Reality Check Time for Ravens

The Ravens finally ran out of horseshoes

For the better part of this season the Baltimore Ravens have been playing and winning with horseshoes. Not the kind the Baltimore Colts left behind when they moved to Indianapolis 28 years ago. Lucky horseshoes. It has made for a storybook season so far and, to this point, the ‘shoes have been mostly ringers and leaners. How else do you explain the wins against New England, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Diego – all games the Ravens arguably should have lost?

But horseshoes of any kind were nowhere in evidence on Sunday as the Ravens lost a crucial divisional game to a 37 year old, 3rd string quarterback.

Let’s say that again. The Ravens lost, at home, to an immobile, 37 year old, 3rd string quarterback who hasn’t played since 2010. Let’s beat this like drum.

It could have been a lot worse. Thankfully Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play. Do you think he would have missed a wide-open Mike Wallace in the end zone? And I’m mighty grateful that Emmanuel Sanders fumbled the ball out of his hands on his way to what would have been a 60-yard touchdown.

The Ravens remain in the lead for the AFC North, but Pittsburgh and fast-closing Cincinnati have closed the gap to 2 games. How crucial was the loss? A win would have guaranteed a playoff spot. A win would have all but ensured that the Steelers would have to win out to make the playoffs. A win would have kept us a game ahead of the Patriots and Broncos in the race for the 2nd playoff bye. A win would have kept us within shouting distance of the Texans for home field advantage in case they’d slip up.

That’s water under the bridge now, and the remaining schedule does the Ravens no favors. It’s RGIII away, then the Manning Brothers in back-to-back home games, and finally a roadie to play the resurgent Bengals.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see a gimme in the bunch.

Sports talk shows in Baltimore are all over Joe Flacco after his less than stellar performance on Sunday. True, Joe did have his worst home game performance of the year; a pick, a costly fumble, and passes that sailed all day. But…..he put up 20 points against what is statistically the best defense in the league. 20 points should have been enough to win against Mr. 3rd String and a patch work Pittsburgh offensive line. Flacco stunk, but I can’t blame him for all the Ravens woes when:

  • The defense couldn’t get consistent pressure against a slow and immobile, 3rd string quarterback. The time Charlie Batch had to throw was, at times, torturous.
  • Ray Rice did not get a touch at all in the 4th quarter
  • The Ravens linebackers and backs couldn’t cover the Steelers tight ends with a wet blanket
  • John Harbaugh threw away a crucial time out on a horrible challenge that nobody in the stands wanted him to take, and then blows another needless time out in the second half, both of which cost the Ravens dearly at the end of the game.
  • The stupidity didn’t end there. Anquan Boldin and Paul Kruger committed two senseless penalties, one of which (Kruger’s) conveniently moved the Steelers into field goal range at the end of the game
  • Ravens receivers dropped at least 4 catchable balls
  • The game plan seemed to consist of a series of “go” routes of which only one (Anquan Boldin TD) was successful
  • Did I mention Ray Rice didn’t touch the ball in the 4th quarter?

The difference was that the Steelers put Charlie Batch in a position to win. The fans who really thought that Batch and the Steelers were going to cough up the ball multiple times and lay down like dogs are probably already in line for The Hobbit premiere next week. I have no doubt that, after the Browns loss, Tomlin and his coaching staff went to work on a game plan that enabled Batch to succeed.

Which, by the way, is not something the Ravens always do with Joe Flacco.

In fact, I think the game plan and play selection has something to do with his sporadic ineptitude. Tony Lombardi wrote in another column on this site that he doesn’t think the Ravens trust Joe Flacco. I believe it.

Bottom Line: John Harbaugh, Cam Cameron, AND Joe Flacco all have a hand in this mess, ably assisted by an impotent and befuddled defense, and now we have to play the hardest remaining schedule in the AFC North, maybe without Terrell Suggs, in order to get into the postseason.

Good luck with that.

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