepare for the Cleveland Browns. They forget about losses far before the agony ends for the paying customers.
Fans will argue that the players should put in some overtime, work through the mounting list of issues and get it right before the season slips away. There is merit in such sentiments, but it won’t happen.
The coaches on the other will probably hang around – and they should. They need the time to figure out (in a hurry) what this team is and how they plan to fix the running game and all of the holes on defense.
It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight but the Ravens have far too much talent to be as inconsistent as they are at the moment. And if John Harbaugh and his assistants don’t stop being outcoached, they’ll lose the players and then it will really take a turn for the worse.
Maybe that’s why Harbaugh will allow the trips to the Bahamas, Cancun, etc. If he loses the team, free agents will play for their next contracts and fat cat veterans will look to stay healthy in order to preserve existing ones. That happened back in 2007 when the Ravens started out at (4-2) and then went on a 9 game skid before the Steelers mailed one in, resting their starters for the playoffs.
So where does the damage control begin?
The coaches should start with the Good, Bad & Ugly from their loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
The Ravens had only 7 possessions in the entire game but managed to score on 4 of them. Once they felt a sense of urgency, things began to happen and miraculously, they actually had some semblance of a running game. Why the Ravens offense continues to walk out of the locker as if their Gatorade is spiked with Lunesta remains a mystery.
It is abundantly clear to everyone on the planet except the coaches who call the game that Joe Flacco is infinitely more effective when operating out of the sugar huddle than when the Ravens move in and out of the huddle at a snail’s pace, even “earning” a delay of game penalty AFTER a timeout. The offense is like a self-induced coma.
It was pretty clear that when Flacco was dialed in, feeling the rhythm, the Steelers played on their heels, not knowing what was coming next and THAT at least partially opens up a running game that needs all of the help it can get. The approach helps the offensive line, it tires the opponents and it shifts control of the game.
This isn’t rocket science but Harbaugh & Co. seem to want to make it that way. Folks will blame Jim Caldwell and perhaps there’s a little of that that’s deserved but if Harbaugh didn’t prefer the prehistoric approach he could direct the change. He is after all, the common denominator in the offense that after the 2012 postseason has taken on a frighteningly familiar Cam Cameron-like look.
Good Performances of Note
- Eugene Monroe, currently the team’s best offensive lineman
- Joe Flacco, buying time to keep plays alive, delivering lasers
- Vonta Leach, rugged rushing yards out of shotgun
- Tandon Doss nice catches in traffic, continuing his ascent as an NFL receiver
- Well-designed short yardage passes to Ed Dickson, Ray Rice and Dallas Clark
- Often criticized receiving corps has played well
- Daryl Smith continues to pay dividends
The Steelers heading into the game were the league’s 22nd ranked defense against the run. Now, courtesy of the Ravens they are 19th. The Ravens just can’t get a push when operating from the huddle and continue to dictate plays with their personnel packages.
Clearly the Ravens need to change this…but we knew that (although apparently they didn’t). But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the game was the way in which the then 31st ranked rushing offense took it to the Ravens front seven. Le’Veon Bell gashed the Ravens for 93 yards behind an offensive line that was supposed to be overmatched. Haloti Ngata was pushed around by backup center Fernando Velasco so much I wondered if that was Dwan Edwards wearing No. 92.
This is the 3rd straight sub-standard campaign for Ngata and at this point it’s hard to see him getting much better and clearly not performing to the level of his contract, which will eat up $16M in cap space next season.
Bad Performances of Note
- Flacco’s underthrown pass to Jacoby Jones that should have gone for a TD
- Gino Gradkowski has limited vision and should have picked up the LaMarr Woodley stunt
- Receivers need to continue to work towards open areas of the field within Flacco’s field of vision when he buys time.
- Empty backfield on first down? Seriously?
- Clock management with less than 2 minutes was minor league
- Inability to adjust to Pittsburgh’s offensive wrinkle with Bell taking direct snaps
- Twice this season the Ravens defense has had a chance to win the game. They’re (0-2)
By his own admission John Harbaugh is a close friend of Jerry Rosburg’s. Good friends should be truthful and the truth is Rosburg’s units stink! They can’t cover punts, sometimes they can’t even punt (24.0 yard net punting average), they have kick cover guys like Michael Huff who looks like he’s trying out for a flag football team and that “bunt” of an onsides kicks was questionably timed and horrifically executed. To make matters worse Jeromy Miles was offside on a surprise onsides kick. On one kick that was flopped down the right sideline by Steelers’ kicker Shaun Suisham, the Ravens stood around doing nothing for far too long and the Steelers nearly came up with what would have amounted to a lengthy onsides kick at the Ravens 14.
Other Ugly Performances
- Delay of game after a timeout
- Michael Oher allowing a key pressure to LaMarr Woodley despite just a 3-man rush.
THOMPSON CREEK PLAYER OF THE GAME
How he manages to get done what he does without a running game, an offensive game plan that is about as cutting edge as an abacus and an offensive line that continues to struggle is borderline heroic for Joe Flacco. Isn’t it time to take off the training wheels that we thought were ditched last December?