The Baltimore Ravens packed up their playoff hopes and dreams and headed west to a not-so-warm San Diego to face the Chargers on Sunday night. Before the start of the game, because of losses by the Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders, the Ravens locked in their 4th-straight appearance in the NFL playoffs; a franchise record. But after that news, little went right for a team with so much on the line and destiny laying in the palm of their collective hands.
A win over San Diego would have kept the Ravens one step ahead of divisional rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC North division as well as the potential of having the top seed in the AFC Playoffs with home field advantage. But those dreams, at least after Week 15, came crashing down in the Ravens 34-14 loss to the Chargers at Snapdragon Stadium.
The Ravens were thoroughly out-worked by the Chargers in all facets of this game: Offensively, defensively and coaching. San Diego didn’t roll over and play dead just because their opponent had stamped a ticket to the playoffs before this game even started. In fact, that may have given the Chargers some extra pep in their step because they themselves were not out of the AFC Playoff picture with a 6-7 record.
Road games in December are extremely important to a team aspiring to be champions and now may be the only way this team gets to the Super Bowl. There’s enough talent on both sides of the ball to still get there, but simply put, the Ravens must take care of business the rest of the way and hope for a slip-up by the Steelers on Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers.
Grading the Ravens 34-14 loss to San Diego
You knew that this might not be the Ravens night when you look back to the opening drive of the game. Joe Flacco twice missed WR Lee Evans on pass plays including what would have been a sure TD to Evans after he had beaten his man. Flacco threw two really bad interceptions to defenders standing right in his line of vision, including one to a defensive lineman.
He struggled on short passing in this game, the one that sticks out being the throw to RB Ray Rice on a nice designed play that was a little too high for him. These types of things need to get better. He sailed a few passes over the middle of the field as well.
Flacco’s accuracy wasn’t so accurate and after the Ravens were down the Chargers simply dropped their coverage back, and waited on Joe’s throws to defend. The one thing that continues to drive me crazy is his pocket awareness, or lack thereof. NBC commentator Chris Collinsworth had the line of the night, saying of Joe, “Flacco is as mobile as any QB playing the game right now in the NFL.” Uh, Chris. What game are you watching?
Running Backs: C-
The running game became non-existent after the Chargers got up by double-digit points. Ray Rice started strong, rushing for 20 yards on the opening drive, but finished with just 57 yards on 10 carries. Rice stayed active in the passing game, catching dump-off pass after dump-off pass and that was a majority of the Ravens offense on the night.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C
This group could have started out strong, but missed some opportunities because of Joe’s poor throwing. Lee Evans nearly caught a TD on the first drive of the game, but it was under-thrown. It took until garbage time for WR Torrey Smith to make some plays, catching his 7th touchdown of the season, breaking the rooking single-season record for the Ravens. Outside of TE Ed Dickson’s touchdown in the 2nd quarter, both he and Dennis Pitta were fairly quiet. The Chargers had excellent coverage all over the field, but where were the opportunities down field? Seemed like the Ravens forgot about that.
Offensive Line: D-
The line had trouble all night pass blocking, giving up seven sacks in the game. The left side of the line had problems containing DE’s Vaughn Martin and Tommie Harris and out of nowhere, OLB and former Raven Antwan Barnes collected four sacks coming from that left side. He was a nightmare for tackle Bryant McKinnie and guard Ben Grubbs, who’s heads must have been spinning trying to locate this guy. Flacco had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide with this front seven.
Defensive Line: D-
This group absolutely has to get more consistent pressure for this team to be successful. I’ve said it and I’ll stick by it. They gave Chargers QB Philip Rivers all the time in the world to pick apart the Ravens secondary. No pressure meant no getting to the quarterback, as the Ravens were held to zero sacks on the night. Running up the middle still doesn’t work against the Ravens, but the Chargers starting running outside and that proved to be effective for them. DT Haloti Ngata played well, recording five tackles.
As I mentioned earlier, the Chargers did an outstanding job on neutralizing OLB Terrell Suggs. The one time the Ravens did get to Rivers, it was negated by a stupid personal foul penalty on Suggs, who at that point was getting extremely frustrated at what was going on.
This group missed a bunch of tackles, which up to this point had not been an issue. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis returned from his injury but looked slow to the ball. OLB Jarrett Johnson played well in the 1st half, but like the rest of the group disappeared in the 2nd half. The Chargers did a good job of spreading the field, moving the Ravens inside linebackers outside, leaving the middle wide open which they connected with ease a handful of times. Coverage here needs to get better.
The Ravens need someone other than Terrell Suggs to create havok and get to the QB, once the Chargers shut it down, the Ravens had nothing coming off the edge or inside.
