For the 2013 Baltimore Ravens, the sun is slowly setting on the defending Super Bowl Champions. The Ravens were beaten in all four phases of the game in a 24-18 loss in Cleveland, dropping the Ravens record to 3-5 on the season.
The Ravens had won 11 straight games against the Cleveland Browns, enjoying dominance until today’s game. The last loss came November 18, 2007 when a Phil Dawson 33-yard field goal in OT gave the Browns a 33-30 victory that dropped that Ravens team to 4-6.
Fresh off the bye week, the Ravens first possession of the game promptly went three-and-out. Joe Flacco‘s first two throws were poor, throwing low to Jacoby Jones on the initial pass and behind Jones when he had a step on the defender for the second throw. It was a sign of things to come on the day. Both Flacco and the offense looked rusty coming off the bye and lacked the urgency needed with a struggling offense.
Joe Flacco can be so incredibly frustrating sometimes, however, it doesn’t help when things are breaking down around him. I lost count the number of times Flacco scrambled for his life, running from the pocket and he took some big hits again in this one. And when Flacco actually stepped into the pocket, he threw a ball that may have been the worst he’s ever thrown, picked off by Browns CB Joe Haden. A jump-ball, hail-mary straight into the sky that acted more like a punt than an actual pass.
For a sixth year QB, its hard to watch when there is no touch to passes at times, under throwing receivers, not setting his feet on throws and where is the mental clock with pass rushers bearing down on him? I understand the offensive line stinks, but enough with the excuses. Flacco played poorly in the 1st half.
How poorly you ask? According to Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times, Flacco’s last two completions in the 1st half to Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown produced more yardage (68) than his first 15 attempts combined (51). Pathetic.
Speaking of Marlon Brown, this guy knows how to make plays. He was one of the bright spots on Sunday afternoon, catching five passes for 54 yards and two scores, the first coming at the end of the 1st half where Flacco had time to make the throw and Brown skirted the sideline to get in the end zone.
His 2nd TD catch came in traffic, where the undrafted rookie FA has excelled this season. Then he hauled in a two-point conversion to cut the Browns lead to three. Jim Caldwell needs to continue finding a way to get the ball in the hands of Brown as Torrey Smith continues to see top corners and double teams.
I know John Harbaugh is a prideful man who does his best to protect his coaching staff and deflect blame, but the hiring of Juan Castillo was a wasteful one. In fact it was a move the Ravens didn’t need to make at all. They didn’t need to shift to a zone-blocking scheme that, after nine weeks in, the offensive line still can’t master.
The offensive line struggling to adjust to this new scheme has absolutely killed the running “attack” of the Ravens this season. This continued on Sunday against a stout Browns front seven; Ray Rice ran 11 times for 17 yards, Bernard Pierce had 11 yards on six carries. The longest carry of the day? Joe Flacco’s 15-yard scamper.
It’s quite shocking how bad this offensive line is playing, collectively. Gino Gradkowski is still struggling with his protection tasks, Michael Oher had a heck of a time trying to block someone in a brown uniform.
Coming into today’s game, the Ravens were first in the league in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns on just 26.3% of trips there. In the first two quarters, the defense allowed touchdown passes from Jason Campbell inside the red zone.
On defense, the Ravens set the tempo immediately, hunting quarterback Jason Campbell for a sack on the first play of scrimmage, now having recorded a sack in 19 consecutive games. Overall, they just weren’t able to provide consistent enough pressure to get after Campbell, despite sacking him three times. Where are the days of creative pressure to confuse the quarterback? That’s long gone.
Campbell was able to sit in the pocket – something Joe Flacco wasn’t able to do – and pick apart the poor Ravens secondary with playmakers like Josh Gordon, Greg Little and Davone Bess who caught three of his four targets, two of them for touchdowns.
I find myself doing some head-scratching at times with the secondary who a few times a game, seem to forget how to cover. Lardarius Webb may have needed his ankles checked after being on skates by Davone Bess who shook him and rolled into the end zone. Jimmy Smith left the game in the 2nd half with what’s being reported as an undisclosed injury. Would be a blow to an underperforming secondary, especially if that means more of Corey Graham opposite Webb.
Special teams plagued the Ravens on Sunday afternoon, namely Tandon Doss who fumbled away a punt, recovered by the Browns at the 11-yard line, setting up a score that gave Cleveland a 21-10 lead. Doss let the ball slip right through his arms as he tried to corral it into his chest. This was a crucial blow because the Ravens had just forced Cleveland to punt and were down 14-10 late in the third quarter.
The Ravens sit at 3-5 and next to last in the AFC North and seriously have some soul-searching to do. How can they benefitted with this much time to prepare against a team like Cleveland and lay a stinker like this?
A lot of things aren’t working for this team right now and really, the troubling part of it was, despite the bye and nearly two weeks of extra practice to correct issues, nothing was accomplished. They find themselves 1-2 in division play and they haven’t even played the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals yet.
There were just too many mistakes from a veteran team that shouldn’t be making the same mistakes week in and week out. A head coach, more often than not who gets out coached by the opposition and continues to feed the fan base lip service about the issues that they already know.
Its like groundhog day; the same script each week.
The Ravens have trouble establishing tempo early in the game, fall behind and make mistakes. The offensive game plan is vanilla and boring and the defense can only hold up for so long before the bend-but-don’t-break mantra fails them.