Communication Breakdown Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Street Talk Communication Breakdown

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The Ravens secondary was supposed to be among the best in the NFL.

When cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young went down with injuries, there was optimism the team was deep enough to absorb those losses.

However, the Ravens defensive backs were shredded for the second consecutive week and they need to make sure that’s more of an aberration than a disturbing trend.

“We’ve got to play better, play more sound, play more fundamentally sound,” Ravens safety Tony Jefferson said after the 33-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. “It’s Week 3, so get back to the drawing board 2-1, and I still think we’re in great shape. I still have faith in everybody in our locker room, and we just go from there … There’s really no excuse. Just got to do better, play better and fix it.”

One week after Arizona Cardinals rookie Kyler Murray threw for 349 yards, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Homes was even more deadly. Mahomes completed 27 of 37 pass attempts for 374 yards with three touchdowns. The Ravens also gave the Chiefs 30 yards with a couple of roughing the passer penalties on linebacker Matthew Judon, who reportedly declined to speak with the media after the game. 

There appears to be an ongoing communication issue with the defensive backs. The challenges in Kansas City were understandable because of the crowd noise. There was no excuse for the problems against the Cardinals at M&T Bank Stadium.

In short, the Ravens need to stop allowing big plays.

In the 23-17 victory over Arizona, wide receivers Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald kept getting behind the secondary to reel off huge chunks of yards. Kirk finished with six receptions for 114 yards and Fitzgerald had five catches for 104 yards. 

Kansas City rookie receiver Mecole Hardman had an 83-yard touchdown reception that provided a 20-6 lead late in the second quarter. Several Ravens defenders appeared to be out of position during the play.

At least, the Ravens players were accountable after  the game.

“I was supposed to split those three [wideouts], and the safety didn’t get over right away, and it was just something fast,” said cornerback Anthony Averett, who is filling in for Smith. “It was something that we just have to be faster to recognize.”

The Ravens signed Earl Thomas to a four-year, $55-million deal in the offseason to boost coverage in the back end of the defense. Thomas had an interception against the Dolphins in the regular-season opener but has not done much after that game. 

There were questions about the Ravens pass rush entering the season and how that might put added pressure on the secondary if opposing quarterbacks had too much time to pick them apart. The Ravens have managed seven sacks over the first three games, so that’s really not a huge problem thus far. 

In the end, the loss to Kansas City is not devastating. The Ravens still hold the top spot in the AFC North ahead of Cleveland (1-2), the Bengals (0-2), and the Steelers (0-2). 

The Browns visit M&T Bank Stadium for a huge Week 4 matchup. The Ravens need to clean up some of the issues defensively against Cleveland’s attack, which has looked pedestrian over the first three weeks.

What was the single biggest contributing factor to the Ravens 33-28 loss to the Chiefs?

The Ravens are fully confident they are a playoff team. Thomas even had a message for Kansas City following the Week 3 loss.  

“We’re going to see them again,” he said. “And this tape is going to be everything to me. I feel like we challenged them; we made some mistakes but it’s going to be great film for us to watch. When we see them down the line, we’re going to have it.”

Thomas and the rest of the secondary are going to need to play much better to make that happen.

It starts with Cleveland in Week 4. 

Buy Todd’s new book, No Limits, on Mark Amatucci’s storied coaching career at Calvert Hall and Loyola College, at Amazon.

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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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