It’s not often that I’ve had to say this about this team since their inception as a franchise because they’ve always had it in some shape or form, with former Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis either policing the sidelines or the locker room, or taking charge in the defensive huddle. This season has felt somewhat distant from those teams in the past simply because they don’t have anyone to play close to that type of leadership role on this team, and they won’t this season.
Saying that the Ravens are suffering from a Super Bowl hangover might be generous at this point, given that the fan base has a sense of entitlement that Baltimore should make the playoffs every year since they have done so for five straight years under head coach John Harbaugh‘s guidance.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that just isn’t the case sometimes because the other team happens to try too.
Look, the Ravens are devoid of leadership, period. I wrote earlier in the season about James Ihedigbo stepping up as a vocal leader on this defense, but it’s hard for the guys to necessarily regard him as such, considering he hasn’t been a mainstay in Baltimore. After all, it is just his second year with the Ravens and his first as a full-time starter.
Guys like Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata should be regarded as the “leaders” of this defense, but it’s hard to follow a quiet guy like Ngata who doesn’t play a prime position, and a guy like Suggs who has been the resident class clown since he became a Raven.
Offensively, it is quarterback Joe Flacco‘s team and he is a leader on this offense, but it’s hard for him to shoulder the load of the defense that clearly has no guidance. Joe has been asked to essentially be offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell‘s Peyton Manning for the Ravens, and that just isn’t feasible given his weapons, lack of offensive creativity and inability to establish the run even against porous run defenses like the 22nd-ranked Steelers.
The one thing that is really disappointing is the team knows they don’t have the heart to win. Former Raven and now Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie suggested earlier in the season that the Ravens just haven’t had the will up front, and that’s why they’ve been losing the battle in the trenches week in and week out.
That is somewhat true in my eyes. When a team consistently fails on third and short and can’t punch it in on the goal line on four consecutive running plays, they don’t deserve to win or have the guts to be winners. What is the best way to measure the character of any person? When adversity strikes, see if they are able to handle the pressure and come out alive, or crack under the pressure.
A prime example of the Ravens just not putting out enough effort? Their inability to force three-and-outs defensively.
As good as the defense has played at times, bending but not breaking can seriously limit the offense’s chances to put up points. The Ravens only had seven possessions Sunday against the Steelers — seven. You read that correctly. The game was fast-paced because the Steelers were able to string together enough long drives to limit the opportunities the Ravens had to put up points.
So what needs to change for Baltimore? Personnel? Coaching? Mentality?
If there were a (D) in this multiple choice answer, it would be all of the above and probably a few more things. The bye couldn’t have came at a better time for Baltimore as they are fairly healthy, but according to David Ginsburg of the Associated Press, this is the latest mark in a season for Baltimore to be under .500 in the Harbaugh era. How this team handles adversity will determine just how good they can truly become.