Yesterday was a “must win” game against Cleveland. The coaching staff said so. The players said so. The media pundits said so and almost every fan out there said so.

Being a “must win” game must not have been enough incentive because the entire team and the entire coaching staff mailed it in big time. This was Cleveland’s “regular season Super Bowl,” much like when Baltimore throttled Pittsburgh 35-7 in the opening game of the 2011 season.

I’m not going to grade this team.

I’m just giving one grade this week.

John Harbaugh, GRADE: F.

This is the 6th game where the offense got off to a dreary start in the game and failed to put substantial points on the board early in the game.

  • Game 2 against Cleveland: 0 first half points.
  • Game 4 against Buffalo: 7 first half points.
  • Game 5 against Miami: 6 first half points.
  • Game 6 against Green Bay: 0 first half points.
  • Game 7 against Pittsburgh: 6 first half points.
  • Game 8 against Cleveland: 10 first half points.

The frustrating pattern in all of this is that in every single loss, the Ravens have never really been out of any of these games. However, I question whether they were really ever in it. Other than the Houston game in week 3, the Ravens have just let teams stick around until late in the game and in the past they would win the close ones. This year, they’re just not.

The one aspect of this team that is just so pathetic is the fact that this defense cannot get off the field when the game is on the line. I’m not absolving the offense of anything; there is plenty of blame on that side of the football.

However, John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome made it a point of making this defense better than they were last year. With the way that John and Ozzie were talking, you’d think that the Ravens didn’t just win the Super Bowl. Sure, the defense wasn’t that great last year. They were pretty average overall and in some areas, they were downright bad. They couldn’t stop the run, they had a hard time getting off the field and they gave up a lot of splash plays in the secondary.

Sound familiar?

The defense is bad and they really shouldn’t be. They added Chris Canty, Michael Huff, Marcus Spears, Daryl Smith, and Elvis Dumervil. They drafted Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, Brandon Williams, John Simon, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Marc Anthony.

Conversely, they traded Anquan Boldin, re-signed (reluctantly) Bryant McKinnie, drafted Ricky Wagner, Kyle Juszczyk, Ryan Jensen and Aaron Mellette. In addition, they signed Marlon Brown as an undrafted free agent. Numerically, it seems fairly balanced. However, from a talent perspective it is a very strange way to do business.

You pay your franchise quarterback all of that money because he and the offense propelled the team to a Super Bowl victory and then you don’t invest in the offense? That’s like buying a Corvette Z06 and then leaving it parked outside and never driving it. What’s the point?

I know, I know. The defense lost a lot of guys. I get that. However, I look at a draft pick like John Simon and I see other guys right around him like Kenny Stills and Zac Stacy. I loved the John Simon pick, but he is practically the same type of player as Courtney Upshaw. Simon didn’t even dress yesterday against Cleveland. Kenny Stills is averaging 25 yards per reception and has 3 touchdowns on a team where he isn’t even in the top-3 of the receptions pecking order.

When the season started, I was a believer in this defense. I really thought this defensive unit would be strong enough and talented enough to carry the offense while Flacco and his new surroundings attempted to gel. I reasoned that now, Dean Pees had someone like Dumervil opposite a healthy Terrell Suggs and a defensive line of Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty would give Pees the tools he needed to turn in a defensive unit for the ages.

Yet, today I saw Elvis Dumervil dropping 10-15 yards into zone coverage. He was brought here to replace Paul Kruger and get after the quarterback…and he is being used as a zone-coverage linebacker. The secondary is young and inexperienced. One of the best ways to mask that is by generating effective pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback. From what I could tell there were few blitz packages, no stunts, no delayed blitzes…pretty much just a standard 4-man rush every snap with the occasional safety blitz from James Ihedigbo which everyone could clearly see what was coming.

This defense (which they invested so much into) let Jason Campbell throw for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns against them. Jason Campbell! Let that sink in. This was a guy who couldn’t beat out Brandon Weeden earlier in the year.

