The Morning After: Thoughts And Observations From Ravens – Bills Week 4

flaccorockedThis was an ugly game for the Baltimore Ravens, losing to the Buffalo Bills 23-20 in Orchard Park, New York.

The score, while deceiving because it was a three-point loss, does not reflect at all the way the Ravens played throughout the game. Getting punished at the line of scrimmage by an intense and aggressive Bills front line, the Ravens virtually had no offense to speak of. In the fourth quarter, they mounted a comeback only to have their hopes dashed by a 5th interception by Joe Flacco.

Offensively, the problems went beyond just Joe Flacco’s poor play.

It was an all-around effort, highlighted by shabby offensive line play and the inability to run the football. All things combined to cause one giant headache for the Baltimore Ravens and the coaching staff, which also, should share in the blame for the complete ineptitude on display Sunday afternoon.

For starters, Joe Flacco. It was a bad game for #5, who threw a career-high five interceptions. The last one put the game on ice for Buffalo as the Ravens offense drove down the field with a chance to win the game late. The Bills did their best to give this game away and into the hands of Baltimore, but could not take opportunity to task.

The chain of events became an endless cycle for the Ravens on Sunday. Flacco did not throw the football well, though two of his five interceptions went off the fingertips of receivers and into the hands of a Bills secondary missing three-quarters of their starters. Flacco, as the leader on this team, placed the blame on his shoulders after the game, but things need to get better somehow, someway.

Then there’s the running game. 24 yards against a team that came into the game with the 30th-ranked run defense. Things got so bad that offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell completely abandoned the run in the 2nd half – just two rushing attempts. Two. Simply put, they could not move the football on the ground.

Back to the drawing board. Everyone in the stadium knew the Ravens were going to throw and that’s exactly what happened, even in short-yardage situations. It was confusing as Ray Rice (admittedly not 100%) and Bernard Pierce were quiet. Rice finished with 17 yards. Pierce just seven. They never established the run, dooming the passing game.

On the offensive line, the pass protection was weak. They were outhustled and outworked by the Bills defensive line, hitting Flacco eight times and sacking him four times. Holding and false start penalties set the tone as the Ravens first drive started with three consecutive penalty flags flying onto the field.

Flacco may have dreams of Marcell Dareus and Kiko Alonzo in his sleep the next few nights. Both gave Flacco fits in different ways, Dareus recorded two sacks and Alonzo picked #5 twice, including one on an acrobatic play.

The dropsies have gone on long enough with the receivers. It was increasingly frustrating watching guys work hard off the line of scrimmage and in their routes, only to have passes deflect off hands, or losing the football after making a catch.

When Flacco isn’t leading a receiver to be knocked silly, there just isn’t enough confidence in this group to make plays outside of Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown. Tandon Doss and Ed Dickson come to mind immediately. I don’t know what they’ll be, but wholesale changes need to be made.

Speaking of Smith and Brown, they are the Ravens offense right now. Smith torched the Bills secondary (when they weren’t making plays) for 166 yards, including a long gain late of 74 yards in the 4th quarter that he nearly broke for a score before being tripped up. Brown continues to impress, his TD grab on an inside route, beat the cornerback and used his strength to hang onto the football. The ball sailed on Flacco, luckily the kid is 6’5″ or it would have gone incomplete. This kid is going to be special.

spillerWhere was Haloti Ngata? I think John Harbaugh and Dean Pees may have put out an APB on him, because he wasn’t a factor in the game. The Bills absolutely gashed the Ravens run defense as Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller both rushed for over 75 yards.

A group that was stout in the first three games had no answer for the Bills attack. The Bills methodically ran straight into the defense successfully for most of the afternoon. Taking away Ngata in the middle on double teams, the Bills offensive line made plenty of holes to run through.

The key being their effectiveness on first down running the football, setting up short-yardage situations on 2nd and 3rd downs. Buffalo ran the football 55 times for 203 yards. Their QB, EJ Manuel wasn’t very good either, but he didn’t have to be. Their ability to establish the run made Manuel a pedestrian in the offense.

Injuries played a roll in this one as well. Lardarius Webb left the game with what is being called a “minor thigh injury” and did not return. In his place was Buffalo native, Corey Graham who was torched on a few occasions by receiver Robert Woods. Webb is expected to play next week against Miami. Also leaving the game were Marlon Brown (thigh, though doesn’t appear serious), Albert McClellan (shoulder) and Deonte Thompson (concussion).

About the only player on the Ravens who brought it yesterday was Terrell Suggs. Suggs finished with a team high 17 tackles and another sack, his fourth in four games.

Credit: AP Photo/Bill Wippert

Credit: AP Photo/Bill Wippert

The coaching staff did not have a good enough game plan to beat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. John Harbaugh acknowledged the let-down, taking on the blame. According to Jamison Hensley, Harbaugh was quoted saying, “We didn’t play well. We didn’t play well at all. I will take responsibility for that. It was a poor performance.”

Flacco also took accountability as a leader of this team, adding,“The result and the way we played really explains it all. You practice all week and don’t play a good game. I didn’t do that and we didn’t do that. We are just not good enough right now. I guess, that is probably the simplest explanation.”

Luckily, the AFC North is still a mess as Cincinnati fell to Cleveland and both teams now sit at 2-2 as well. The Steelers remain winless through four weeks. Its early, but the Ravens need to shift gears and play football because the true identity of this team has yet to be found.

Matt Lund is a co-host of the BSR Podcast and regular contributor to BSR. A Towson University alum, Matt is a lifelong Baltimore sports fan and native of Charm City working in sports broadcasting.