Ho. Lee. Crap.
No recap of last night’s game would be complete without mentioning the officiating, so let’s just get that out of the way first. As Ravens fans, we of course have the reputation of blaming the refs every time we lose. I’m not blaming them in any way for last night’s loss. But if anyone disagrees that that nationally-televised display of officiating ineptitude was not the strongest argument yet for the case that the NFL needs to make their referees full-time employees, they also probably think Tiger Woods should be nominated for “Husband of the Year.”
There were 310 penalty yards racked up between the two teams, the second most in a single game in NFL HISTORY (Tampa Bay vs. Seattle, October 1976)! Looking at the replays, MOST of the pass interference flags (on both teams) were probably warranted – the calls on Dominique Foxworth and Derrick Mason WERE NOT, however. There comes a point, though, late in the season in a heated battle between two teams jockeying for playoff spots, where these zebras just need to let the players decide the game. I’m not going to sit here and “complain,” per se, about the P.I. call on Green Bay’s Tramon Williams in the end zone with 9:52 to play, considering it SHOULD HAVE helped my team get back in the game (more on that later), but the unbiased football observer in me wishes the official would keep the flag in his pocket in that case. Either Demetrius Williams comes down with the ball or he doesn’t – if he doesn’t, then too bad. EAT THE FLAG!
I caught a show on the NFL Network in between college football games Saturday night, called “Greatest Fourth Quarters.” They showed the fourth quarters (obviously) of three games from about the 1992-1997 time frame. In each, there were calls that, nowadays, would have drawn red challenge flags from the coaches. This was before the days of replay, however. In each case, the zebras huddled up, talked about the questionable play, and in each case, GOT IT RIGHT. That’s right, the officials used to be able to correctly do their jobs without the aid of instant replay. In 2009, the goofs in the striped shirts can’t even seem to get it right WITH the replay.
Perhaps the refs were held more accountable back then? Maybe they were required to dedicate more time to their craft? Or maybe they just tried harder than they do now, when they know they have that little hood to save them if need be.
I don’t know the answer, but I thought it was very fitting that, after watching those officials from a time long past do their jobs impeccably, I was then subjected to the yellow flag storm of Monday Night.
The inconsistency is the worst part. Like all of you, I’ve watched a ton of football this year. I suspect you’ll agree that the discrepancies seen between what one official versus the next considers “pass interference” to be is mind boggling.
Jon Gruden pointed out during the telecast that it was as if the officials had one hand in their pocket whenever Aaron Rodgers put the ball up in the air, waiting for any slight indication of ANYTHING that could be interpreted as P.I. By the end of the game, it was obvious that the same could have been said when Joe Flacco threw the ball.
Entering the game, the Packers and Ravens were the #1 and #2 most penalized teams in the NFL, and it was obvious that their reputations preceded them. That’s not the way it should work. Each game…no, each PLAY…needs to be judged in and of itself, not based on some preconceived notion that the official has about a particular player or team being “prone to committing a penalty” in that situation.
Please, Mr. Goodell – quit wasting your time with stupid initiatives like playing in Europe and expanding the season, and address an issue that plagues the league EVERY SINGLE WEEK.
Make the referees full-time employees.
Now, about that game…
Basically, the Ravens just are not a very good football team right now. Although they frittered away some games earlier in the year that they very easily could have won, after 12 games 6-6 seems like exactly where they deserve to be. They are a mediocre team with a struggling quarterback, ineffective running game, non-existent pass rush, laundry list of injuries, and below average coaching.
Joe Flacco, as many have already pointed out, played as poorly as he has in his two seasons in purple. Despite looking like his injured ankle had finally improved to the point that he could move around when needed (his 16 yards rushing were his most since Week 1), his throws still sailed and/or floated, and his decision making was horrendous at times.
More on Joe in this weeks “Did Not Play Like a Raven,” I’m afraid.
The announcement, about an hour before kickoff, that Ed Reed would not be playing, put the kibosh on just about any good feelings that I had going into this one. There weren’t many to begin with, but without #20 back there, Aaron Rodgers seemed likely to have an even bigger field day in store. The defense, however, didn’t play terribly. They forced three Packer turnovers (including one on an interception by Reed’s replacement, Tom Zbikowski) that kept the game from being the total blowout that it probably could have been.
Unfortunately, their lack of pass rush was on full display for all the football world to see. Even Matthew Stafford probably isn’t very worried going into next week’s game. Trevor Pryce’s sack of Rodgers in the 2nd quarter was the Ravens first since the Cleveland game. It was the only one of the entire contest though, as the Ravens now have just ONE quarterback sack in their last TWELVE quarters of play. Greg Mattison can’t seem to figure out when to blitz and when not to (um…no blitz on 3rd and 7 on our own 16? Come on, Man!), and when he does, the Ravens still can’t get any pressure. Their blitzes were picked up easily by Green Bay’s offensive line and backs all night long. “Anemic” is too soft a word for the pass rush at this point.
The Ravens held Packer running back Ryan Grant to just 2.2 yards per carry, but Rodgers hurt them scrambling, picking up 30 yards on 4 totes. Tight end Jermichael Finley proved way too much for Zbikowski and the Ravens’ poor-covering linebackers to handle (side note: every LB, CB, and S on the Ravens’ roster should watch A.J. Hawk on Flacco’s 3rd pick, and get an idea of how to LOOK FOR THE BALL in coverage), as he led the Packers with 7 catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
- Lardarius Webb played well, both on kick returns and in coverage.
- Dominique Foxworth was awful. That whiff on Donald Driver’s touchdown had to have sent Chris McAlister falling off his barstool in laughter somewhere on Bourbon Street.
The offense was, again, inept for the first 30 minutes, as they got shut out. The slow starts are pretty much expected at this point. If it weren’t for the defense setting them up twice with short fields on turnovers, they may have gotten shut out for the entire 60 minutes.
The offensive line, especially tackles Michael Oher and Jared Gaither, have taken HUGE steps back since shutting out Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, and then James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley for the first half of the Steeler game. Over the last six quarters, Joe Flacco has been absolutely running for his life. Inside, there is no movement in the running game, and Ben Grubbs probably had his worst game as a pro last night. Without holes, even Mighty Mouse Ray Rice isn’t going to go far.
It would have been nice to see some of Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain, who could have at least pushed the pile if there weren’t any holes. I was screaming for him all game, but apparently he just wasn’t in Cam Cameron’s “game plan,” as I’m sure he’ll tell us when questioned about it. Nor was the no-huddle offense, despite it seemingly being the only thing that provides any sort of spark these days. The insistence on giving Willis McGahee the ball at the goalline is also head-scratch inducing, even if he did get in once.
LET’S SEE SOME PAIN TRAIN!
As far as John “Andy Reid Jr.” Harbaugh’s clock management, it is just laughable (and Mike Tirico actually WAS laughing at the Ravens’ “hurry up” efforts at the end of the game). The Ravens had zero sense of urgency when they got the ball back with under two minutes to play – but that just mirrored their play through the 58 minutes leading up to that. They were slow in and out of the huddle all night, wasted timeouts on defense and in the red zone, and overall seemed to be playing like the game was untimed.
I have no idea what to make of Harbaugh’s clock management. It defies logic at times, and it only seems to get worse.
It was an ugly, ugly game. Sure, the Ravens were within 3 points in the second half, and had the chance to pull within a field goal one other time – but let’s be honest: they had no business being in this one. Just like they really have no business being in the AFC Playoff discussion.
Hey, at least beating up on the Lions should be fun next week, amirite?
Um…Am I right?