The Baltimore Ravens are mired in a three-game losing streak and have dropped a season-worst two games under .500. For the first time in the John Harbaugh era, the teams is in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. The most glaring aspect of the game has to be the team’s continued inability to run the football.
After an extra week of practice during the bye, there was reason to hope the Baltimore offensive line could develop some chemistry and begin to open some holes for their Pro Bowl rusher Ray Rice. Granted, the Cleveland Browns boast one of the league’s stingier defenses, but any time lumbering Joe Flacco serves as your leading rusher with just 25 yards, it is clear that the issues that plague the team cannot be fixed with just some extra practice sessions.
While the season is far from over, the offensive line will not be fixed until the offseason, when replacements can be brought in via the draft and/or free agency.
While the defense has been far from the team’s biggest problem in this lackluster season, the unit has not been the dominant versions we have seen in seasons past. After the release of two veterans, an optimistic outlook would lead one to believe that the aforementioned transactions might light a fire under the defense and lead to a dominant performance against the division rival Browns.
Instead, the units effected by the releases of safety Michael Huff and defensive end Marcus Spears were two of the main culprits for the loss. The secondary got burned by journeyman Jason Campbell for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, the defensive line did not to their teammates any favors as they could not get any pressure on the quarterback.
Once again, the only standout unit for the D was the linebackers, as Terrell Suggs and Darryl Smith recorded both of Baltimore’s sacks and managed to flush Campbell out of the pocket on a number of occasions. Baltimore did do an excellent job on rush defense, which reversed the trend they had established heading into the bye. After they allowed over 280 yards combined in back-to-back losses, they held former Raven Willis McGahee to just 31 yards on 21 attempts.
The disappointing performance throughout the first eight games has not buried Baltimore yet, but if they want to return to the playoffs and defend their Super Bowl title, they will need to establish a running game and create some turnovers in the secondary, starting with next week’s game against the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals.