As offense sputters, Ravens face new reality in loss to Philadelphia

September 16, 2012 | Luke Jones

PHILADELPHIA –It was a tale of two halves in Philadelphia as the Ravens fell 24-23 to the Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Their first-half performance looked a lot like they did in their Week 1 demolition of the Cincinnati Bengals as the Ravens offense scored 17 points and the defense employed a “bend but don’t break” mentality as Philadelphia turned it over three times in the red zone. A chorus of boos even rang out in the Eagles’ home stadium as the Ravens enjoyed a 17-7 halftime lead.

But what we suspected for much of the offseason about the Ravens came true in the second half as the defense wasn’t good enough to overcome a stalled offensive attack, opening the floodgates for the Eagles to make their second-half comeback.

Joe Flacco’s interception on the opening drive of the third quarter set the tone for an offense that sputtered and a defense that couldn’t stop quarterback Michael Vick and the Eagles defense on its way to allowing nearly 500 yards of total offense in the loss. Offensively, the Ravens didn’t do enough to get running back Ray Rice involved and were an abysmal 3-for-10 on third down in the second half.

After going 11-0 when leading at the half last season, the Ravens squandered a 10-point lead in the second half and dropped a Week 2 contest for the third straight year.

“[The Eagles] competed right down to the end, and they found a way to win the game,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They made the plays that they had to make to win the football game [and] did a nice job.”

Unlike their dud performance against the pedestrian Tennessee Titans in Week 2 last season, the Ravens played a good football team with talent capable of competing with anyone in the league. Just like it was important not to read too much into the Ravens’ season-opening win over Cincinnati, a loss to Philadelphia isn’t an event over which to panic, either.

However, Sunday offered a first glimpse at what might happen to the Ravens this season when their new-look offense isn’t clicking. The defense simply isn’t good enough to win games by itself anymore, and that was painfully obvious as Vick carved up the secondary and was able to escape the pocket on the sporadic occasions when the Ravens managed to pressure the athletic quarterback.

Last week, it was the offense picking up the slack for a defense that allowed two long scoring drives — one at the end of the first half and the other being Cincinnati’s opening drive of the third quarter — but the defense couldn’t return the favor Sunday as Flacco struggled to an 8-for-25 performance after halftime. A 10-point halftime lead evaporated less than 10 minutes into the third quarter.

“When you’ve got somebody down, put them away,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “Don’t leave a team around. For us to come out in the third quarter, we gave up 10 quick unanswered points. The crowd was out of it and everything. Any time you give a team like that motivation, any time you [do that] in a hostile environment, the game is going to chance and that’s exactly what happened.”

For as much as we’ve heard about “the next man up” when the Ravens have talked about the loss of Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive coordinator Dean Pees is still looking for the optimum fit in his absence. The Ravens used Albert McClellan, Courtney Upshaw, Sergio Kindle, and Jameel McClain at outside linebacker on Sunday in an effort to sustain any level of pressure — and containment on the edge — and the results were lukewarm as Vick threw for 371 yards and ran for 34 yards in a winning effort.

When the Ravens were able to pressure Vick in the pocket, the secondary struggled to stick with speedy wide receiver DeSean Jackson while the linebackers had no answer for tight end Brent Celek, who caught eight passes for a game-high 157 yards.

Philadelphia was 5-for-8 on third downs in the second half as the defense couldn’t get off the field. And the Eagles found the second-half prosperity despite the loss of starting center Jason Kelce and starting left tackle King Dunlap on their offensive line.

The sheer fact that the Ravens still weren’t able to muster a consistent pass rush after Philadelphia lost two starters on the line is concerning when considering the defense’s prospects in the coming weeks.

“They did a great job of driving the ball down on us and staying alive,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “Vick was able to make some plays on his feet and with his arm. We just have to do a better job to tighten it up and we must learn from this and move on with the rest of the season.”

The Ravens ran into a Philadelphia defense that pressured Flacco and did an exceptional job sticking with Baltimore receivers in man coverage. It resulted in a frustrating second half in which the Ravens looked anything like the championship-caliber team we watched in the season’s first 90 minutes of play.

Questions will remain whether the Ravens should have involved Rice more heavily in the offense as Flacco struggled to generate production in the passing game, but any way you slice it, Baltimore failed to get the job done on both sides of the football.

“We’ll probably go back and look and see if there’s some things we could have done there just because they were doing a good job in coverage and things like,” Flacco said. “The bottom line is we have to execute and we weren’t able to.”

Unlike last week, the Ravens offense couldn’t get the job done

And the defense wasn’t able to bail them out like we’re used to seeing.