For the first time since the 2009 season, the Baltimore Ravens have dropped three straight games – and the last two at home – for the first time since December of 2007, falling to the Denver Broncos in the most lopsided home loss under John Harbaugh, 34-17.
The M&T Bank Stadium crowd of 71,317, unhappy with the Ravens performance, booed the team as they headed to the locker room to end the 1st half and sporadically headed for the exits as it was Denver’s defense and not particularly Broncos QB Peyton Manning who did all the work in an easy rout of the Ravens (9-5).
Manning threw for 204 yards and a touchdown as he improves his win streak against Baltimore to nine straight games. For the Ravens, an embattled coach in Cam Cameron saw his exit earlier in the week and another coach in Jim Caldwell making his offensive coordinator debut to rocky beginnings.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers losing to the Dallas Cowboys, the Baltimore Ravens become the only team in the NFL to make it to the playoffs in each of the last five seasons. However, they have not yet clinched the AFC North division title.
Cam Cameron isn’t walking through that door to the Ravens locker room anymore. With Jim Caldwell as the Ravens new offensive coordinator, Flacco’s first game with him provided more of the same type of play that has been consistent with Flacco as of late.
He turned the football over twice more in this game, both times crushing momentum the Ravens were building. The first, a fumble on a quarterback keeper in which he was stripped of the football going for a first down, and later, an interception in which the Ravens had moved the football to the Broncos two-yard line.
Flacco looking for the fade, instead threw to the flat where Chris Harris jumped Anquan Boldin’s route and took it to the house 98 yards for the touchdown. A veteran quarterback with five years of experience should know not to throw that pass, but did anyway. Flacco took the blame, but these issues continue to hurt the team, himself and whatever contract Flacco was expecting to get.
Its as if Flacco has forgotten how to properly throw a football. The propensity of Flacco throwing the ball of his back foot grows weekly and his mechanics are just poor. This is a guy with nearly five seasons of experience under his belt in the NFL, correct?
The Ravens were 1-for-12 on third downs in the game and didn’t pick up a first down until midway through the 2nd quarter. Flacco was never in any sort of rhythm, despite throwing touchdowns to Dennis Pitta for 31 and 61 yards. Both scores came after the Ravens were down 31-3. Suddenly, Joe Flacco has become a huge concern for this Ravens team still searching for a playoff birth as the offense continues to sputter.
Running Backs: D
There was not much running room for Ray Rice in this one as the Broncos bottled him up early. As the Broncos lead grew, the running game became an after thought. The Ravens tried to use Rice up the middle which didn’t work because the offensive line could not open holes nor did Rice really accelerate in the hole. The Broncos were great in their pursuit staying in the running lanes. There are times the Ravens will run stretch plays to the left for Rice or sweeps that actually gain yards and move the chains, but they don’t stick with it. Rice finished with 38 yards on 12 carries.
Bernard Pierce, one of the many Ravens to leave the game with injury, suffered a concussion in the 2nd half and did not return. Pierce had 20 yards on just five carries.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: D
This group had a very quiet day outside of Dennis Pitta who had a huge game, finishing with 125 yards on seven catches and two touchdowns. On his 61-yard scamper he did all the work, breaking three tackles and staying in bounds for the score.
Jacoby Jones was used more so in the passing game, catching three balls for 51 yards, including one catch that went for 43 yards. Jones caught the ball over the middle on a crossing route and used his athletic ability to get free of the defenders.
Torrey Smith saw a good amount of Broncos corner back Champ Bailey and finished with a catch for 14 yards. Smith also left the game with a concussion after catching a ball and slamming his head into the turf out of bounds. Teams have really taken him out of the equation and that allows defenses to shut everyone else down. Anquan Boldin had zero catches and was frustrated, getting himself a late hit penalty with the Ravens down by 24 points. The lack of discipline from players at times is baffling.
Offensive Line: F
When Flacco wasn’t turning the ball over himself, the offensive line provided little time for Flacco to even breathe as he was hurried a handful of times. Flacco was sacked three times on the afternoon, but was knocked down quite a few times as well. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil wrecked havoc on the edges. Dumervil recorded a sack, as did defensive ends Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers.
Bobbie Williams started at right guard for Marshal Yanda who was out with an ankle injury. Kelechi Osemele continues to struggle at right tackle and Michael Oher had a poor game. Still too many inconsistencies from a line that for the most part has played together all season. Jah Reid still has problems getting blown off his feet. He just doesn’t have great technique. The line did not help to open holes for the running game either, but by the 2nd quarter, the Ravens were already out of it.
Defensive Line: F
This unit got worked by Denver’s offensive line and Knowshon Moreno, who most in Denver considered a bust at one point in time. Moreno ran for 118 yards on 22 carries. Haloti Ngata was a non-factor as was DeAngelo Tyson and Terrence Cody. The Broncos’ offensive line were able to move the Ravens any which way they wanted. They beat them at the point of attack and had big time trouble getting off blocks.
Pernell McPhee recorded a sack in the 1st half, but that’s about the majority of what this group did in the game.
This unit is absolutely ravaged by injury. Josh Bynes stepped into the starting role and recorded 11 tackles. Otherwise, the linebackers didn’t make much noise and were dominated as well, not being able to shed bodies. Terrell Suggs returned to the lineup but only recorded a tackle. Albert McClellan did a nice job on his sack on a blitz look and basically ran over the running back trying to block him.
Peyton Manning really did what he wanted with this group and it wasn’t much better in the running game either as the Ravens couldn’t get off blocks. Denver had some really great blocking up front and into the 2nd level. It was a mismatch.
It didn’t help that after Peyton Manning and his offensive line shored up the protection after the Ravens got a bit of pressure on him early, they were never able to generate any pressure after that. That led to the secondary getting eaten alive by Manning. Cary Williams was beaten on a double move for a touchdown by Eric Decker and was looking to Ed Reed for help backside, but Reed was 10 yards off the play.
At this point, Ed Reed is a shell of himself on the football field. It’s becoming painful to watch. James Ihedigbo stepped in for Bernard Pollard who was out with a chest injury and played well. He was about the only guy making tackles on the field. That’s never good when that happens.
Special Teams: B+
Ed Reed said it best today. Sam Koch, Jacoby Jones and long snapper Morgan Cox were the Ravens best players on the field. Koch got a lot of work in this one, averaging 50.4 yards on seven punts. Justin Tucker converted a field goal from 45 yards.
John Harbaugh’s teams are usually ready to play on any given Sunday. Not today though. They looked disinterested, complacent and out of it from the beginning. Harbaugh also challenged and lost a call that his coaching staff had no business challenging. Offensively, the Ravens tried to go no-huddle, but it never got going. Peyton Manning is as good as it gets at dissecting defenses at the line of scrimmage; Dean Pees’ defense had no answer for Manning once he got going.
The Ravens have now dropped three straight, but because they stockpiled nine wins through November, they were able to back into the playoffs with a Steelers loss. The duo of John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco become the first head coach/quarterback tandem to take an NFL team to five consecutive playoff appearances. But that doesn’t mask the fact the Ravens are in serious trouble. Injuries have completely decimated this team, but the offense is getting worse by the week. The players sense it too.
At this point, its more about the execution from players than anything else. Offensively, the game plan was about as bland as can be, but in the end, the coaches coach and the players play.
The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants come to town next weekend also having struggles of their own. The Ravens may be in the playoffs, but if they’re not careful, they could still lose out on the AFC North and the goal of getting to a Super Bowl.
Matt Lund is a contributor for BaltimoreSportsReport.com and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @MattCLund.