Silver Lining in Ravens Loss to Steelers?

ravens-steelers-joe-flacco-800

A loss to the Baltimore Ravens’ archrivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, is always a bitter pill to swallow. The bitterness is made even more pungent when the team is forced to wallow in it throughout the bye week.

Truth be told it’s probably worse for the fans.

The players have bolted out of town, off on their mini-vacations before they return to prepare for the Cleveland Browns. They forget about losses far before the agony ends for the paying customers.

Fans will argue that the players should put in some overtime, work through the mounting list of issues and get it right before the season slips away. There is merit in such sentiments, but it won’t happen.

The coaches on the other will probably hang around – and they should. They need the time to figure out (in a hurry) what this team is and how they plan to fix the running game and all of the holes on defense.

It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight but the Ravens have far too much talent to be as inconsistent as they are at the moment. And if John Harbaugh and his assistants don’t stop being outcoached, they’ll lose the players and then it will really take a turn for the worse.

Maybe that’s why Harbaugh will allow the trips to the Bahamas, Cancun, etc. If he loses the team, free agents will play for their next contracts and fat cat veterans will look to stay healthy in order to preserve existing ones. That happened back in 2007 when the Ravens started out at (4-2) and then went on a 9 game skid before the Steelers mailed one in, resting their starters for the playoffs.

So where does the damage control begin?

The coaches should start with the Good, Bad & Ugly from their loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

 

THE GOOD

The Ravens had only 7 possessions in the entire game but managed to score on 4 of them. Once they felt a sense of urgency, things began to happen and miraculously, they actually had some semblance of a running game. Why the Ravens offense continues to walk out of the locker as if their Gatorade is spiked with Lunesta remains a mystery.

It is abundantly clear to everyone on the planet except the coaches who call the game that Joe Flacco is infinitely more effective when operating out of the sugar huddle than when the Ravens move in and out of the huddle at a snail’s pace, even “earning” a delay of game penalty AFTER a timeout. The offense is like a self-induced coma.

HOWEVER…

It was pretty clear that when Flacco was dialed in, feeling the rhythm, the Steelers played on their heels, not knowing what was coming next and THAT at least partially opens up a running game that needs all of the help it can get. The approach helps the offensive line, it tires the opponents and it shifts control of the game.

This isn’t rocket science but Harbaugh & Co. seem to want to make it that way. Folks will blame Jim Caldwell and perhaps there’s a little of that that’s deserved but if Harbaugh didn’t prefer the prehistoric approach he could direct the change. He is after all, the common denominator in the offense that after the 2012 postseason has taken on a frighteningly familiar Cam Cameron-like look.

Good Performances of Note

  • Eugene Monroe, currently the team’s best offensive lineman
  • Joe Flacco, buying time to keep plays alive, delivering lasers
  • Vonta Leach, rugged rushing yards out of shotgun
  • Tandon Doss nice catches in traffic, continuing his ascent as an NFL receiver
  • Well-designed short yardage passes to Ed Dickson, Ray Rice and Dallas Clark
  • Often criticized receiving corps has played well
  • Daryl Smith continues to pay dividends

 

THE BAD

The Steelers heading into the game were the league’s 22nd ranked defense against the run. Now, courtesy of the Ravens they are 19th. The Ravens just can’t get a push when operating from the huddle and continue to dictate plays with their personnel packages.

Clearly the Ravens need to change this…but we knew that (although apparently they didn’t). But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the game was the way in which the then 31st ranked rushing offense took it to the Ravens front seven. Le’Veon Bell gashed the Ravens for 93 yards behind an offensive line that was supposed to be overmatched. Haloti Ngata was pushed around by backup center Fernando Velasco so much I wondered if that was Dwan Edwards wearing No. 92.

This is the 3rd straight sub-standard campaign for Ngata and at this point it’s hard to see him getting much better and clearly not performing to the level of his contract, which will eat up $16M in cap space next season.

Bad Performances of Note

  • Flacco’s underthrown pass to Jacoby Jones that should have gone for a TD
  • Gino Gradkowski has limited vision and should have picked up the LaMarr Woodley stunt
  • Receivers need to continue to work towards open areas of the field within Flacco’s field of vision when he buys time.
  • Empty backfield on first down? Seriously?
  • Clock management with less than 2 minutes was minor league
  • Inability to adjust to Pittsburgh’s offensive wrinkle with Bell taking direct snaps
  • Twice this season the Ravens defense has had a chance to win the game. They’re (0-2)

 

THE UGLY

By his own admission John Harbaugh is a close friend of Jerry Rosburg’s. Good friends should be truthful and the truth is Rosburg’s units stink! They can’t cover punts, sometimes they can’t even punt (24.0 yard net punting average), they have kick cover guys like Michael Huff who looks like he’s trying out for a flag football team and that “bunt” of an onsides kicks was questionably timed and horrifically executed. To make matters worse Jeromy Miles was offside on a surprise onsides kick. On one kick that was flopped down the right sideline by Steelers’ kicker Shaun Suisham, the Ravens stood around doing nothing for far too long and the Steelers nearly came up with what would have amounted to a lengthy onsides kick at the Ravens 14.

