After a week in which they reassured us that the sky was, in fact, not falling, the Ravens pulled a complete 180 with their worst performance of the season in Cincinnati yesterday. It was the first of the Ravens’ 4 losses where they were absolutely, unquestionably, without a doubt, outplayed and outcoached for 60 minutes. The first of the four where you can’t look back, point to any one or two particular plays, and say, “yup, that was the one that lost it.” It was a flat-out, thorough butt-whipping at the hands of the “Don’t call us the Bungles.”
To any Ravens fan watching, flashbacks to Minnesota in Week 5 were unavoidable, as the purple team came out as flat as could possibly be, on both sides of the ball, en route to digging themselves a quick 14-0 hole. There would be no late-game near-miracle comeback at Paul Brown Stadium though, even if there would be an all too familiar Steve Hauschka “wide left,” thrown in as a little salt on the wound. Even though the defense did buckle down after the Bengals’ first two drives (both touchdowns), allowing just a field goal for the final 47:26, you still came away from this one feeling like it was a steamrolling.
Where to begin?
On offense, Bengals’ defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer now has Cam Cameron’s number in 2009 the way that Dick Lebeau of the Steelers did in 2008 (yet to be seen if it carries over to this year). In six games against the rest of the league this year, the Ravens offense is averaging 30.8 points and 399 yards off offense per game. In two contests against Cincy, those numbers drop to 10.5 and 236. Against the “not Bengals,” Joe Flacco has thrown 11 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, and compiled a passer rating of 100. But when the striped team lines up on the other side of the ball, his numbers have read a dismal 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions, and 59.2 rating.
That there are now not 1, but TWO teams in the division who seem to have figured out Cameron/Flacco is a bit unnerving.
As bad as Joe was yesterday, he got absolutely zero help from his offensive line, who need to take their share of the blame. The group that had played so solidly all season had their worst outing, as Flacco was under constant pressure and holding and false start flags were rampant. After allowing 12 sacks in 7 games, the Ravens gave up 4 to the Bengals, even without Antwan Odom. Three of these came on the final drive when they were able to tee off on Flacco, but the pressure was there all day. And, for his part, Joe needs to do a much better job of identifying his hot read and getting the ball out quickly when the blitz comes. Several times yesterday he had time to throw, but instead patted the ball and ended up on his butt.
Derrick Mason did absolutely nothing to back up his “nobody can cover me 1-on-1” talk leading up to the game, as he caught just 3 of the 13 balls thrown to him, for a measly 31 yards. Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington had only 1 catch apiece, as the Ravens converted just ONE OF TEN 3rd down opportunities. A terrible effort by all.
All except Ray Rice of course, who was the only thing even resembling a weapon the Ravens had all day. He finished the day with 8 catches for 87 yards and 12 carries for 48 and the team’s only score.
On defense, all the problems that seemed to have been corrected against Denver came flooding back in force against the Bengals. The pressure that was there from the front seven against Kyle Orton was nowhere to be found when Carson Palmer dropped back. The gap integrity that held the Broncos’ ground game in check was instead replaced with more gaping holes for Cedric Benson, who racked up 117 yards. The sure tackling that negated Denver’s short passing attack regressed to the tune of more arm tackling FAILs and inability to wrap up the ballcarrier (with the pleasant exception of Lardarius Webb).
The few times Greg Mattison did dial up the blitz, it was largely ineffective. They forced some early, errant throws from Palmer in the 2nd half, but during the game’s decisive opening quarter, ginger boy had all day and then some. Cincy was a disgusting 5/5 on 3rd downs on their two touchdown drives, which included an 11-yard gain on 3rd-and-10 with the score 0-0, and an illegal contact call on Chris Carr that gave them another try despite an offensive holding flag being thrown on the play. Other critical mistakes on those two possessions included Fabian Washington dropping what should have been an easy interception on a deep pass and a pass interference flag on Dawan Landry negating a Ravens’ fumble recovery (because, despite interfering, Landry was STILL unable to keep Chad Ochocinco from making the catch…UN-AC-CEPT-AB-LE!)
Ed Reed’s strip of Ochocinco (for the 2nd straight game) could have made this one interesting, had he been able to take it to the house OR had the Ravens’ O been able to score a TD for the 2nd consecutive drive OR had Hauschka not CH-CH-CHOKED again, this time from only 38 yards and the middle of the field.
Of course, none of those things happened, but the Ravens really didn’t deserve this one anyway. Not in the least.
I’ll search in vain for a bright spot for this week’s “Play Like a Raven” feature, but it won’t be easy. This one was just bad all around.