THE GOOD, BAD & UGLY: Playmakers are MIA

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It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Sure we knew that there would be adjustments. The Ravens brass let us know as much with their retooling project. We just didn’t think it would take so long and now the 2013 season is slipping away – quickly.

We’ve all pointed towards Juan Castillo and the offensive line as the primary culprits. If it was only that simple…

The Ravens offensive line play is made more difficult by poor play calling and the lack of a quality tight end and slot receiver. Sure, Dallas Clark makes a nice catch every now and then and Marlon Brown has been a pleasant surprise. But opposing defenses really don’t have to respect them. Clark is slow and small and while Brown has made plays he’s not anywhere near the level of savvy-ness and pre-snap recognition skills of the departed Anquan Boldin.

Therefore opposing linebackers and safeties are more willing to take risks and pressure the A-gap. Plays break down. Plays aren’t made.

And really that is the biggest difference between the 2012 Baltimore Ravens and the 2013 version – playmaking, or lack thereof, on all sides of the ball.

When the Ravens need a big punt, they don’t get it.

When they need a third down stop, there’s a breakdown in coverage.

When they need 3 yards to win a game, they get a shotgun snap rolled back to the quarterback like it was a watermelon.

Last year the Ravens won 5 games by a total of 12 points. This season they have lost 5 games by a total of 17 points.

One play, one catch, one tackle, one block, one less turnover in any of those losses and the Ravens could be in the driver’s seat for a playoff berth.

The team’s highest paid players just aren’t getting it done in clutch situations.

• Joe Flacco throws a Pick-Six and a costly interception to end the first half
• Marshal Yanda gets flagged for a holding penalty and a false start in key situations
• Haloti Ngata is hurt – again
• Terrell Suggs played as if he tore up the town the night before
• Lardarius Webb brain cramps and his confusion leads to the game’s biggest play setting up Chicago for the walk-off field goal

Here are a few daunting notes:

• The Ravens have lost 7 of their last 8 regular season road games
• Five of their last 10 losses are to quarterbacks named Josh McCown, Jason Campbell, EJ Manuel, Kirk Cousins and Charlie Batch.
• Their turnover ratio is -10
• Joe Flacco has already established a career high in interceptions (13) with six games to go

Mix this in with a coaching staff that apparently lacks good teachers and game planners led by a head coach who regularly mismanages the clock and makes emotionally charged challenges that are practically dead on arrival, and what you get is an underachieving team with a (4-6) record.

What happened to all of the talk of placing the team’s best players in positions to succeed, to make plays? They’d rather use Vonta Leach as a pass receiver than finding a creative way to use Tyrod Taylor or Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice on the field together?

Despite the mess, the Ravens believe it or not still have a chance at a postseason berth thanks to a watered down league that is so mediocre. We’ll see what happens. Maybe they can catch lightning in a bottle again but without playmakers, that seems highly unlikely.



• Justin Tucker’s 52-yard FG in poor conditions
• Sam Koch’s athleticism as a holder
• Matt Elam’s solid tackling and support of the run defense
• Chris Canty’s hustle
• Jimmy Smith’s ascent as a very solid corner continued with 2 red zone PD’s
• Dallas Clark with two great catches for big first downs



• Harbaugh’s clock management at the end of the first half
• Harbaugh’s very lame challenge, born of frustration, of an Alshon Jeffery catch
• Corey Graham and Daryl Smith missing tackles on the TD screen pass to Forte
• Suggs, Dumervil and Upshaw COMBINED for 2 tackles, 0 sacks
• Marshal Yanda’s penalties
• Julius Peppers destroyed Eugene Monroe.
• Dean Pees went back to being Greg Mattison.
• Gradkowski just can’t help but to be a goat, this time with a fumbled snap on the game’s biggest play.
• Tandon Doss, tough conditions but if you need that big catch, Tandon ain’t your guy!
• Pierce’s decision making as a runner leading to 18 yards on 10 carries.



• Joe Flacco’s decision making – he STILL predetermines where he’s going with the football. On the second down play from the Bears’ 2 during the waning moments of the game the Bears had 8 in the box with single coverage on all 3 receivers yet he still handed it off to Rice. Sorry elite pay doesn’t equal elite play.
• Staying with Flacco, you didn’t see the 6’4” David Bass standing in front of you only 5 yards away? You know what, I believe you…you predetermine where you are going with the football. And please stop all the talk about that Pick-Six being on Ray Rice. That’s like blaming the catcher who called for a curve ball after the pitcher hangs one that goes yard.
• Hey Joe, pretty pass to Dallas Clark (if you believe Phil Simms) but throwing into triple coverage? You’ve been in this league how long?
• Throwing a pass on 3rd and 16 from your own 22 with 1:00 remaining in the half?
• Going for it on 4th and 8 from the Bears’ 32 with 7:45 left in the 3rd quarter? Really? Pinning the Bears deep at that point in the game had no appeal? After the Flacco fumble on the play, the Bears made it 17-13, 3 minutes and 41 seconds later.
• Ravens/Pees had no answer for the “trips right” with Jeffery rubbing down from the outside on a crossing pattern, the last of which was a back breaker on a 3rd and 9 from the Bears 21 in overtime.
• Suggs should have stayed in bed as he was dominated by Towson grad Jermon Bushrod. He did next to nothing and failed to hold down the edge several times.