After Chuck Pagano left for the Colts, I wasn’t excited about Dean Pees as a defensive coordinator because I didn’t think he was creative enough to use the talent they had properly. After two seasons of his defensive schemes, I feel the same way. Dean Pees needs to go after this season and John Harbaugh needs to find someone who can come in here and get more out of this defense because there is far too much talent there to be turning in an average defense week in and week out.

Offensively, it is the same old story. John Harbaugh can sit there and tell us each week that they are going to do whatever it takes to get better and get the running game going and give Flacco better protection.

The joke is on us fans though.

They had two weeks to prepare for Cleveland and that is the best they could do?

According to Harbaugh, they were going to re-examine the blocking schemes and offensive schemes to figure out where they could get better. I still saw Gino Gradkowski looking lost as ever, AQ Shipley looks like he is running in molasses, Marshall Yanda is just watching guys blow right by him and Michael Oher stands around while Flacco is getting hit.

What changed?

Rice – who claimed he was 100% now…yeah right… – averaged 1.7 yards per carry today. Bernard Pierce – who also claimed his hamstring, was a lot better – averaged less than 2 yards per carry. Flacco actually led the team in rushing yards today with 25.

To make matters worse, Flacco was completely off target on almost every throw in the first half and when he starts scrambling not one receiver makes their way back to him as an outlet. Dallas Clark was the only guy who worked his way back to Flacco when the pocket broke down and (wouldn’t you know?) that was Clark’s only reception on the day.

So, how about those “changes” John?

Everyone likes to blast Flacco for his contract extension and the issues on the offensive side of the ball, but what about the contract extension John just got and the multitude of issues throughout the roster and coaching staff? This is not a playoff caliber team.

I’ll still root for them until the season is over, but I just don’t even know if they are capable of winning another game.

I guess a consolation prize is the Ravens will have their pick of the litter for some pretty prestigious NFL talent when they are on the clock during April’s NFL Draft.

The Chiefs went from the #1 overall pick to being undefeated.

Maybe it is time for Baltimore to have a top pick?

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About Paul Lukoskie

Paul Lukoskie
Paul (aka WickedSolo) has been an avid football fan since he was a little kid. As former player himself (through college only...turning pro and having million dollar contracts and fame just sounded too overwhelming...or he's just a 5'11" 200lb guy who was only good enough to play D-3 ball...but who's...more


  1. John P on said:

    D@mn right!

    And what about the 4th down call this week? Why not just put the ball and give your defense a chance to get it back? Heck, it happened 3 downs later anyway. Why put your team in that position? If they fail, he just gave away 3 points (again).

    Look – I don’t mind going for it. I supported couple of them this year (although I hated the play call against Green Bay). But there was more than enough time left this week to get the ball back and make something happen.

  2. JerryB on said:

    A lot of blame to go around, but permit me to stick my neck out and put much of the onus on….coaching! Despite a stellar winning record that’s hard to argue with, I’ve ALWAYS questioned how good a head coach Harbaugh is. He arrived here the same time as Joe Flacco and inherited a veteran presence that included some pretty savvy “coaches” on the field. This is his team now, and the results are startling! The running game has been a consistent staple for this team for years and Andy Moeller is still listed as the offensive line coach. So, Juan Castillo, a Harbaugh crony, is hired and given the unprecedented title of, Run Game Coordinator and, voila…..the run game disappears! Way too much expected of Flacco under the circumstances – no running game, poor pass protection, no TE’s, no “playmakers” at WR, etc. The Patriots have had significant turnover on offense and defense, yet MANAGE to stay competitive every year! What’s the biggest difference in KC this year? And, with the Red Sox this year? Moving on to the defense, Pees DOES NOT appear to grasp the importance of pressuring the QB as he obviously believes his LB’s are more useful in pass protection than pass rushing…….NOT! A “bye week” to prepare for Cleveland and the entire team shoes up…..FLAT! Enough said. Unless the personnel on this team has suddenly lost their collective ability, the finger points to……COACHING!

