Not Earth Shattering: Ravens Not Super Bowl Contenders If They Play Like This

September 19, 2010 | Glenn Clark

CINCINNATI, Oh. — The Baltimore Ravens (1-1) had plenty of chances to beat the Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) in Sunday’s 15-10 loss at Paul Brown Stadium.

Twice in the final five minutes of the game, QB Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense got the ball back needing just one score to win the game.

Clearly neither of those possessions resulted in points. Or even one single first down for that matter.

The Ravens struggled offensively throughout Sunday’s loss, producing just 259 yards of total offense and 14 first downs en route to defeat. More troubling? They also turned the ball over four times, all Flacco interceptions.

Amazingly, the Ravens actually outgained their AFC North counterparts (Cincy managed just 253  yards of total offense) and the Bengals only racked up 14 first downs as well.

Not as if any of that mattered.

Not scoring points wasn’t the only problem for Baltimore’s offense. Two of Flacco’s interceptions gave the Bengals the ball immediately in Baltimore territory, and the Bengals were able to cash in both times with Mike Nugent field goals; accounting for six of the team’s 15 points.

20 points in two games probably wasn’t what GM Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh had in mind when they acquired WR’s Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmandzadeh in the offseason and added former Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn as QB coach Jim Zorn to help the development of Flacco.

(I thought about putting quotation marks around the word “development” in that last sentence. I immediately thought better of it.)

It is true that the Ravens have opened the season on the road against two of the Top 5 defenses in the NFL from 2009. It is also true that they had to play the second of those games off a short turnaround, having opened the season in New York on Monday Night Football.

But to win a Super Bowl, teams often have to play in less than desirable situations.

It doesn’t excuse poor decision making from Flacco. Flacco said of his second interception (a play where he had targeted Boldin), “I threw it right into a crowd.” He also said the Bengals were running their base defense for most of the game, adding “I don’t think they were doing anything that we didn’t expect them to do.”

That’s not good news.

Flacco wasn’t the only problem for the Ravens offensively Sunday. The team struggled upfront; with OL Matt Birk, Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher, Ben Grubbs and Chris Chester taking turns missing assignments along the offensive line. Houshmandzadeh looked lost at times in his return to the Queen City, admitting after the game that part of the offensive struggles were “his fault.” He added “I can’t believe I didn’t make those plays…(I) just gotta do better.”

He’s right. He’d be right to say the same thing about the rest of the offense too.

The Baltimore Ravens were a popular preseason pick to not only win the AFC North (the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers have sole possession of first place at 2-0), but to reach the Super Bowl. If they can’t overcome adversity and perform better offensively, they won’t have to bother making travel arrangements for Arlington.

Since Brad Johnson won Super Bowl XXXVII for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the last 7 titles were won by QB’s named Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton and Eli Manning. In the same time frame, QB’s who have LOST the Super Bowl included Brady, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Donovan McNabb and Matt Hasselbeck. Only Jake Delhomme and Rex Grossman (who each lost) stick out as QB’s who are not in the range of “great” to “elite.”

The Ravens simply cannot dream of winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy with poor offensive performance. The era in which a team could simply survive offensively and let their defense carry them to a title has ended in the NFL, likely thanks to how dreadfully boring it was to watch Johnson and Trent Dilfer lead the Bucs and Ravens respectively to Super Bowl titles.

If the Ravens are going to live up to their lofty preseason expectations, they’re going to have to improve offensively. That was why the team invested time, money and NFL Draft picks into offensive upgrades.

The good news is that two weeks does not make a season. Flacco and company will have a full seven days to prepare for a matchup against the division cellar-dwelling Cleveland Browns in front of a home crowd at M&T Bank Stadium in Charm City. Flacco put things into perspective by saying “You just move on. You have to take it game by game. I don’t think anyone feels good about it.” He added, “we just have to make sure we bounce back and get ready to go. I think everyone will.”

If they do, the Ravens still have a chance to reach considerable heights in 2010.

-G

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NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Flacco, Houshmandzadeh, LB Jarret Johnson, LB Ray Lewis, LB Terrell Suggs and CB Lardarius Webb following the game in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net. Lewis had some particularly choice words for the officiating, which you can hear RIGHT NOW courtesy of WNSTv!……

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkQaI0cW2dw[/youtube]

……TE’s Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta each recorded their first career NFL catch in Sunday’s game……LB Tavares Gooden injured his shoulder late in the first half and was unable to return. The team had no update following the game, but Gooden is scheduled for a MRI Monday……the Ravens return to Baltimore tonight, they will meet at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills Monday, Harbaugh will address the media at 4pm.

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