For the moment the Ravens are on break.
They have a mini-vacation.
Some have retreated to their hometowns. Others may be in warm places, kicking back, decompressing and cleansing their minds of football, albeit temporarily.
They just might be the living video for a Zac Brown song.
And really there’s nothing wrong with that, provided the players and the coaches return to work on Monday ready, willing and able to correct the team’s many flaws.
The coaches’ sojourns won’t be as long. They’ll be self-scouting and critiquing each other and each member of the squad prior to the players’ return. They will try to more precisely game plan in a way that maximizes the individual talents of their roster and delivers the best collective results.
It won’t be that simple. The Ravens could easily be (1-6) instead of (5-2). Explaining how they’ve achieved that mark given the statistics is on par with explaining the 2012 success of the Baltimore Orioles. They do just enough.
Going forward that might not be enough and the team knows it. So during the bye they’re headed to the repair shop. And of course priority number one will be to fix the defense.
During the previous 9 seasons the Ravens have a year-end average defensive ranking of third. That’s a long time for consistently top-end productivity in a league that promotes parity. Defensive excellence is a Ravens trademark.
This year that are ranked 26th – foreign soil for sure. And it’s not as though there is one weak link in D-Coordinator Dean Pees’ unit – there are several.
Consider these eye-popping stats when compared to 2011….
- Opponents are attempting 34% more rushing attempts per game against the Ravens
- That has led to an 18% increase in time of possession by opponents
- Rushing yards per game against the Ravens are up 51%
- Rushing First Downs per game are up 63%
And while this alone might be plenty to work on, let’s not forget that offensively the Ravens are running it 24% less frequently and producing 7% fewer rushing yards. With a suspect offensive line and the wintry weather ahead, the Ravens will have no choice but to get Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and Vonta Leach more involved.
And let’s not forget that the Ravens’ quarterback is dramatically less effective on the road (QB Rating at home this season is 106.5 v. 55.8 on the road) making the rushing stats even more alarming and puzzling.
Maybe the Ravens struggles can be pinpointed to discipline. Technique in all phases is lacking and penalties are up 50% in numbers and 64% in yardage, good for 31st and 29th in the league, respectively.
The Ravens can’t possibly clean this all up in a week. That’s not enough time and the truth be told they really don’t have the talent.
But they can improve, week by week in all phases. And if that progress is steady they just might find that when it counts they are the league’s strongest team.
And don’t laugh.
Let’s not forget that last year the New York Giants were summarily dismissed three-quarters of the way into the season. After a loss to the Green Bay Packers that dropped them to 6-6, fans were calling for the head in coach Tom Coughlin’s job description.
But the Giants regrouped, gathered momentum and rode that wave to a Super Bowl title.
In the modern era, teams, like the 2011 Giants, don’t have to be great. They just have to be good enough.
And for the (5-2) Ravens, there’s still time to be “good enough”.