We should have seen this coming. Last week, nearly every “expert” or analyst picked the Lions to win, including most of the Baltimore writers. The Ravens thrive in that role… underdogs and disrespected.
This week, nearly everyone picked the Ravens to take down the Patriots… I mean everyone. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, in regards to the Patriots. No one predicted the Patriots to win. How strange is that? But that should have been a foreshadowing of today’s events.
The Ravens once again came out flat in the first quarter. Instead of a playoff atmosphere, they simply had no energy. As bad as Joe Flacco looked with some of his throws and footwork, most of that can be blamed on his sore knee. But for me, this game was lost before today even started. The game plan and the play calling never gave the Ravens a chance.
I have been a huge supporter of John Harbaugh and still think he is a very good coach and leader. But too many things today make you scratch your head.
The Patriots defense was ranked 24th overall coming into today’s game. They also ranked 31st in run defense, allowing 4.4 yards per carry allowed, which was tied for 5th worst in the NFL.
I think anyone can look at those numbers and say the Ravens would have to try to run the ball. Whether it’s Ray Rice, or Bernard Pierce, or Vonta Leach, or even Bernard Scott… you could to run the ball, control the block and keep Tom Brady off the field.
In the first quarter, Rice and Pierce were picking up 5+ yards on carries… much better than they had all season. But on 3rd and shorts, the Ravens would go for the pass, and would end up punting. But it was even worse in the 2nd half. The Ravens D started to make some stops on Brady and the Patriots offense and the Ravens offense slowly picked up some first downs. However, it was on crucial 3rd downs that made no sense. On 3rd and short and even 3rd and 1, the Ravens would go with an empty backfield and throw an incomplete pass.
When you have the bruiser in Leach against a terrible run defense, why don’t you run the I-formation with Leach as the lead blocker and put it to the D? Instead, you let the D know you are going to pass it and throw incomplete.
This happened numerous times in the 2nd half. Yes, the Ravens were down 20-0, but in the 3rd quarter, you still have time to move the ball on the ground and keep Brady off the field. But instead, whoever is making the call (Harbaugh or Caldwell) isn’t making adjustments and won’t run the ball.
Frankly, they shouldn’t have been adjustments… that should have been the game plan coming into today. Run the ball, as you did against the Bears terrible run defense. But instead, you try to throw it all over the place with a quarterback on a bum knee, who was clearly uncomfortable.
And then, down 20-0 early in the 4th, you send in your kicker to try to put 3 points on the board. Justin Tucker has been money this year, but making the score 20-3 does absolutely nothing for you. You have to go for it on 4th down to try to make it a 2 score game. It’s still a 3 score game if you make the field goal, which they didn’t.
Yes, the Ravens struggled on offense throughout the game, and really struggled adjusting on defense in the 1st quarter. But to me, the mistakes that Caldwell (or Harbaugh) made in game planning and playcalling was where too many chances were lost. Coaches need to give their team a chance to win, and they took those chances away today.
But the Patriots simply outplayed the Ravens, and totally outcoached the Ravens. Brady just continues to find ways to win with no receivers, and a million injures to his offense. You have to give him props.
So, next week, the Ravens have to beat the Bengals in Cincinnati, who will be playing hard for a chance at a #2 seed. If the Ravens lose, they are out of the playoffs (unless Pittsburgh, Miami and San Diego all also lose). If they win, they will need Miami and/or San Diego to lose. If the Ravens, Miami and San Diego all win, the 3-way tiebreaker is the best conference record, in which the Dolphins would hold and go to the playoffs as the #6 seed. If the Ravens win and Miami and/or San Diego lose, the Ravens would have the 2-team tiebreaker and would go to the playoffs as the #6 seed and play every playoff game on the road.