I’m not surprised by any of this.
But I’m surprised by a lot of it.
Confused? Yeah, me too. I never expected the Ravens would start the season 0-3, staring 0-4 in the face with a Thursday night visit to Heinz Field to take on the Steelers. I’m confused because the Ravens have fighters on their roster, guys that would rather eat a nail than lose a football game. Heart matters in the NFL. I thought the Ravens had some.
I’m not entirely surprised by what we’ve seen so far because I half-predicted this sort of season when I picked the club to go 9-7 a few days before the season opener in Denver. If you remember, I pointed at two major flaws and played the “if” game with both of them:
“If the Ravens have to go to their depth chart, two or three deep, they’re in big trouble…”
“If the Ravens wide-receiving corps is going to include the likes of Aiken, Brown and Campanaro getting extensive playing time, they’re in big trouble…”
Now, they could easily be 3-0. They certainly don’t DESERVE to be 3-0, but they could be if the ball bounced the right way – and didn’t bounce off of Steve Smith’s facemask in the final minute of the opener in Denver. But as much as they don’t deserve to be 3-0, they probably don’t deserve to be 0-3, either. They haven’t played awful football for the first 12 quarters of the 2015 season. They’ve played awful football in six of them, though. And that’s why they’re 0-3.
They’re also 0-3 because they can’t stop drawing penalties.
Giving the other team free yards is like a baseball player dropping a foul ball that should have been caught. It’s inevitable – if you give a major league team an extra out, they’ll make you pay. In the NFL, if you keep giving the other team five or ten yards a few times each series, they’re eventually going to turn that field position into a score of some sort.
And when you have the ball, you can’t negate potential game-changing plays with dumb penalties like grabbing the facemask, which is what Kelechi Osemele did in the final few minutes of Sunday’s game when the Flacco-to-Smith connection teamed up for a 4th and 3 conversion that would have kept the Ravens’ final drive alive. Instead, the Osemele infraction created a 4th and 13 and the game ended on the next incomplete pass.
A friend of mine sent me a text in the 2nd quarter on Sunday: “These refs are killing the Ravens.”
I replied: “Actually, the Ravens are killing the Ravens. The refs are just supplying the embalming fluid.”
If anyone had a beef about the refs on Sunday, it should have been the Bengals, who got a touchdown inexplicably stripped from them because the league has fouled up their own rules so much they no longer actually know what’s fair and what isn’t.
But, again, the refs have little or nothing to do with the current plight of the Ravens.
The Ravens are an 0-3 team because in each of their three games to date, they had a chance to make a “big play” and failed to do so. Steve Smith and then Crockett Gillmore in the final minute at Denver. If either of those guys comes down with the football, the Ravens are 1-0.
Sunday, on that aforementioned 4th and 13 Flacco throw to Maxx Williams – if the rookie tight end collects that long pass for a first down, the Ravens are in good shape inside the Bengals 40 with 90 seconds left in the game. If Williams catches that ball, I’d bet a dozen Titleist golf balls the Ravens score a TD and win the game on that drive.
It wasn’t a garden-variety catch, mind you – that’s why it’s called a “big play”.
The ball hit Williams in the hands, which means it could have been caught.
A.J. Green made a lot of big plays on Sunday.
So, too, did Derek Carr in Oakland nine days ago.
Their guys are making ‘em, our guys aren’t. That’s how the Ravens are 0-3.
You can check out Drew’s daily thoughts on the Ravens and the rest of the world of sports at www.drewsmorningdish.com