Today the Ravens wake up (3-2) and a game out of first in the AFC North behind the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not ideal, but not so bad.
But what is bad is the way the Ravens are being led. Decisions by John Harbaugh over the past 2 games have been costly – arguably the difference between (3-2) and (5-0). Last week Harbaugh chose not to take the sure points and he opted not to concede a field goal after a turnover. Those decisions in total cost the Ravens 5 points in what would be a 1-point loss.
Against the Redskins following a fumble recovery at the Washington 15-yard line with 6:31 left in the second quarter, the Ravens moved the ball -2 yards after 3 plays. Instead of taking the near certain 3 points, the Ravens opted to fake a field goal, a clumsy and chaotically designed play from the start. The attempt failed and the Ravens walked away from a terrific opportunity with nothing.
Had they taken the 3 points, the drive at the end of the game didn’t have to result in a touchdown to win or extend the game. Just like the week before a bad decision on a field goal attempt proved costly.
Harbaugh had this to say after the loss.
“[I’m] just disappointed in the way we played. [I’m] just very disappointed. Because coaches and players – us – it starts with me. We’re not playing the type of football we need to play to win a football game like that. Way too many self-inflicted mistakes. It’s a long season. We’re 3-2; we have plenty of time to get it fixed.”
The question is, do the Ravens have the coaching prowess to get it fixed?
There are many doubts here in the Land of Pleasant Living this morning.
Often criticized during the first few weeks of the season, the Ravens running game seems to be getting on track. The trouble is Marc Trestman apparently takes to the run like a vampire does to sunlight. The Ravens averaged 6.2 YPC yet ran it only 19 times v. 46 passes. With a successful blend of run and pass (5 run, 4 pass) the Ravens marched 75 yards on 9 plays to take an early 7-0 lead at the 10:19 mark of the first quarter. Unfortunately, during the remaining 55 minutes Trestman’s unit managed just 3 points with an unbalanced attack consisting of 14 runs and 42 passes…Terrance West averaged 8.6 YPC on just 11 carries…Kyle Juszczyk was a reliable outlet for Joe Flacco although the Ravens QB missed him on couple of easy throws.
Terrell Suggs, the offsides penalty notwithstanding, was the only member of the defensive front to take down Kirk Cousins, contributing a sack, a couple of hurries, a tackle for loss and a pass defensed when he disrupted a bubble screen…Michael Pierce had another productive game as a disruptive interior force. Ditto Tim Jernigan…CJ Mosley had a terrific interception only to give it all away with the fumble for touchback…Zach Orr made a textbook play, knifing through the line of scrimmage to drop Matt Jones, forcing the fumble and making the recovery…Lardarius Webb had a couple of nice tackles short of the sticks.
Joe Flacco predetermines where he’s going with the football and that stymies play development. His pre-snap reads aren’t always accurate. On the last throw of the game Mike Wallace correctly sat down in the Redskins secondary seeing the flow of defensive traffic coming his way. Flacco instead led him into oncoming defenders. Earlier in the game Flacco threw a pass behind the line of scrimmage to Terrance West despite the oncoming defender resulting in a 4-yard loss. Some plays need to be aborted and that was a perfect example. Flacco was off target on a few easy throws and gave up on plays, throwing well short of the sticks too often. He looks uncomfortable and throws off his back foot regularly. His accuracy suffers…Kenneth Dixon had a rough debut. He looked tentative and that explains his limited workload (3 carries, -1 yard)…Breshad Perriman’s string of dropped passed remains intact, this time costing the Ravens 40+ yards in field position.
The linebacker drops were too deep and it allowed Kirk Cousins to hit 5 to 7 yard check downs seemingly at will…Brandon Williams was uncharacteristically manhandled a couple of times.
After recovering the fumble he forced, Zach Orr set the Ravens up with a first and 10 at the Redskins 15. The Ravens threw a pass for 3 yards, another for a loss of two that was DOA, a 3rd and 9 run for another loss of 3. And then of course this sloppy series of plays was followed by a cluster of a fake field goal. When asked after the game about the alignment of the play with Justin Tucker setting up as a left-footed kicker, John Harbaugh said, “That’s the design of the play. They didn’t see it.”
EVERYONE SAW IT!
Immediately the Redskins had to suspect a fake. Special Teams on whole were horrific. Let’s detail:
• By the 4:28 mark of Q2 the Redskins had 38 net yards on offense but 130 return yards, one for a score.
• Devin Hester’s decision making and failure to catch punts deep in Ravens territory cost valuable field position on two punts.