Thompson Creek Player of the Game

Ray Rice said he was 100%. No one believed him. No one wanted to believe him because at least then there was a reason for his very substandard play. Apparently he was right because the Ray Rice of old re-emerged yesterday. Let’s hope he’s here to stay — or is Chicago’s run defense really that bad? Time will tell but great game from 27 nonetheless.

32 Raves on “THE GOOD, BAD & UGLY: Playmakers are MIA

  1. ERey on said:

    Excellent article. The bit about Marlon Brown/Dallas Clark vs Anquan Boldin was spot on. It’s not enough just to compare their stats this season. There’s so much more like run blocking and how much attention Boldin gets over those two.

  2. John on said:

    Sorry, but that int. was on Ray Rice, Antonio Freeman is also in agreement with that, maybe Flacco said he didn`t see the lineman, cause he was trying to cover for that terrible blocking attempt by Ray Rice.

  3. paulie on said:

    Pretty much agree with everything except giving Rice a pass on the David Bass pick six play. Yes, it was aterrible pass – BUT that was jhe biggest whiff on a cut block that I’ve seen in a very long time. Looked like an armadillo rolling ointo a ball . . .

  4. Joshua on said:

    I don’t know if you have ever interviewed or even spoken to Harbaugh, but you sure have some deep insight into his emotions. When are they firing him?

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      Harbaugh is a competitor and that sometimes drives emotions and influences decisions. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s just not a bright sideline coach. But I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.

  5. anonymouz on said:

    You know i was thinking about that this morning.. especially that pick6 play..
    Joe is cool joe. joe is predictable.. had he pump-faked, he could have gotten the pass thrown as Bass was finishing his leap. I can’t recall joe fake throwing, he does not like the “drama” (which by the way brady/brees/manning are divas at). joe is cool-joe, wants to go by un-noticed..
    Football is part physical and part mental.. one simple tweet and it threw peyton off his game..
    why can’t he fake signal or just waive his hands like crazed lunatic!! may at least get the other team thinking…

  6. PG County Raven on said:

    Unfortunately, I agree! On target commentary. Ray Rice is responsible for the poor attempt of a block on the pick 6 but Joe is 100% at fault for throwing the INT. How do you not see that defender still standing? Best analytical comments of the year: 1) “The team’s highest paid players just aren’t getting it done in clutch situations.” 2) “elite pay doesn’t equal elite play.” Hmmn? The games elite players make impact regardless ofthe talent around them. In fact they make average talent, above average. We’re, what, 5-10 in our last 15 regular season games? That is not a very good sign of a competitive team. Pull back the scab: We have some fundamental issues with the basic foundation of our team: blocking, tackling, decision-making and leadership by coaches and players. It’s all good, all bad, and all ugly this season!

  7. Horribaugh on said:

    Yup to everything. What do you suppose Bisciotti is thinking given the off season moves, and poor perofrmance by coaches and players alike?

  8. SDot on said:

    Feel like I vented my frustrations just by reading this!! I hope our front office reads these posts because it’s getting ridiculous. It’s been a tough year but I doubt/hope that Caldwell returns in the same capacity as this year. It’s about time we find a real OC for the first time in Franchise history.

  9. RichieG on said:

    At least we’re not Falcon fans – A N D, we’ll always have…last year!!!
    BTW, Brees threw an exact replica INT as Flacco’s to the guy RR missed (except there was no Saint even out there to attemp a block) – no one is breaking Brees’s back.
    It’s a lot easier to say, from the armchair, that Flacco should have seen RR whiff the block and/or he should have pump-faked!
    RichieG in Dallas

  10. Voice of Reason on said:

    We are not a very good football team right now and perhaps in the immediate future. There are several teams in the same boat as us, fighting for the last wildcard. There is so much wrong with the team and we don’t have the salary cap to fix all of the ills in one season. We are in rebuilding mode, like it or not. Enjoy the rest of the season.

