Ravens at a Critical Juncture

Street Talk Ravens at a Critical Juncture

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The Baltimore Ravens find themselves at a crossroads.

The offense reached another low point Sunday against the Chicago Bears by not managing a single touchdown.

The defense, which came to into the season with high expectations, was not much better, allowing 231 rushing yards, the most the franchise has ever allowed.

Where do the Ravens go from here?

The team is not going to be able to vastly improve its personnel at this point of the season. The eventual return of nose tackle Brandon Williams from a foot injury will most certainly help with the team’s struggles against the run.

However, there is no beacon of light for the offense.

While quarterback Joe Flacco has struggled, he has consistently been hampered by a group of receivers who drop key passes. On Sunday, not only did Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore fail to come down with important receptions, the ball deflected off of them into the hands of the opposition. Both gaffes led to crucial points for the Bears.

While Michael Campanaro almost bailed the Ravens out with a 77-yard touchdown on a punt return, he also dropped an easy pass across the middle that would have provided a first down.

The absence of Jeremy Maclin with a shoulder injury loomed large. Despite those setbacks, Flacco has to take responsibility for the offense’s struggles. He is supposed to be the leader and has not lived up to his huge contract.

So far this season, Flacco has thrown for 1,003 yards with four touchdowns and eight interceptions for a 66.1 passer rating. He missed all of training camp with a sore back and has been sacked 12 times. Flacco and the rest of the offense talk about getting better, but new issues arise after almost every game.

“It is part of being an NFL player,” Flacco said. “It is part of being a leader, and it is part of being a player on this team. You have to be able to deal with the ups and downs of a season and continue to roll through. It is still early on, and we are a 3-3 football team.

“We have to look at ourselves hard and look at ourselves as the reason that we are 3-3 and just correct what we can and move forward. It does not feel good. Obviously, losses are going to affect you in a certain way, but we have to keep our head down and keep going.”

There is speculation that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is on the hot seat. However, coach John Harbaugh has already jettisoned two other offensive coordinators — Cam Cameron and Marc Trestman — in his tenure as the head coach.

The problems apparently run deeper than the playcalling.

The Ravens don’t have a game-changing player on offense. Running backs Alex Collins and Javorius “Buck” Allen have done a solid job splitting carries, but neither player strikes any fear into opposing defenses. The rest of the offense consistently appears out of sync, especially with the injuries to the offensive line.

Harbaugh is determined to get this team on track. The recent drafts, though, have not made his job any easier. He’s determined to move forward with the players that are available.

“You want to see guys step up and play well,” Harbaugh said. “You want to see guys make plays. Offensively, we want to score points and we want first downs. That’s what we’re shooting for, and that’s what we’re working for. We’re certainly capable of it. We need to get it going.”

Still, if there is not vast improvement, the Ravens could miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. If that happens, the franchise might have to consider a rebuilding project for future success.

That could be a painful, but necessary reality.

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Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich

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