    • RJ on said:

      You pretty much NAILED it all around! Harbs is hands-down the epicenter of all the Ravens woes, and he has FINALLY been exposed as the hack he is! The hiring of Juan Castillo is an epic failure, and more proof that he would rather give his cronies a job they aren’t qualified for than win games. This O-line is a disaster, and we may need to completely revamp it next year (when we will obviosuly be taking the best center and/or left tackle available in the draft). Flacco has always only been as good as the personal around him, and right now, he is missing Q and Pitta like a drowning man misses air. There’s obvisously something wrong with Ray Rice at the moment (other than having no blockers) and my hope is that this gets corrected on its own, but what’s being overlooked is by not having a true blocking TE, that takes away half are running plays and leaves the ends wide open. Honestly, I have zero idea how we are going to play the rest of the year (which is only half over), or how we will find the cap room next year to take care of business in the off-season the way we need to, especially with so many holes to fill. But ultimately, I don’t think its going to matter now that Harbs has “complete control” over this team, and I only see more cronies being hired and outspoken players being fired. THANKS, HARBAUGH!

    • scotk09 on said:

      Totally agree w/ your assessment JerryB. As much as you can say it’s all about player execution, the bigger picture really is the coaching.

      In addition to your points I don’t see any of the following on offense:

      1. Basic screen pass to Rice or Pierce. Can the O-line not block at all? Can the WRs not block at all? I see college teams run this to perfection on a regular basis. Cue the FSU beat down of Miami on Saturday night.

      2. Any trick plays…..ANY!

      3. Any bubble screen to a WR

      4. Any packages that include Tyrod Taylor. Run the option a few times just to keep the LBs honest.

  3. Ebuhuel on said:

    sadly you are right. I will keep rooting for the Ravens but my hope for them winning another game is fleeting. Everybody seems to be noticing that the zone blocking scheme doesn’t work with the type of oline man we have yet still we are sticking with the zoneblocking scheme. What is up with that.

    We have Gradkowski en Shipley who look lost at the center position but on the active roster there is this other center called Ryan Jensen. Why is he on the active roster if he is not playing at all, why isn’t he on the practice squad. Is he a space filler or a even worse center then shipley and gradkowski?

    The biggest problem is the oline and unless that isn’t fixed really quickly we can look forward to a high draft pick in april. The defense has to step up a little aswel. But i can’t blame flacco, the wr’s or the rb’s for the failure of the offense. If the oline would be better the running game would be better and Flacco would have a little more time to pass.

  4. Chad on said:

    Love the article and agree with the coaching situation, but if you rememeber way back when Steve, Ozzie and Harbs had their State of the Ravens address, Steve came right out and said it is not about being good in 2013 but 2015!!!!!! Now let that sink in. I really thought we would still be trying to win with our all-star QB, a blossoming #1 WR in Torrey Smith, what at the time was a perceived strength of the team (Rice and Pierce) and I can go on and on.

    We need a great offensive mind running the offense. Look outside of the few games Caldwell ran the offense after Cameron was let go, this is his first gig as an offensive coordinator. Now let that sink in! It is really easy to be called an offensive genius or QB guru when you pretty much just let P. Manning go out there and do what he does. Hell I could be PM’s offensive coordinator and have a HC job in 5 years because he could make me look good. :)

    Pee’s lets not go there. NE fired him for a reason and we just take their leftovers? Harb’s is a great leader of people, I get that but we need a football mind running some part of our team, whether it be the OC or DC. We do not have one!

    I’m not getting off the bandwagon and will go to every game just like in years past and watch all of their away games with child like enthusiasm, but something needs to change and change soon. It is fine to be a leader but you need knowledgable, experienced and enthusiastic people supporting you and he chose friends over the best possible candidates. In doing Harb’s has lacked leadership this year.


    • John P on said:

      I envy your optimision. But let’s face it, what was supposed to be the staple of our team in 2014? The only units left almost completely untouched? That’s right – the offensive line and running backs.

      And what would our record be if those two units were remotely as productive as they were last year? Yup – we’d be leading the division.