  11. JerryB on said:

    Not only agree with almost everything, Tony, I could have written this myself! You and I will agree to disagree on Flacco. Look what’s happened to Matt Ryan in Atlanta without Roddy White and Julio Jones. And, Flacco’s never had the luxury of receivers of that caliber! I blamed bad play calling on Cameron when he was here, but it’s painfully clear that Harbaugh’s got his hands firmly around this offense! So, it’s more than just game/clock management issues with him. By the way, the easiest penalties to get in the pass happy NFL are “interference and holding” calls, so why not throw it in the end zone, particularly with time running out? John obviously didn’t learn from Jim’s poor play calling at the end of the Super Bowl! And, where’s……JUICE?!

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      The only person in the NFL that I MAY have thrown that triple covered pass to is Calvin Johnson. Let’s just call that throw to Clark a bad decision, made worse by the game situation at the time and the weather conditions. Ryan’s poor plays don’t excuse Flacco’s.

      • JerryB on said:

        Not offering them as excuses, Tony , merely comparing their performance as they are often compared due to their coming out of the same draft. Flacco, in my opinion, has accomplished more with less surrounding talent than any other QB in the NFL! In fact, he’s won more games in his first 5 years than any other QB in the same time frame! And, let’s not overlook the durability factor as he gets the “snot” knocked out of him week in and week out and has NEVER missed a snap……

        • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

          Definitely admirable qualities of Joe’s but he still makes many of the same mistakes that he’s made for years, mistakes that keep him from being among the game’s best. A hot 4 game stretch in the playoffs, while certainly impressive, doesn’t make you elite. Consistent excellence does.

          • JerryB on said:

            How ’bout winning more games in his first 5 years than any other QB in the NFL! Isn’t that what QB’s get paid to do? If he’s been inconsistent, his winning certainly has not! Not to mention in 3 of those 5 years, he took his team to within one game of the Super Bowl and if Lee Evans could catch, he’d have taken them to back-to-back Super Bowls! But, he’s had to deal with mediocre receivers his entire career! Unless or until he gets better receivers, we will most likely ALWAYS agree to disagree on his ability and accomplishments……

          • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

            If we are going to compare teams then we could argue that Brees never had the defense to carry his team the way Flacco has.

  12. Unibomber on said:

    On the 4th and 8 attempt, I don’t see why you would even punt it. You got a stud kicker with a tremendous leg and the clutch gene. Even with the bad wind he’s NEVER given the coaches a single reason not to trust him in that situation. My bet is he would have made that kick with ease, and Koch probably would have punted it right into the upper decks.

  13. dave on said:

    Joe isn’t an Elite QB? Captain Louis Renault is shocked.

    One of Joe’s strong points has always been is determination to get better & his self-evaluation (dripping sarcasm).

  14. Scot K. on said:

    Nobody is calling out Caldwell for the playcalling on the goal line on the last possession in regulation?
    How does he get a pass on that series? Rice up the middle against a stacked box with no FB on a bad field is ABSURD. And where is Tyrod Taylor? You think putting him in the backfield inside the 10 might throw a curve at the defense? The offense has 0…and I mean 0 creativity.

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      I don’t think the formation was bad on the second down play. I put that on Flacco. The formation brought 8 into the box and they have 3 WR’s with man coverage. That’s where the ball should have gone.

  15. charlie on said:

    i think the challenge was a GOOD decision. the D was gassed and we would have had to call a TO somewhere along the line-harbaugh actually made the right move. the review process takes 3-5 min(maybe more with the tv ads)-D gets a nice LONG breather but loses the challenge option. i think, given the circumstances, it was a steller move.

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      It was the 7th play of an early 4th quarter drive, a game during which the Ravens held a time of possession advantage. Giving his defense a rest, if that was his intention, is pretty lame IMO given the T.O.P., replay evidence and the loss of the challenge. There’s nothing stellar about John Harbaugh’s season thus far. Here’s to that changing!

  16. Jillester on said:

    Spot on Tony! I sped through the “GOOD” synopsis and had to take a break halfway through reading the remainder. One thing is for sure….”We have to get better.” Sound familiar?

  17. RichieG on said:

    Sorry TL, if Brees is that much better than Flacco, than his “faux pas” is that much more egregious – height/reach comparisons make no difference. AND, JerryB is sooo right – Flacco over the years has consistently had LESS to work with re talented playmaker receivers than any other top QB.
    My only gripe w/Flacco is not checking off enough; however, he may not have the green light (even though he did audible on a fabulous toss to aQb in the Vince bowl)!!!
    In comparison to the other teams, the Raves’ play-calls are generally VERY unimaginative. Why is Furstenburg, who MUST have significantly better hands than Dickson, still on the PS.
    And please tell me

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      No “if” about it. Brees is significantly better than Flacco and you’re right about his error being more egregious relatively speaking. But with a far more impressive resume and an obviously greater mastery of the finer nuances of quarterbacking, his mistakes are more easily forgiven.

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