A Familiar Baltimore Story
For the Baltimore Ravens, the silver lining in their 27-23 loss to the New York Giants at Met Life Stadium, is that despite the agonizing losses over the last 3 weeks they are still just a game back of the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers who lost to a bad Miami Dolphins team, and more importantly, they lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a meniscus tear. The Steelers host the Patriots in Week 7 while the Ravens head back to Met Life to take on the (1-4) Jets.
But back to yesterday’s debacle…
If not for some really questionable coaching decisions over the past 3 weeks by John Harbaugh, the Ravens could be 6-0. The argument could also be made that they could be 0-6. That’s how close the games have been and in part, it’s an indictment on the league as a whole. There are the Patriots and the Vikings and then a slew of beatable teams.
Yesterday the Ravens beat themselves – again! How else do you explain a lopsided win in time of possession (34:04 v. 24:56), number of plays (76 t0 64) and the usually game-tilting turnover differential (3-0) and still lose?
The scapegoat for the Ravens struggles leading up to the game was Marc Trestman. Yet it looked like the same Joe Flacco-led offense with the same passing skewed play calling with similar results. Oh, and then there’s that same passive, bend-but-don’t-break defense that was once again, broke!
Terrance West ran for a rugged 87 yards and added another 36 by air. He continues to fight through contact…Mike Wallace, if not for the poor decision making and poor accuracy of his quarterback, could have added at least another 50 yards to his receiving total of 97 yards…Despite the Joe Flacco apologists who want to blame the game’s outcome on the offensive line, they played well while running the football, particularly the interior line of Urschel-Zuttah-Jensen.
The Ravens goal line stand after facing a 1st and goal. Michael Pierce and Terrell Suggs joined forces to drop Jennings for a 2-yard loss. Two failed pass attempts later the Giants kicked a field goal to tie the game at 10 with 9:50 to go in the third (Harbaugh was obviously unimpressed with Ben McAdoo’s decision to try the FG)…Pierce is becoming a force and has outplayed his more heralded sidekick Brandon Williams over the past couple of weeks. He had 3 tackles and that key tackle-for-loss, one of three that the Ravens had on the afternoon… Suggs was stout on the edge helping to contain the Giants rushing attack and he was the only Ravens defender to make Eli Manning uncomfortable. Before he left the game with a left biceps tear Suggs had 5 tackles, 2 for losses, a sack and 2 QB hurries…Zach Orr continues to be the biggest surprise of the season so far, chipping in with a team high 13 tackles and a key fumble recovery to help set up the Ravens first touchdown…Jimmy Smith was solid prior to leaving the game with a concussion. He was sorely missed in the second half.
The offensive game plan looked very familiar and lacked a reasonable balance of run v. pass. The empty backfield formations when facing a 2nd and 6 are maddening. Those situations open a team’s playbook but an empty backfield syphons it…Kyle Juszczyk missed two key blocks. Facing a third and 11 from the Ravens 25 at the 7:25 mark of the second quarter, Juice looked clueless in pass pro, missing a blitzing DB off the edge (see below).
Later on during the first play of Q4 Juice missed the lead block on Jonathan Casillas and West was dropped for a loss of 1 at the NYG 2… How many times are the Ravens receivers going to run routes short of the sticks on third down? The Giants entered the game as the 30th ranked third-down defense yet the Ravens could only convert 5 of 18 (28%)…Can’t a receiver cut a route short when a blitz is obvious? Maybe they should just pretend it’s 3rd and 8 and run 6-yard routes?
Alex Lewis had back to back penalties. The Ravens faced a 2nd and 10 at their own 37 with 7:51 left in the third. Flacco scrambled for 11 yards and a first down to the 48. The play was negated by a Lewis holding penalty forcing a 2nd and 20 at the 27. On the next play Lewis committed a false start to force a 2nd and 25 at the 22. Two miscues cost 26 yards of field position and a first down. Two plays later the Ravens punted.
