A Season on the Brink

Flacco throws

The last time that the Baltimore Ravens lost after a bye week was back during a tumultuous 2007 season, the last for Brian Billick as the team’s head coach.

The Ravens started out the ’07 campaign (4-2) and much like this 2012 season so far, it was anything but pretty.

Just prior to the bye, the team traveled to Buffalo to take on the Bills who were coming off a bye of their own with a record of (1-4). An overconfident Billick squad fell to Trent Edwards & Co. by the score of 19-14.

Following their bye the Ravens traveled to Pittsburgh, where the Steelers throttled them, 38-7. It wasn’t even that close.

Billick’s squad would go on to lose another 7 consecutive games to fall to (4-11) including a loss to the then winless Cam Cameron and the Miami Dolphins. They eventually snapped the 9 game skid with a win over the Steelers in the season finale at home by the score of 27-21.

The win was essentially a gift from Bill Cowher who rested most of his starters because a win would not affect the Steelers post season seeding.

So why this trip down memory lane?

No one expected the Ravens’ 2007 season to unravel as it did. When they closed the 2006 regular season with a (13-3) record, many thought the Ravens were the league’s best team. So despite a disappointing Divisional Playoff loss to the Colts in Baltimore, the 2007 season held promise.

Just like the 2012 season once did.

But the cold hard truth is, the Ravens hopes are beginning to fade and the season is on the brink of spinning out of control.

The Ravens are on the ledge looking down and the question is, “What are they going to do about it beginning this week in Cleveland?”

Clearly history is on the Ravens side. They are (4-0) following the bye under John Harbaugh and they are (9-0) against the Browns since Harbaugh’s arrival. Good trends for sure because they will need all of the help they can get.

The Browns were one play away from tying the game here in Baltimore back on September 27. Now Brandon Weeden is a bit more seasoned and this time in Cleveland he’ll have the services of WR Mohamed Massaquoi who could have been a difference maker when the clubs last met. And let’s not forget the key drops by WR Greg Little (one for a tying TD) that could have been game changers.

Let’s keep it real here. For the moment these teams are going in opposite directions. The Ravens are reeling and the young Browns are gaining confidence along with momentum.

And then there are those frightening stats that we’ve been reminded of for close to two weeks (and we’ll do it again):

  • The Ravens offense is averaging 15 points per game on the road
  • Joe Flacco’s QB Rating on the road is 55.8
  • In 3 road games Flacco has been sacked 10 times
  • Flacco was sacked 4 times by the Browns on 9/27/12
  • Ray Rice’s touches per game are down to 18 on the road
  • Defensively the Ravens are ranked 27th v. the run
  • They give up over 8 first downs on average on the ground per game, 30th in the NFL
  • Average time of possession (26:05) is a league worst
  • Penalties are up over 50% in numbers and 64% in yardage (31st ranking)

Making matters worse is a defense that is ailing. Lardarius Webb is done for the season and his replacement Jimmy Smith misses practice time with nagging injuries. Haloti Ngata, the only interior defensive lineman pulling his weight is fighting knee and shoulder issues. A team that can’t generate a pass rush had hoped for Pernell McPhee to improve upon his impressive rookie season. But he’s been largely invisible.

Ray Lewis is lost for the next several games at minimum and the player assuming his role, Jameel McClain rarely makes an impactful play. Overall tackling is awful.

This isn’t me being Debbie Downer here. These are the facts and it is naïve of anyone to think that a few days off is going to change all of this.

But some of this MUST come on Sunday!

A loss to a (2-6) team could send the Ravens into a tailspin. Confidence will be waning should they leave the Factory of Sadness with another digit in the loss column and that won’t help them during the balance of the season.

Even the Raiders (3-4) who come to town on November 11 could represent a stiff challenge. We are all too familiar with the success that Carson Palmer has had against the Ravens defense even when they were among the league’s best.

After the Raiders the Ravens have two games against the improving Steelers, sandwiched in between by a country road trip to San Diego. Those battles are followed by games at the Redskins, back-to-back home games against the Broncos and Giants before finishing with a roadie in Cincinnati.

Considering all of their recent struggles and all of the injuries, is their any remaining game that you can point to and say, “We’ve got this”?

A win on Sunday is imperative to saving the season.

Yes I know a loss would drop them to a still very respectable (5-3) and they would still be in the playoff mix.

But let’s face it, a loss to the Browns and 29-year-old rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden is more than a “3” in the loss column.

It could leave the Ravens wobbling on the ledge, fearing a repeat of 2007.

This entry was posted in Blog View, Lombardi's Way by Tony Lombardi. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Lombardi

Tony Lombardi
Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin...more

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