If you were watching the Ravens play the Bears this afternoon, you probably started to see some distinct, negative patterns emerge. These patterns aren’t necessarily because of a lack of talent or bad players. These patterns go much, much deeper.
They are systemic.
They strike at the core of this team and this coaching staff.
The negative patterns that I am noticing are the following:
• When the game is on the line, the defense cannot get off the field.
• When the game is on the line, the defense gives up a splash play that leads to a loss.
• The defense is unable to adequately defend against crossing patterns.
• Mediocre, back up quarterbacks carve up the defense.
• We haven’t had a great special team’s return since Doss’ punt return against the Houston Texans.
• Undisciplined play leads to a personal foul penalty allowing the opposing offense to extend an offensive drive.
• The offense cannot score more than 17-20 points per game.
• The running backs consistently miss blocks in pass protection.
• The wide receivers do not turn up field after making a reception in stride.
• The running backs are still missing holes and running into linemen.
• The quarterback is still throwing into double and triple coverage.
• The receivers are unable to consistently get open.
• Calling the same run, up the middle, on back-to-back goal line plays.
Offensive Grade: D
Overall, the offense wasn’t too bad, but in a game like today when the weather is terrible, a few plays can make or break the team; and they did. I thought they did a nice job getting the running game going and Ray Rice averaged nearly 5.25 yards per carry and had a rushing touchdown. Joe Flacco also did a nice job evading tacklers and making plays with his feet. As the field got worse and worse from being soaked with rain, player’s footing got worse and the ball was not easy to hang onto.
Towards the end of the game, the shotgun draw play to Rice was working really well. Yet, they choose to run the exact same shotgun draw plays, twice, in a row…on the goal line. Then on 3rd and goal (of course they were going to pass it), Gino Gradkowski botches a snap to Flacco who had to throw while getting tackled and the pass sailed over an open Torrey Smith.
I’m hearing a lot of folks wanting to lay this loss solely at Flacco’s feet. I agree that Flacco certainly played his part in the loss (throwing into triple coverage is something that no 6-year quarterback should be doing), but I think folks need to look at the bigger picture here. Eugene Monroe has been playing really well and Julius Peppers has been a shell of his former self, yet he was getting at Flacco all afternoon. When David Bass made an athletic interception off of Flacco’s pass at the line of scrimmage, Rice was face down in the mud because he didn’t make that block on Bass. Then, in overtime on 3rd down, Flacco hits Tandon Doss for a first down only to have Doss get it against his chest and then drop it.
The point is there is a lot more wrong with this offense than Flacco, but he really does need to make better decisions with the ball.
Defensive Grade: F
After dominating a really good Bengals team last week, the defense came out today flat for much of the game. What is it about the Ravens’ defense that lets back up quarterbacks beat them up? I realize that the field conditions made it very difficult for Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil to make cuts and take hard angles against the Bears, but Josh McCown had a lot of time to sit in the pocket and find players down the field.
One play that is maddening to me is the crossing routes to Alshon Jeffery. I think the Bears must have run that play at least 5 different times with success. 3rd and 9 in overtime comes up and guess what the Bears run? A crossing pattern to Jeffery. On the very next play McCown hits Martellus Bennett down the field, effectively ending the game by putting them in field goal range.
I’m pretty sure the concept of the defense today was to try and keep everything in front of them and play fundamental zone coverage because of how messy the field was. However, we’ve seen the defense go into the “prevent mode” (as I like to call it) when the field is perfectly fine and it is sunny and 70 degrees during the game. I’m beginning to wonder if Dean Pees actually knows how to utilize the personnel he has because I saw Courtney Upshaw and Elvis Dumervil dropping into coverage again today. Why would you drop two of your better pass rushers into coverage?
If I had to commend an individual performance it would definitely be Jimmy Smith. He was “balls to the wall” today and McCown threw his way quite a bit. Jimmy Smith is turning into the Ravens best player in the secondary. He is a perfect example of how important it is to be patient with young players and not throw the “bust” label out too quickly.
Coaching Grade: F
As I stated in the opening comments, there are a lot of reoccurring, negative patterns happening with this team. With the way that Rice was running the ball, they should have been able to do a lot more with the offense. The play calling was bad, the play design in the red zone was worse. Defensively, I am hoping that Dean Pees goes the way of Greg Mattison and “finds” some college team that “wants” him to run their defense. When the games are on the line, the defense folds.
I’ve stated this in other Report Card assessments, but for all of the time and energy spent on the defense this past off-season, they’re really not THAT much better than they were last year. With guys like Suggs, Dumervil, Cris Canty, Art Jones, and Haloti Ngata along the defensive line, they should really be generating a lot more pressure than they do. If Chuck Pagano or Rex Ryan were the defense coordinator with this type of talent, the Ravens’ defense would be in the top-3 in the NFL. I’m just not a Dean Pees believer right now.
The good news is that the New York Jets also lost today, so the last wild card playoff spot is up for grabs. However, Pittsburgh also won today so the Ravens are going to have a tough road ahead of them if they want a shot at the playoffs. At least the next few games are at home, in Baltimore.
That used to mean the Ravens would likely win.
This year, I’m not so sure it means anything.
GIF courtesy of Gordon Dixon