Tavon Young had played well up to this game and despite his athletic interception to set the Ravens up first and 10 at the Giants 27, he was beaten for two scores…Will Davis bit on OBJ’s stop and go and without support over the top (more on that in a bit), Davis was lit up for a 75-yard scoring strike just one play after the Ravens took a 13-10 lead on the heels of the Young pick.
And there was a TON of it!
Against the Raiders, John Harbaugh had a chance to accept a penalty to limit the Derek Carr-led offense to 3 points. He chose to roll the dice and it cost the Ravens 4 points. They lost by 1. A week later against the Redskins the Ravens opted to try one of the most bizarre looking fake field goals you’ll ever see and it failed. They sacrificed 3 points and momentum and were then forced to score a touchdown late in the game instead of a game tying field goal. They lost by 6. Yesterday, Harbaugh opted to go for it on 4th and goal at the 1 and they failed. The 3 points could have come in handy during the Ravens final failed drive when once again they were forced to score a TD. They didn’t. Consecutive loss number 3, all averted if Harbaugh makes more practical choices.
Dean Pees was on Bill Belichick’s staff for 6 seasons and his defensive coordinator for four. They parted ways following the 2009 season. Belichick is well-known for taking away an opponent’s top offensive weapon and defensive weapon. Obviously Pees wasn’t paying attention. Prior to Pees’ arrival the Ravens for years bracketed another team’s best receiver and forced them to find success elsewhere. It’s akin to forcing a right-handed basketball player to his/her left. You would think with the Giants inability to run the football that Pees would clamp down on Beckham, right? Isn’t that the obvious thing to do PARTICULARLY when your top corner (Jimmy Smith) is in the locker room with church bells ringing in his head? Well not if you are Dean Pees! In the second half ALONE, Beckham, Jr. had 6 catches for 211 yards (35.2 YPC). Pees also did next to nothing to try and disrupt Manning’s rhythm. Suggs had the only sack and both team pressures. To say Pees’ game plan was vanilla is an insult to vanilla.
Jerry Rosburg built a case to do away with his profession. All 6 of Justin Tucker’s kickoffs were touchbacks. Chris Moore took a knee even when only a few yards deep in the end zone and Lardarius Webb reluctantly returned only 1 of the Giants’ four punts for 3 yards. It was as if the S/T game plan was to have zero returns. Teams were guilty of four penalties for 38 yards.
During the summer the Ravens coaching staff talked about how confident they were that Lardarius Webb could effectively make the transition to safety. They were wrong. Way wrong! He will make an occasional tackle but generally is lost in space 25 yards from the line of scrimmage. On the Giants first score, while sitting in centerfield with little to do and the play in front of him, Webb was late in support of Tavon Young when he was beaten on a post corner route. Not an easy play but one deserving of a better effort/read. Then just after the Ravens pulled to within one (17-16) at the 9:19 mark of the fourth quarter, on the very first play of the ensuing possession, Manning hit OBJ down the left sideline despite good coverage by Shareece Wright. Webb was again late in over-the-top support and it cost the Ravens 43 yards. It set up another Giants FG to make it 20-16. Then 3 plays after the Ravens took a 23-20 lead, Beckham broke free from Tavon Young after he collided with Eric Weddle leaving OBJ to take off for the races. Webb had a chance to slow him down and set up a pursuing tackler, if not make the tackle himself, but instead looked like a blind-folded child trying to hit a piñata that was in another room. Webb commands the second highest Ravens paycheck. Clearly that’s money NOT well-spent.
Penalties are still an issue, 15 times the Ravens were flagged for 111 yards. Do well-coached teams regularly see so much laundry?
And that brings me to the Ravens franchise quarterback. He was absolutely awful!