This group was exposed big time by the San Diego Chargers coaching staff. The Chargers wide receivers dominated the Ravens corner play with size, strength and speed. With CB Lardarius Webb not 100%, they went right at fellow CB Jimmy Smith early and often. He was beat on a double move by WR Vincent Jackson late in the 2nd quarter for a huge gain, as well as on a fade route to WR Malcolm Floyd for a TD on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter. CB Cary Williams was so ineffective that he was benched for Webb, even with the toe injury.
Special Teams: D-
This group was quiet, mainly because the Chargers didn’t punt one time in the game and on kickoffs, the Ravens didn’t do much either. Kicker Billy Cundiff converted two extra points, but again missed an easy field goal in the 1st quarter. It’s time to look at bringing in another kicker because Cundiff clearly is not healthy.
Where to begin with this bunch? The Chargers specifically attacked key Ravens players, but there was little to no adjustments made at half-time or within the game to put the Ravens in a position to succeed. The Ravens stuck with the game plan they had coming in and that’s it. For a team with so much riding on this game, they came out flat and uninspired and the mystery surrounding this team and their road woes continue.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano tried to dial up pressure, but the Chargers had answers for it. Offensively, trailing by double-digits took Ray Rice out of the game the same way it did in the loss to Seattle earlier this season. Nothing worked offensively, not even the no-huddle, the Chargers just had too much up front for the line.
The San Diego Chargers put the beat down on the Ravens, and it wasn’t pretty. They out-muscled, out-hustled and flat out wanted it more than the Baltimore Ravens did. The Ravens weren’t just beat in one area, they got it from all over. They forced zero turnovers and had zero sacks. They gave up 145 rushing yards to the Chargers and allowed them to convert six of 10 on 3rd-downs.
It again reduces fans to more head-scratching because of their inability to win road games. The Ravens are now 3-4 on the road this season, all four losses coming against teams that had losing records coming into that respective game. Not exactly what you want to see from a team that expects to be in the Super Bowl.
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Much as I hate to say it, the Steelers will not lose tonight. If they win out, they get the 1 seed — they know that and they, unlike us, know how handle their business.
Ravens go on the road for the playoffs again — and I can’t see them beating NE in NE. Back to the drawing board.
The Ravens are quickly becoming the AFC’s Eagles — always in the tournament, never winning it.
I’m with you. This town keeps bragging about being “in the playoffs the last 4 years”, they pissed down their leg last night. This wasn’t just “one game” this was a continuence of a season in which they cannot win on the road. Even worse, this was with everything – the first seeding in the NFL – on the line. This team has underachieved, ALWAYS the 5th seed in the playoffs.
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Exactly, MGW. If this is how they play with everything on the line and all eyes on them, you really can’t expect them to do much better in the playoffs. At least they broke our hearts in December this year and not in January — we have more time to heal before they tease us again next year.
It is time to start envisioning a future without 52 and 20. There just isn’t much left there — and the sooner we admit it, the better. We should draft a good cover safety and ILB this draft.
We also need a C and an LT on the line. Of course, it doesn’t matter how good the line is if Joe holds the ball forever.
Good read it is what it is i dont hate jus gotta drink da purple kool aid no matter how bitter or sweet RAVENS TILL I DIE @RavensHypeMan
It’s always fun to see the thugs from “the U” and Sizzle get their lunch handed to them, maybe if they’d spend a little less “ball hard” time and a bit more time in the weight room working instead of admiring themselves, they might be able to win an important game. Flacco is mediocre at best, the only reason he isn’t viewed like Kyle Boller or Trent Dilfer is that he was a 1st round draft choice, the savior of the Ravens, and so much more is expected of him. I’m proud to be a Steelers’ fan and not a “wannabe Steelers” fan…..Good luck boys, glad you beat us twice this year, set our minds straight with what needed done. See you in the Burg’ in January. I’m predicting 35-7, yellow and black!
Well the Squeelers lost thanks for the Ego “Big Ben” and lack of balls Tomlin. GO RAVENS!
Yeah, we got beat, so what? Sunday was a day of upsets all over the NFL. We are still back in first place with two games to go. We will make the adjustments as needed. Steeler trolls should be talking smack after what happened to them last night. I hope they play Ben again Saturday against the Rams. Let’s see if hop along Benny is any more mobile in the pocket. We lost to teams that we should have beaten, but the fact of the matter is that those teams aren’t going to be in the playoffs anyways. The teams that are going to be in the playoffs, some of them we already have played and beaten them. Texans, Jets and Steelers twice. That is what is being left out.
The Ravens will make the playoffs most of the time because of their players , they will loose in the playoffs most of the time because of the coaches……………..
footnote: loose in the playoffs is defined as ‘not winning the super bowl’.
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