John Harbaugh was adamant throughout last week that the Ravens starters, if healthy, would suit up in their season finale against the Bengals.
He was right in that they suited up, but did they show up?
It hardly looked like it during the 27-10 loss. Many players looked as if they were already planning their offseason getaways rather than thinking about what coverage to play or how to get open on a passing route. They looked beaten, bruised and tired.
“I’m never happy with any losing result,” said Harbaugh following the loss. “Maybe I am pleased with the work and the effort, but never the result. I was just disappointed with the execution.
“We really didn’t have the edge in the first half like we normally do. We ran to the ball, we were finishing blocks — going hard in the routes. From an effort standpoint, the effort was there. But the execution was not, and we got run on like that. Credit to the Bengals, as they did a really good job. Rex Burkhead is a really good player. He’s really special, and he showed it today. It was just a great performance by him.
“For whatever reason, its hard to put a finger on it,” Harbaugh continued regarding the porous run defense. “On the emotional level, (the team) wasn’t where it had been in the past. It has to do a lot with what happened last week. Our guys came back and really worked hard. They didn’t sulk; they didn’t pout.
“We came to work, but to get to that level, you have to play to the level the way we usually do in order to win football games”
The frustrating loss – to a Bengals team that was without several starters – secured them the 16th overall pick in the 2017 draft.
“We have to address some issues,” claimed veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs. “We may have to take some hits — hopefully not — but we have to get healthy and address the issues that hurt us this year.
“We have to be honest with ourselves and address those issues if we don’t want to be on the outside looking in. We have to get healthy and go to work.”
Suggs is right: the Ravens have plenty of work to do this offseason. The front office must address significant issues on both sides of the ball, while also turning the critical eye toward themselves.
We will get our first look at the changes that are on the horizon next Tuesday, as the organization will hold its annual “State of the Ravens” press conference with team owner Steve Bisciotti, President Dick Cass, GM Ozzie Newsome, and Harbaugh.
Change certainly can’t come soon enough.
What changes exactly?
Pass rushers, cornerbacks and a center certainly need to be priorities as does a reliable offensive coordinator. Harbaugh needs to correct his errors in time management and to learn to properly utilize his Pro Bowl kicker. On defense, the statistics tell one story, but our eyes another. This team has watched lead after lead disappear late in games for years, and they are regularly shredded through the air by the game’s better passing attacks.
Both the coaches and the personnel need to prioritize finishing going forward.
The front office needs to figure out which free agents they want to keep around. Scroll through the list provided by Russell Street Report’s salary cap guru Brian McFarland and decide for yourself who should go and who should stay.
There’s plenty to do and it needs to start now.
In fact, I’m happy that the Ravens offense didn’t explode for 49 points against Cincy, and that the defense didn’t shut down the hobbled Bengals. Either result may have gave the team brass a false sense of security, and would have masked just how bad things were this season.
In the NFL, you are what your record says you are. For the Ravens – 31-33 since Super Bowl XLVII – it’s time to man up and face the real issues surrounding the team.
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