Stop apologizing and just admit it: The 2013 Ravens were not very good.
You can make all the excuses and explanations you want, but the fact is all facets (offense, defense, special teams, coaching) made mistakes that cost the organization a shot at the playoffs.
The game today against the Bengals was a microcosm of the Ravens’ season, in that Baltimore was presented with numerous opportunities to win and create distance. Instead, they stayed stagnant.
The kicker is the Bengals didn’t play well today, either. They made multiple mistakes in key situations and did all they could to give the game away, but the Ravens didn’t oblige.
Cincinnati’s first play from scrimmage resulted in a Corey Graham interception. The Bengals also committed two 15-yard penalties (after one play) late in the fourth quarter to give the Ravens a legitimate shot to get back into the game.
How does A.J. Green, the best player in the stadium, get left wide (and I mean wide) open for a walk-in touchdown early in the game? What was Matt Elam thinking? Green wasn’t going to cross his face. Green was always going to run the route he did, but Elam, for some reason, let Green run right by him.
Andy Dalton’s quarterback rating was 62.2. Green was held to five receptions for 61 yards (53 of which came on his touchdown). The Bengals turned the ball over four times, matching their home turnover total of the previous four games.
How often are you going to see a home team turn the ball over four times and win by 17 points?
Stepping back, you’ll see the warning signs were there all season long.
Over the last two weeks, the Ravens surrendered three touchdowns to the defense inside the final five minutes. You also have to look at their inexplicable drop in rush per carry average, from 4.3 in 2012 to 3.1 in 2013.
Joe Flacco, who was named the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII, had a horrible year. He not only finished with more interceptions (22) than he had touchdowns (19), but too many times he looked to just throw the ball up and hope for the best. Throughout this year Flacco made throws that were behind the intended receiver and/or underthrown, and today was no exception.
What about the disappearance of the Baltimore pass rush? In Week 12, the Ravens sacked the Jets three times; the same number of sacks they recorded over the remaining five games of the season.
For the most part, Baltimore’s 2013 season was a cliché. They won the Super Bowl, were lavished with positive press, insisted they would press on and focus on this year’s team and made some bold personnel moves with both players and coaches.
Instead, the 2013 Ravens were statistically average. The eye test says they were worse. Their franchise quarterback, who’s never missed a start, ended the season with a left knee injury, caused by a seemingly unimpeded pass rush.
Now that this season is over (as coaches have likely already done), we look ahead to next year.
The Ravens will have five defensive and three offensive starters hit free agency in March. Eugene Monroe, Michael Oher, Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Jacoby Jones, Corey Graham, Daryl Smith, Arthur Jones, Josh Bynes and James Ihedigbo will all be free agents in 2014.
Ozzie Newsome and his staff will also have to take a hard look at players who did not play to the level they’ve played to in the past; players like Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Ray Rice, who have a combined 2014 cap figure of $37.15 million.
If I had to describe Baltimore’s 2013 season in one word, I’d say it was unacceptable. They had a tough schedule and knew the battle wouldn’t be easy, but they stayed relatively healthy (which most teams don’t do) and still wasted chance after chance.
Losing is one thing. Losing when you don’t take advantage of the opportunities you’ve been given is something completely different, and quite frankly is unacceptable.