A lot of folks will point out how the blabbering and flip-flopping from blatantly bad referee calls impacted the Ravens early on in the game. I agree to a certain point, but when looking back at this game it is really evident how unprepared the Ravens were and how great New England’s coaching staff really is. I would love to see Baltimore embrace an offensive scheme similar to that of the Patriots. They make the most out of what they’ve got and even with three offensive linemen playing out of position (for example, Logan Mankins playing left tackle instead of left guard) and no Rob Gronkowski, Josh McDaniels had the offense firing on all cylinders and taking what Baltimore gave them.
The offense was on a mission last night. And that mission was to get the game over as soon as possible and go home. Let me just break down how bad the offense was last night and how bad the offensive design has been all season.
1. The offensive line can’t pass block or run block. Here’s your proof: Flacco is among the top-5 most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL and the Ravens are dead last in yards per carry.
2. The current route tree being employed by the Ravens’ receivers utilizes long developing routes with on average one outlet underneath. This type of route tree requires the offensive line hold their blocks.
3. The Ravens’ receivers don’t scramble and break off routes when Joe is flushed out of the pocket, so Flacco rarely has anyone to throw to when the offensive line breaks down – which is quite often.
4. Play action passes generally can assist by freeing up one-on-one coverage down the sidelines or in the seam because play action is designed to make the safeties stop their backpedaling and come up towards the line of scrimmage. The Ravens can’t run the ball, so play action isn’t fooling anyone.
The point is this offensive play design is more of a hindrance for the Ravens than anything and it just exacerbates all of the personnel inadequacies this team has and that is why my grade for the offensive performance yesterday is an F.
Against Detroit, Baltimore’s defense played really well. Even when the Lions scored a late 4th quarter touchdown, the Ravens stood tall and the defense did a fantastic job containing Calvin Johnson (aka Megatron). Yet, at home, they get roasted by a wounded Patriots offense. LeGarrett Blount rushed for 76 yards on 16 carries (4.75 yards per carry) and topped it off with two rushing touchdowns. Stevan Ridley, who has been in the Patriot’s doghouse for much of the year due to fumbling issues, tacked on another 54 yards. Tom Brady didn’t have to do much either and only completed 53% of his passes for 172 yards and one touchdown. The Ravens defense was largely undisciplined last night and was called for a number of penalties that put the Patriots in great field position. An example of this is the pass interference penalty on Jimmy Smith that set the Patriots up with a 1st and goal at the 1 yard line.
In my opinion, last night’s game exemplifies one of my biggest gripes about the team this year. They may be a top-10 statistical team, but they play soft and they are far too inconsistent. There is a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball and two of the highest paid players on the team (Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata) need to make their presence felt every week and they just aren’t.
To make matters worse, guys like Corey Graham are just completely botching certain plays. How many times does Graham have to get burned on bunch formation/switch-off routes before he figures it out? An even better question is WHY is that not being conveyed to him during film sessions? Where is the communication in the secondary?
Overall, the defense turned in an F performance. There just is no way around that.
Going for a field goal when down 20-0 (three scoring possessions)? A successful attempt would have made the score 20-3…which STILL WOULD HAVE BEEN THREE SCORING POSSESSIONS.
Additionally, why does it feel like every game results in the offense needing to go for it on every 4th down? The Ravens were completely unprepared for this game and the only thing one needs to look at is the passing plays that were being run. I think Joe’s knee is a lot worse than what the team or Joe are letting on. That said, why are they calling for plays that require Joe get his feet set and drive the ball down the field on a bum knee? The whole game plan was just really bad and there is a good possibility that after the season is over, some coaches will be politely asked to leave the building (at least they should, in this fan’s opinion).
Overall, both the offensive game plan and the defensive game plan were a hot mess. The way the team was embarrassed at home should fall directly at John Harbaugh’s feet. My final grade for the coaches is a big fat F.
The Bengals already have the division wrapped up and have secured a playoff spot, so it is possible that they will sit their starters for some or most of the game. On the other hand, Marvin’s squad can still potentially secure a #2 seed and a bye, so one has to assume that they’ll be playing to win (plus, why wouldn’t they want to eliminate the Ravens, given the chance?).
It won’t be easy for the Ravens. If Baltimore wins and either Miami or San Diego loses, then the Ravens get the 6th and final playoff seed. However, San Diego is playing the Chiefs who are guaranteed a trip to the playoffs, so the likelihood that they’ll rest their starters is pretty high. That means the Chargers have a good shot at winning, which means the Ravens will likely need to cross their fingers and hope that Good Ol’Sexy Rexy up in New York will pull out all of the stops to try and save his job and beat the brakes off of Miami.
Either way, Baltimore needs to pray to the NFL gods this coming weekend and hope they answer the black-n-purple prayers by dishing out losses to San Diego and/or Miami.