      Yeah, Rice has been hurt. So has Osemele. But let’s not blame injuries. This is ineptness on the part of the coaches. Implementing a zone-blocking scheme that doesn’t fit the personnel is the key problem.

    • Paul on said:

      They are always thinking ahead and looking to build a team that will be successful in the future. However, they’re still trying to remain competitive now.

      Part of me kind of thinks that the coaches new they weren’t going to be very good this year and were going to have to make some tough (and emotional) roster moves come next off-season. That’s why they went after Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty and guys like that.

  5. Old pilot on said:

    Couldn’t agree more. This is a talented group of players that are being limited by POOR coaching. Harbaugh is responsible for bring Castillo here and allowing a power running game to be turned into a powder puff running game. Joe Flacco is one tough dude to take the constant beating that Castillo’s blocking schemes are allowing. Between Harbaugh, Pees and Caldwell, we have no one with imagination and no one that can make a corrective adjustment at half time. It’s going to be a L O N G season!

  6. dave on said:

    “Elephant in the room” What if Ray Rice isn’t just injured, but finished at the age of 26?

    What if the Ravens are sub .500 for 2 more yrs while a total rebuild goes on? They certainly will not be able to afford an overpaid, but underperforming ELITE QB on a losing team.

    • RJ on said:

      I actually think Ray Rice IS done! I love Ray, but I think it is over for him. And, Pierce, well, he just has not done ‘squat’ the entire season, either; but, of course, Our O-line can be credited for that. I think PSL holders who paid Full-Price for a season of football should get some sort of rebate from Biscuit (haha) for looking to the future, and blowing off this season – maybe use some of that advertising money for promoting ObamaCare, and give it back to the season ticket holders.

      • Bonnie Gilman on said:

        Off the field, I love Ray Rice too. He’s a good man. But, after watching so many impressive rookie, running backs play this year, every time I’ve thought the same thing…Whatever the reasons are, other running backs; even those new to the NFL, are far outperforming Rice. And, yes, team problems appear partly to blame for the complete collapse of Rice’s game this season. But, it’s obvious that the need for Ravens fans to hold their collective breaths whenever Rice is given the ball, points to a worrisome issue with Rice, himself. And, though I wanted so badly to believe Rice when he said he was “back to full strength,” I worry that may no longer be good enough. Certainly, Rice running for only 17 yards on 11 carries yesterday and Flacco being our leading rusher with 25 yards, has to be a great cause for concern to even Rice’s strongest supporters.

    • Paul on said:

      First, Flacco’s contract is all but guaranteed to be ripped up and re-written before his cap numbers inflate to levels where they are impossible to maintain. Additionally, it is likely that the cap escalators will kick in and the cap could be raised significantly when that time comes. By that point the cap could increase into the mid 130′s.

      Second, to those who think Rice is done, you’re going to be disappointed because Rice is going to be here for at least another year or two. If they cut or trade Rice, he would count nearly $15 mill against the cap in dead money. I also think that it is somewhat unfair of us to really blast Rice too much because the OL has been SO bad.

  7. dave on said:

    I don’t understand why some fans think that Harbs favors hiring friends or failed Eagle staff members. Do they think that there’s a 90 mile underground railroad? Do they think that the Phillie Phanatic will be the next OC?

    But i have inside info that P. J. Fleck will be hired from that powerhouse Western Michigan Broncos (1-8) team when he gets fired & needs a j-o-b.

    • Paul on said:

      All coaches hire guys they trust and have previous working experience with.

      Bill Parcells did it.

      Bill Belichick does it.

      John Harbaugh does it.

  8. Hut Guy on said:

    Where was Bernard Scott yesterday ?? Where was a wildcat with Tyrod Taylor ?? I agree Harbaugh’s insistence on backing the Juan Castillo “Titanic” zone blocking is asking personnel not designed to execute this scheme to suddenly morph into a blocking juggernaut. Pathetic is the only word that comes to mind. I don’t blame Flacco as many have so inclined to do. I blame the inability of this coaching staff to recognize a mistake and fix it. I agree the wins the remainder of this season will be scarce and plane tickets should be bought for Castillo and Pees. I miss the pounding running game and the fly around defense. The talent is here…just no the coaching !!

