A fan may tell you that Baltimore’s 37-13 win against the Panthers on Sunday was “dominant.” In fact, I used that word in my Quick Hits post yesterday and on paper I am absolutely correct. It’s tough to argue, as I pointed out Joe Flacco threw for over 300 yards for the first time this season and connected with eight different receivers while the defense reached the end zone twice on two back-to-back pick sixes. On paper, Baltimore did exactly what they needed to do against this bottom of the barrel team in the NFL with a quarterback who was changing diapers two weeks ago.
But, what you don’t see from a box score is a team that let that quarterback lead his team to within seven points of the lead with an 88 yard touchdown pass to a rookie receiver from Baylor. You may also overlook the 120 yards that second year running back Mike Goodson had on the ground against the Ravens run defense including breaking one for 45 yards. The game was a blow out and the Ravens got it done, but they have struggled to start their offense early in games, to use their weapons on offense, to hold leads, to put pressure on the quarterback and defend downfield despite their lead in the AFC North and 7-3 record.
Last Thursday’s loss to the Atlanta is a perfect example of their flaws being exploited by a good team. Matt Ryan proved this with a game winning 33 yard touchdown pass to Roddy White. Whether you think Josh Wilson was pushed or not, the Ravens still allowed the Falcons to march 80 yards down field with under two minutes to play and the offense was held scoreless in the first half.
Or what about Buffalo, who led Baltimore 24-20 in the first half and took the Ravens to over time with a 382 yard, four touchdown performance from Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Ravens got the win, but it was against the winless Buffalo Bills at home. In New England, Baltimore was up 17-10 going into the fourth quarter, but allowed Deion Branch to score with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, then the Pats forced Baltimore to punt setting up Stephen Gostkowski’s 24 yard game tying field goal. Ultimately, Baltimore lost in over time, despite 27 completions, 285 yards and two touchdowns from Joe Flacco. Once again, on paper the Ravens look solid, but fail to put together a solid four quarters of football.
All season long the Ravens have had their issues in the red zone. Against the Dolphins in Week 9, the Ravens were one for seven against in the red zone, despite a solid 24-10 victory. This week, Baltimore was one for four inside Carolina’s 20 and put the ball on the ground three times in the first half, two of which were lost.
Despite all of these flaws, the Ravens have been able to stay in first in the AFC North and as the cliche goes “good teams find ways to win.” But the question is how will Baltimore be able to handle good teams if they have struggled in the red zone, started slow, failed to pressure quarterbacks, allow big plays down field and most of all struggle to play consistent the whole game?
As I watched Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in a shoot out on Sunday, I fear that Baltimore’s defense would never be able to catch up to a powerful offensive attack in a big game. More so, their offense would not be able to bail them out in a pressure situation.
If I could relate Baltimore’s season to another team it would probably most closely resemble that of Rex Ryan and the Jets up north, who have had three straight come from behind wins against the Lions, Browns and most recently the Texans. Sure, none of those teams are power houses either, but the Jets have proven they can make big plays like 52 yard passes to Santonio Holmes in over time, or bouncing back from three missed field goals by kicker Nick Folk and a game winning touchdown catch from Holmes with ten seconds left. The Ravens have had similar games as well and while I understand that “good teams find ways to win” I would feel much more confident if they were able to win with a solid four quarters of football.