• On a long Redskins field goal attempt near the end of the first half the Ravens had no returner camped out at the end line. That could have been a great opportunity for the Ravens to make a special teams play.
• Shoddy tackling paved the way to an 85-yard punt return for TD by Jamison Crowder.
• Anthony Levine’s block in the back during a Hester punt return just prior to the Ravens final possession cost the Ravens 27 yards of field position.
Apparently special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg has way too much influence on Harbaugh. Why ineffective players like Chris Carter are up and why players like Dan Brown and Darren Waller are active over Chris Moore and Matt Judon makes little sense, particularly if neither is in the offensive game plan.
Marc Trestman, where do we start?
The Ravens attempt to thwart pressure with screen passes that are the regularly aborted from the start and when they aren’t they should be. The Redskins were playing man defense and the Ravens did little to challenge the coverage with rubs, bunches, stacks or by forcing defenders to cover drags across the field. Too many route combinations fall short of the first down marker and the unconscionable abandonment of the ground game is maddening. The Ravens defend such abandonment with chatter that the game has changed and that their analytics indicate that they should continue down the path they’ve established. Let’s call it blinded by science. EVERYONE could see that they needed to emphasize the run – everyone but those who made the call not to.
But hey if you want some numbers, here are a few.
Entering the game the Redskins were ranked:
• 23rd in Red Zone Defense
• 29th in Overall Defense
• 32nd in 3rd Down Defense
Yesterday the Ravens were 3 for 15 on third down against said 32nd ranked third-down defense.
The play at the end of the first half against a 3-man rush was another of the Ravens clusters. Flacco was sacked and they lost T Rick Wagner in the process…The Ravens tried to draw the Redskins offsides on a 4th and 2 to start the second quarter. Maybe some acting lessons are in order. Joe Flacco couldn’t sell a lady of the night to a sailor. His cadence is so consistently predictable that it puts his offensive line at a disadvantage.
Jimmy Smith will apparently never become the player he was for a season or two. He was caught peeking at Kirk Cousins and not focused on his responsibility, Pierre Garcon. The pump fake and double move resulted in what would prove to be the winning score. Smith at this point is just an average corner…Lardarius Webb and Tavon Young were beaten deep down the right sideline by Vernon Davis and DeSean Jackson, respectively. If not for misfires by Cousins, both plays would have resulted in scores…The Ravens had 6 second half possessions. The first 5 ended in punts and the last, a turnover on downs.
THE MEGAN FOX
Terrance West. That is all.
There needs to be an intervention and the subject is John Harbaugh. The Ravens have too much talent to be playing like they are 5 weeks into the season. They load their active roster with special teams players who are barely marginal yet they deactivate a player who could test a banged up secondary that plays a ton of man coverage (Chris Moore) and a player who has pressured the quarterback when given the chance (Matt Judon). Meanwhile another (Za’Darius Smith) makes absolutely no impact.
But back to Harbaugh, he’s in a slump. The Ravens really aren’t that much different this season than they were in 2015 and if they don’t prepare better, game plan better, clean up their penalties and essentially resemble a professional team that comes ready to play, this season could spiral out of control quickly.
And that responsibility falls on Harbaugh.
I’ve talked to his players. They generally like Harbaugh and they play hard for him. He inspires the team to play as a team. But the devil appears to be in the details and those have to fall on all three coordinators. And from what I’ve seen, all of Harbaugh’s rhetoric and lip-service aside, none of them measure up.
Outside of a couple of blocked kicks and Tucker’s consistency, Rosburg’s unit has struggled to cover kicks and punts. Even Sam Koch hasn’t been up to par. Pees’ group has improved in tackling and minimizing YAC but they still tip their “pitches” when they dial up blitz packages because they reveal too early. And that’s why opposing QB’s look so comfortable. Imagine what Roethlisberger and Brady might do.
I’ve defended him in the past and said that with Flacco’s lack of a preseason that it would take a little time to get some offensive rhythm – that the offense is a work in progress. But Trestman’s offense is a work in regress and if Harbaugh doesn’t intercede, then someone needs to have a talk with Harbs.
I seem to recall a similar set of circumstances back in 2012 after the then (9-3) Ravens fell to the (6-6) Redskins. Remember that guy named Cam?
FINAL, FINAL THOUGHTS
And just as I am about to post this article…
Big change in Baltimore: Ravens firing OC Marc Trestman, replacing him with Marty Mornhinweg, per league sources. https://t.co/PXZpsSl13D
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 10, 2016