  9. PG County Raven on said:

    Chad is correct reference the State of the Ravens address earlier this year: We’re rebuilding for the next run in 2015 while “trying” to remain competitive today. Well competitive we’re not and it’s ugly to watch.

    • Paul on said:

      Considering the Ravens have lost 4 out of 5 games by a total of 14 points, 3 of which they lost by a FG or less…I’d say they’ve been competitive.

      They’re just not winning close games like they have in the past.

  10. Eric on said:

    I get the angst regarding the coaching, and agree to some degree, but the bottom line is they don’t have the horses on the offensive line. Monroe is a decent player, but Yanda isn’t the pro bowler he once was and Osemele is hurt. The other 3 probably don’t start for any other team in the league. How do you win with only one decent lineman? How do you have effectiveness passing the football without NFL quality tight ends? Flacco is a good QB, but proved yesterday that he cannot carry a team that struggles to run the ball effectively. He was off-target the entire game. It will be miraculous if he gets through this season without serious injury as often as he is getting hit.

    As far as the defense goes, it’s pretty obvious that our secondary lacks playmakers, big time. Elam and Ihedigbo are decent safeties, but not playmakers. Webb looks like he is not fully back to speed after the most recent knee injury. When the pass rush is good, and it has been for many of these games, the secondary is unable to get turnovers. When we get no pass rush, i.e. yesterday; they are totally lost on the back end and give up too many plays; especially on 3rd down.

    Beat up on the coaching staff, and I get it, but the players on this team just are not good enough to get the job done. I think that there is some decent talent on this team, and if they draft well, next year could be different.

  11. We hired the wrong Hrbaugh on said:

    The difference in coaching can be demonstared in Belichek being handed a turd sandwich this season, and he turned it into another winning record.

  12. Voice of Reason on said:

    I agree with Jerry B’s analysis and I also pin some of these losses on Harbaugh. Green Bay, Pittsburgh and even Cleveland yesterday were winnable games for us. I would like to know when it is 4th down and less than a yard why we hardly ever run a QB sneak. I would like to know why in the beginning of the game we don’t run a hurry up offense with quick slant passes across the middle. When your O line is lousy, you have to get rid of the ball within 3 seconds. You can’t stand back in the pocket forever, waiting for receivers to come open. There are so many options that creative football minds could use in spite of our personnel, that I simply don’t get it. Run, run, pass. That is all we do. Do we ever make in game adjustments to the game plan?

  13. Tucker: M&T Sec 527 on said:

    This offensive line is an embarrassment not only to the Ravens, but professional football at large. Give me the Bama, FSU, or U Miami OL to finish out the year – and that’s recognizing that those young men are not ALL headed to the NFL. If I were Tampa Bay or Jax, I’d be kicking myself that the Ravens weren’t on our schedule!

    I assume the guys are still trying their best (even McKinnie was when he was here – he was just 34 y.o. and done). But how long that remains true is a week by week question. Our gazillion dollar franchise QB is going to get killed out there before the nightmare ends in Cincy 12/29. KO is gone for the year (and was barely here most games he was in due to his back). Our bench was… Shipley – OMG! Please tell me Yanda is hurt and that explains his drop off. Oher plays like he’s blind not the hero of The Blindside. We knew for Birk’s whole tenure here that he was close to the end physically, and the best replacement strategy the FO could come up w/ was Gino? Inexcusable! Monroe is probably an upgrade. but who can tell?!

    The worst thing about this OL, is that cash-fpaying customers like you and me are asked to pay a $100or more a ticket and ruin our Sunday afternoons, nights, and a Thurs & Mon. night watching the staff “install” and then stick with a blocking scheme that [regardless of its theoretical advantages] this 2013 Ravens roster simply cannot and will not master. All due to the hiring of another d-bag Harbaugh frat brother. F*** You. FO and coaches. you are ripping us off. I’ll be one of the 1000′s booing next Sunday, and I’m booing YOU, not the players

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