The Baltimore Ravens enter their bye week on slippery slope.
Despite a 5-2 record, there is a general sense of malaise as things have started to deteriorate quickly in multiple aspects.
The offense has regressed the past three weeks, but the Ravens have escaped with a 2-1 record despite those three disappointing offensive performances. Joe Flacco is falling quickly down the ranks for quarterbacks, and Ray Rice isn’t getting enough of a workload to be the difference maker he is capable of being.
Cam Cameron has been stubborn in the offensive play-calling as he has put Flacco in predictable situations and has under-utilized Rice, Vonta Leach and the Ravens’ stellar backfield. The Ravens enter the bye week mired in the middle of the pack, as they rank 16th in yards per game. Considering the hot start from the offense, the play of late has dropped off precipitously and is reason for concern.
On the other side of the ball, the defense has been Swiss cheese-like, allowing an un-Ravens-like 400 yards per game. They have been especially gashed by the running game, as the Ravens’ 27th-ranked run defense is uncharted territory for this franchise.
First-year defensive coordinator Dean Pees has not been able to get the most out of his defense, and his inability to design plays to stop the run has put the defense in a big hole. The recent string of games has seen the opposition run the ball at will, thus controlling the clock and leaving the Ravens’ defense drained from being on the field for the majority of the game. Throw in the offense’s propensity for quick drives, and the defense has been on the field way too much.
A recent contribution to the punchless defense has been the string of injuries. The Ravens already-struggling defense was dominated by the Houston Texans, as the Ravens played their first game without defensive studs Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis. The overall defense was struggling with those game-breakers in the lineup, so it remains to be seen if the defense can stop it’s free-fall.
All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has a knee ailment and was nowhere near his usual self, as he made only two tackles and was barely noticeable.
The Ravens did get one of the best defensive players in the game back last week, as Terrell Suggs came back in superhuman recovery time from his torn Achilles tendon. T-Sizzle played better than most people expected as he took 44 defensive snaps and registered a sack on just his seventh snap of the year.
The down side is that despite Suggs coming back, the Texans still shredded the Ravens’ defense. With Webb and Lewis gone, and if Ngata isn’t himself, that may be too much to overcome despite Suggs back in the lineup.
On the bright side, the Ravens are still 5-2 and totally control their own destiny. The timing of this bye week could not have come at a better time, as it gives everyone time to regroup and figure out how to turn things around.
The Ravens come out of the bye with games against the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders. Those winnable games may in fact tell how the whole rest of the season goes. If the team loses or continues to play inconsistently, it may be a sign of things to come as the schedule gets much tougher after the next two games.
I can’t remember a bye week for any team that means as much as this week does for the Ravens. They still have time to fix things, but so much rides on what adjustments they make during this week. It isn’t often that the sky appears to be falling on a 5-2 team, but that will be the case if the Ravens come out of the bye in the lethargic manner they entered it.