Joe Flacco apologists will blame the number of coordinators; they’ll blame a lack of commitment to the run which minimizes play action opportunities; they’ll blame the injuries on the offensive line and dropped passes and a lack of separation by the receivers. And at times these are legit beefs. But not yesterday. Let’s go through the lengthy miscues:
• Flacco regularly predetermines where he’s going with the ball as was the case when he missed Pitta at the 5-yard line on the team’s first possession. Sitting wide open in the middle of the field with an easier throw and the potential for a bigger gain was West. He did the same when the Giants brought 8 on a 2nd and 11 throw at the 7:35 mark of the second quarter and opted to heave it downfield to Kamar Aiken. Underneath options were available.
• Flacco’s cadence is VERY predictable and easily timed and that places more pressure on the O-line. DB’s creep down to the line of scrimmage and he just flat out ignores them even after they regularly disrupt plays thanks in part to the predictable cadence. (1-80, set hut)
• He regularly fails to sell a screen pass.
• Twice Flacco was called for a delay of game when there really wasn’t any pressure. The offense’s pacing, lack of urgency and the generally lazy body language and bad energy stems from Flacco. At the 11:02 mark of Q2, Flacco was flagged for a delay of game while casually perusing the defense. We’ll talk about the next in a moment.
• At the 9:31 mark of the fourth while facing a 2nd and 9 at the Giants 17, Flacco wildly overthrew Pitta in the end zone. An incompletion later Tucker connected from 35 yards out to close the Giants lead to 1 at 17-16.
• Fast forward to the Ravens last possession down 27-23 with 1:11 to go and 1 timeout left. Flacco hits Aiken for 13 yards and then Wallace for 11 yards leaving the Ravens with a first and 10 at the Giants 44 with 58 seconds to go and counting. It screamed for a spike but instead, Flacco, with little urgency, sets the play and throws a five-yard pass over the middle of the field to Perriman forcing them to burn their last timeout at 0:32. Flacco traded 26 precious seconds for 5 yards.
• Following an incompletion to Juice, the Ravens got the matchup they wanted and man coverage across the backside. Facing a third and 5 from the Giants 39 and 27 seconds left, Wallace ran an in route from the right and was wide open. If Flacco hits him in stride it could have ended the game with a win. Instead Flacco overshot his target by a good 10 yards.
• The Ravens got a get out of jail free card with a roughing the passer penalty and a new set of downs at the Giants 24 with 15 seconds left. Flacco missed a wide open Wallace again along the sidelines that would have placed the ball around the Giants 8 with 11 seconds left. Instead they faced a second down at the 24.
• The Ravens tried to go back to the same play but this time the Giants were on it. Incomplete.
• Facing a 3rd and 10 from the 24-yard line again, Flacco went into vapor lock and was called for a second delay of game forcing a 3rd and 15 from the 29 with just 7 seconds to go. Notice below that the play clock has already expired when Joe lifts his right leg.
• On the final play, Flacco rolled right then tossed the ball up into the scrum positioned in the middle of the field instead of to Kamar Aiken who had single coverage to the right. On a very similar 4th down route earlier in the quarter Flacco hit Aiken for 22 yards. This decision was just as mind numbing as the rest of the sequence during that final possession.
Flacco has the experience and the paycheck for the Ravens to expect more. And yes there is plenty of blame to go around as evidenced by this extremely long recap. Yet despite it all they had a chance to beat a bad Giants team and needed their franchise quarterback to come through to bail them out in the end…you know the things franchise quarterbacks with elite pay do – and he failed!
The Ravens keep moving on from offensive coordinators but the common denominators are Flacco and Harbaugh and both had really bad games. Both have had really bad seasons.
THE MEGAN FOX AWARD
He forced the game’s first turnover and helped the Ravens take a 10-point lead in the first quarter. His film study paid off to single-handedly stop two third down conversion attempts by the Giants after baiting Eli Manning both times. Eric Weddle, where would the Ravens be without you?
Eric Weddle, one man earning his paycheck.