The term “any given Sunday” means exactly that, any team can beat any team on gameday which is exactly why the Ravens need to handle their business on Sunday.
Harbaugh and company will hit the road for the second straight week to take on the Bucs in Tampa who are coming off a stretch that included three-consecutive road contests including a 37-31 loss in overtime against the Saints last week.
In a league of opportunity, the Ravens are sitting at 3-2 and cannot afford having opportunity fall to the way side the way they did against the Colts just four days ago.
On paper, this game is an easy victory,
These games aren’t played on paper. The Ravens 10th ranked offense certainly can’t afford a slow start that puts themselves in a position where they will need a 4th quarter comeback again, this time against a struggling Tampa defense that boasts the leagues 30th worst defense.
On the opposite side of the football, the Ravens defense should be licking their chops against a Bucs offense (30th worst) that has been equally putrid through the first five weeks of the NFL season thus verifying their dismal 1-4 record.
Perhaps the most important opportunity a team faces during a game is the chance to move the chains on 3rd down. The Ravens’ inability to do so reared its ugly head on Sunday against the Colts when they were just 1-of-11 on third-down conversions (28/65 on the year 43.1%).
The Ravens will need to convert on third downs and win the time of possession game thus keeping the ball in the hands of the offense which more often than not gives you the best chance to win.
How can the Ravens do that?
Eugene Monroe cannot return quickly enough for the Ravens offensive line. While Monroe hasn’t been stellar thus far in 2014, his presence has certainly been missed on the left side of the line. Undrafted rookie James Hurst clearly isn’t the answer in the absence of the veteran Monroe. Hurst was responsible for three QB sacks, three QB hurries and one QB hit against the Colts. He will need help protecting the QB on Friday . Kubiak needs to keep a tight end in to help Hurst or call fewer 5- or 7- step drop backs for Flacco.
The Ravens finally have a running back that is a bruiser in rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro. Countless times we’ve seen through five games when faced with third and one, third and two, Kubiak opts for a passing play. Why?
The 6-o, 226 pound back is built for short yardage situations and the Ravens have been outstanding running behind guard Marshal Yanda.
The wide receiver corps needs another set of hands not named Steve Smith Sr. Torrey Smith’s and Jacoby Jones recent struggles are hurting the team on third downs. Far too often when facing mid to long range distance on third down, the Ravens wideouts never go beyond the sticks and even more frustrating is the fact besides Steve Smith Sr., the receivers wouldn’t know a “comeback” route if it bit them in the butt.
If Smith and Jones struggles continue the time has come for Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken to get extended reps.
While it’s early to say the match-up against the Bucs is a must win, it’s time the offense hits its stride and what better way to get it started against Tampa Bay’s lowly defense.
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