Other Ugly Performances

  • Delay of game after a timeout
  • Michael Oher allowing a key pressure to LaMarr Woodley despite just a 3-man rush.

 

THOMPSON CREEK PLAYER OF THE GAME

How he manages to get done what he does without a running game, an offensive game plan that is about as cutting edge as an abacus and an offensive line that continues to struggle is borderline heroic for Joe Flacco. Isn’t it time to take off the training wheels that we thought were ditched last December?

23 Raves on “Silver Lining in Ravens Loss to Steelers?

  1. OriAl on said:

    Let Flacco call his own plays. Can he do worse than what we’ve seen? Use the pass to set up the run. Use rollouts – Flacco has mobility, and, considering our poor blocking in the middle, intentionally moving occasionally is good strategy. And do use the sugar more.

    Fourth quarter defense the last two games has been terrible. In both games, following late TD drives by our first half-phobic offense, the defense has had the chance to get the ball back, and give Flacco the chance to drive for a game winning FG attempt with time on the clock. Flacco blew our last chance vs. Buffalo with pick number five, but he wasn’t given last chances vs. Green Bay and Pittsburgh.

    Flacco did underthrow Jones on that play; however, even a perfectly timed throw may not have been caught. A catch would be probable, but not guaranteed. Drops do happen.

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      Seriously Dave? Because I said he was on the hot seat last year and because I think he can do better this year? To borrow from an old football cliche, you don’t know what you don’t know.

      I can tell you that after the Ravens loss to Green Bay Steve Bisciotti had a 90 minute meeting during which he told Harbaugh that the coaching staff isn’t exempt from the finger of blame. Want proof, take a look here:http://ravensrap.com/

      Harbaugh has done a great job overall since his arrival in 2008. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t without fault and because I care, I point those faults out. I want him and therefore the team to get better.

      • Dave on said:

        You incessantly rip the guy, and yes, because you said he was on the hot seat last year, a ridiculous notion. And, wow, Bisciotti is holding his coach accountable?? What a new concept!!

        • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

          Like I said, you don’t know what you don’t know. If you don’t think Bisciotti had a hand in Cameron’s firing, then you are naive. And if the owner, one who isn’t a meddlesome owner has to order the “code red”, then it goes to reason Harbaugh too was on the hot seat.

          And yes Bisciotti is holding Harbaugh accountable. I guess that concept isn’t open to people who cover the coach/team?

          • Dave on said:

            I never broached the Cameron firing; I have first-hand knowledge that Bisciotti was involved in that. I also have first-hand knowledge that Harbaugh was not on the hot seat, but it if that’s your interpretation, then fine. My friend knows Bisciotti very well — his brother-in-law worked with him for years. Steve holds his people accountable, which is why he has been so successful. That doesn’t mean people necessarily find themselves on any “hot seat.” Harbs has taken some risks this season. Have they worked? Not very well, but then you and others would be ripping him for being too conservative. He is here to stay for a while; he’s earned that.

          • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

            If someone had to do your job for you that to me suggests you’re on the hot seat which is to say he was on notice. Clearly he answered the challenge.

            You say I’m trying to run him out of town. Totally off base…just looking for accountability. If you like the way things are being run right now, I’m happy for you. I wish I shared that sentiment.

  2. Anonymous on said:

    Tony… I was under the impression the division winner was the team with the most wins in head-2-head competition within the division. Mean if we go 5-1 in our division and 0-10 in the other games we would still get the playoff birth bc we won the division. I thought overall record was a tie-breaker for divisional ties.
    Can you str8en me out please and thank you.

    • Evan on said:

      You have it backwards. Overall record determines the winner with head to head record and divisional record serving as potential tie breakers.

      If divisional record determined the winner of a division, the Rams would have won the AFC West last year despite going 7-8-1 (they went 4-1-1 within the division).

  3. Flaccoluv on said:

    I am continually amazed at all the love Joe Flacco gets from the Ravens faithful. He is a fine QB, a competent game manager and he is capable of incredible hot streaks, but let’s face it, he is part of the problem here. He is 23rd in QB rating, 22nd in Completion %, 20th in yds per attempt. Tied for 16th in TD’s and is 5th in Int’s. He bares some responsibilty here. His cap numbers in the next few years are going to kill any attempt at bringing in the talent he needs to be surrounded with in order to be successful. Given that contract, we need him to be playing like a superstar, not an “above average” QB.

