The Baltimore Ravens stink this season … there, I said it.
It’s not so much the fact that they lost to the Cleveland Browns 24-18 Sunday for the first time in the John Harbaugh-Joe Flacco era – Baltimore was riding an 11-game winning streak over Cleveland entering the game – but they simply don’t have the players or correct schemes working this season.
Usually, when someone says a team stinks, it can be viewed as hyperbole. If the claim can be backed up by evidence, then maybe it doesn’t sound as far fetched.
I looked at this Ravens team coming out of the bye week and envisioned them going anywhere from 0-5 to 5-0 in the month of November. Sure, those are two extremes, but given the coaching jobs Harbaugh has done in the past, many could have envisioned an undefeated month from his team. However, looking at how the Ravens have performed on the road this season — 1-4, including a bad loss to the 3-6 Buffalo Bills – nothing should have surprised too many viewers yesterday.
As a team, the Ravens are 29th in the NFL as far as rushing the football goes. Baltimore only averages 71.6 yards per game, which can largely be attributed to lackluster offensive line play as a collective unit. The fingers can also be pointed to the running back position as both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce aren’t lighting up any stat sheets with their respective 2.7 yards per carry averages. Rice is also averaging a miniscule 5.0 yards-per-reception through the air and his longest play from scrimmage this season is just an 18-yard reception — Rice’s longest run is 14 yards.
Another thing that has drivne people who follow the team crazy is that there were seemingly no changes in the offensive attack Sunday. The scheme goes a little something like this: Run Ray Rice and expect him to create his own holes as he uses his shifty nature in the backfield. Chuck up a deep ball to Torrey Smith at least two times a game and pray that he catches one. Find someone who might be open and throw the ball in their direction.
A lot of ifs exist in this offensive scheme and it seems like the players look lost in what they are being asked to do. Sure, the talent clearly isn’t the same as last year’s team, nor can this team recover from the devastating hip injury dealt to tight end Dennis Pitta during training camp. As good as Marlon Brown has been at times in the red zone, he has disappeared other games.
Inconsistency has become the consistent observation with this team and it doesn’t just characterize the offense. As good as the defense has been at times, they gave up 24 points to Jason Campbell Sunday. Three passing touchdowns, two to wide receiver Davone Bess and one to backup tight end Gary Barnidge. Neither had a touchdown entering the game, and while the Ravens did an admirable job in stopping Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, they didn’t have an answer for the usually not-so-sure-handed Greg Little. While the defense gets stopped early in games, they seem to fold in crunch time when Baltimore needs them most. Perhaps the offense is to blame for not sustaining long drives and giving the defense a blow, or perhaps, they don’t have the will, talent or mentality to make tough stops on the big stage because they don’t have one or two voices to follow and lead them.
Simply put, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility or the Ravens to still make the playoffs as a Wild Card, but it isn’t very likely. Just because they’ve made the playoffs five-straight seasons and won the Super Bowl in 2012, it doesn’t give them a right to any spot in the postseason. The division-leading Cincinnati Bengals come to town following a stunner in Miami last Thursday. While the Ravens have lost a lot of close games this year, the good teams always find a way to win those. If they don’t want this season to potentially be lost, they will hold serve in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium against a tough opponent.