Watching the Baltimore Ravens in 2013 is like riding that wooden roller coaster that has a propensity to break down. You want to experience the thrill that the ride is, but man … is it a painful experience sometimes.
Yesterday’s 20-17 overtime win over the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium was no exception as the Ravens once held a 17-0 lead at the half, yet somehow managed to let the Bengals hang around long enough to make the ballgame close. In a situation like that, do you blame the coach? The players? Do you give credit where credit is due to the opposition?
It’s a little bit of everything, as always with this team.
The offense as a whole amassed 189 total yards of offense — at home — against a Bengals team that was down three defensive starters. Blame the defense all you want for giving up the 17-point lead, it was very Ravens of this team to blow that deficit, albeit on a successful Hail Mary touchdown grab by Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green thanks to a James Ihedigbo tip drill gift.
Baltimore was a whopping 3-of-16 on third-down conversions, good for a 19 percent success rate. When we talk about these games from week-to-week, we emphasize the importance of sustaining long drives and converting third downs in order to keep the defense from coming off of the field. The Bengals weren’t much better at 5-of-19, but it seems as if the struggles of this Ravens offense keep getting magnified when they should be diminishing.
The most disheartening thing when watching this team is seeing that they clearly haven’t improved from Week 1 to now. Other than maybe the defensive efforts of Ihedigbo and Elvis Dumervil, there were still some obvious problems scattered about for this team.
Sure, Ihedigbo was the goat that forced the game into overtime, but he elevated his play to another level yesterday and was in on the game-saving tackle along with Ravens cornerback Corey Graham. The Ravens also forced three turnovers yesterday; Baltimore forced just nine heading into the game against the Bengals.
Yes, the Ravens did start out with a first-quarter touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Dallas Clark. That one-yard strike was the first touchdown in the first quarter for this Ravens team since the season opener on Sept. 5 against the Denver Broncos. Torrey Smith also found the end zone for the second time this season. Despite the fast start, Baltimore was not able to stick the knife in during the second half.
What are the signs of a bad and/or struggling football team? I’ll lay the list out for you and you tell me if the Ravens have these characteristics:
— Can’t establish the running game, ultimately limiting their creativity on offense
— Lose the turnover battle and find themselves behind the eight ball on capitalizing on turnovers they force
— Allow teams to hang around when a big lead is built and make the game a lot closer than it should be
— Fail to convert on third downs and sustain drives longer than five minutes, while also being forced to kick field goals in the red zone
— Defense can’t come off of the field when bright lights are on and crucial stop is needed
Baltimore has almost all of these, and it shouldn’t be a surprise. The deficiencies in the passing game were mulled over throughout the offseason not only because of the departure of Anquan Boldin, but because there were plenty of doubts as to having Torrey Smith as the No. 1 threat on the outside.
The center position wasn’t talked about as much, but clearly Gino Gradkowski is no Matt Birk. Finally, part of the blame has to be directed at the coaching staff and John Harbaugh. Even though Harbaugh’s team was able to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat yesterday, it shouldn’t have been that difficult and even John knows that.
This win possibly saved the Ravens’ season for now and has kept them alive in the AFC North. The Bengals may not be as good as a lot of people thought they were, but there are still no guarantees that the Ravens can salvage a winning record this season. I didn’t even mention Ray Rice or the running game… that will come later.