    • JerryB on said:

      Since his rookie season when he was literally thrown into a starting role by default, he has won more games than any other QB in the NFL! And, that, by the way, is the only statistic that really matters! That he’s accomplished it without the kind of supporting cast his contemporaries have is incredible! Falacco got his contract the old fashioned way….he EARNED it! Were it not for his play this year, again, with a dubious supporting cast, we might be 0-7 instead of 3-4………

  4. Dan on said:

    Great inside scoop, keep it coming Tony!!

    Wish they’d take the handcuffs off Flacco as well. Two deep passes all game?

    Seems player execution is off. Coaching is off. Urgency is off. The DOG penalty after taking a time out after just returning from halftime, really??? Tony is it just a SuperBowl hangover? Defensive line is Swiss cheese. All summer we talked and read about this great rotation would be, a place of strength for the team. The D couldn’t get off the field Sunday.

    Harbaugh is a great franchise coach. Like a college program, he’s the face of the org. Glad he’s here, glad we don’t have his brother. No human is w/o human fault though. Maybe his is the affinity and uber-loyalty to coaching friends. Its admirable only so far. Rossberg is the last sacred cow. Special teams is abysmal this year. Worse than 2 years ago.

  5. JOHN on said:

    HARBAUGH IS A SHAM , A FAKE, A PHONEY!! THE OC WE HAVE NOW IS NO BETTER, I SHOULD SAY WORSE, THEN CAM CAMERON! HARBAUGH WANTED ALL YES MEN ON THE TEAM AND NOW HE HAS THEM AND YOU SEE WHAT THE RESULT IS.

  6. Raveon on said:

    Tony great article. Dave you are annoying. My brothers cousins aunt used to date the owners friend and he confirmed Harbs was and is on the hot seat. I used be be a fan of the coach but he is losing me too. There were many bonehead coaching moments Sunday but I won’t go there anymore. What about the decision to let McKinney go? Harbs got him good didn’t he? McKinney is back home in Miami and will probably play for them. He is excited. Harbs got him good didn’t he. Other teammates might start dogging it so they can be traded and go to their hometown or a winning team. Harbs sure is scaring everyone with the threat of being traded or cut. Good job coach.

    • Dave on said:

      Clearly, you misunderstood everything that I said. And the fact that you are sticking up for McKinnie proves how clueless you are.

      • Anonymous on said:

        Dave you are annoying. Mckinnie will eventually start for miami. I think that makes him a capable backup. What did we get for him and what did we save by getting rid of him? Absolutely nothing. More importantly what will the ravens do if one of our OTs gets hurt? Whose our backup Mr. Clueless? Fly away gnat.

  7. Grey on said:

    Tony, thanks again for calling a spade a spade. Your analysis was truthful and engaging. Even though I like Harbaugh as a head coach he is not without blame for the team’s current malaise. Some fans will point to player responsibility for execution as the primary fulcrum point, but if the problems are created by both the coaches and the players.

    The position coaches need to hold the players they are responsible for accountable, while teaching and ingraining the correct techniques. It is the player’s responsibility to embrace the imparted information, and perform to the expectation established. In other words be a professional…on both sides. We are not seeing positive results from this interaction. The question is who is being put on notice the team’s current performance will not be tolerated?

    As a head coach I know Harbaugh has to engage in “coach speak”, but it certainly is insulting to the fanbase when he is obviously disingenuous and says things like “Gino is doing just fine”…when clearly he is not. So, when I hear there is nothing off the table to improve I hope he really means it because it will take strong measures on both the coach and player sides of the team to get it righted.

    • RJ on said:

      TL, agree with everything you said. Love Harbs; but my feeling is he is not a ‘Lombardi’ when it comes to demanding perfection, and this failure is manifesting itself on the field. We as PSL holders expect more for our investment!

  8. PG County Raven on said:

    We’re 3-4 and it’s a State of Emergency? No, not really. Why? This is the year of transition, actually rebuilding, though no one wants to admit to that because rebuilding is a painful, negative process and we want 6 straight years of playoffs to show how good we are at being competitive as an organization. After 7 games there is enough data to show we’re rebuilding and the playoffs is a longshot. Now we will see just how good this coaching staff and players really are: adversity is clearly in our face! The 2nd half of the season will be very intersting and I’m looking forward to how we respond!

  9. JerryB on said:

    Excellent assessment as usual, Tony! Agree on all points, particularly emphasizing the passing game, which is good enough to score when it becomes urgent! In fact, the 27 points they scored against Denver when they had to would have been enough to win ALL the other games! So, how ’bout taking the opening kickoff instead of deferring and changing the offensive mindset to one of a wide open passing game, which the rules favor anyway. It might just open up the running game, too! Agree as to Jerry Rosburg, whose Special Teams have NEVER been any good! But, he’s Harbaugh’s……crony!

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