Ravens offense failing to grow up during changing times in Baltimore

October 21, 2012 | Luke Jones

A returning Terrell Suggs said it best in reacting to the unholy beating the Ravens took in a 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday.

The 5-2 Ravens needed a slice of perspective in remembering it was one game and counted as only their second loss of the season, leaving them in good position in an otherwise mediocre AFC as they head into a much-needed bye week. But, they also couldn’t dismiss the worst defeat of the John Harbaugh era and how all their weaknesses were exposed in crystal-clear focus.

“It’s not the end of the world,” the Pro Bowl linebacker told reporters, “but it’s not something we’re going to take lightly, either.”

Needless to say, it was a difficult week for a Baltimore defense entering Week 7 ranked 26th overall in total defense after the losses of emotional leader Ray Lewis and top cornerback Lardarius Webb to season-ending injuries last Sunday. Yes, the miraculous return of 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs figured to provide a lift for a defense struggling to stop anybody on the ground or through the air, but to expect him to be a miracle worker so soon — or at any point this season — would be ignoring the issues across the board defensively.

A 26-year-old Lewis isn’t suddenly taking the field to rescue the defense and make it elite once again. Neither is a shutdown corner like a young Chris McAlister to rescue a porous pass defense. Improvements must be made, but there just aren’t enough playmakers on the defensive side of the football anymore to expect much more than an average defense at best. The numbers don’t lie.

In order for the Ravens to reach their ultimate goal of a deep playoff run and a Super Bowl this season, it will largely be on the shoulders of quarterback Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense. Baltimore needed a lift from its best unit on Sunday against the formidable Texans, who were ticked off from the embarrassing 42-24 loss suffered at the hands of the Green Bay Packers last week.

Not only did they fail in helping a struggling defense, but they gave the Texans an additional nine points with a safety and an interception returned for a touchdown by Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph early in the second quarter to make it a 16-3 game.

Flacco finished the day completing 21 of 43 passes for just 147 yards. His 3.4 yards per attempt average is as anemic as it comes and the fifth-year quarterback appeared rattled throughout the day, whether pressure was there or not.

The offensive line allowed four sacks, eight quarterback hits, and multiple passes to be batted down at the line of scrimmage.

Running back Ray Rice wasn’t a factor, with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron placing emphasis on the passing game early before the running game became useless after the Ravens fell behind by 26 points at halftime.

Wide receivers struggled to gain separation and failed to catch a pass of longer than 15 yards after the Ravens led the NFL with 34 offensive plays of 20 or more yards through the first six weeks of the season.

After their opening drive of the game in which they marched 45 yards to kick a 51-yard field goal, the Ravens failed to collect another first down in their next six drives of the first half, finally picking up another one after falling behind by a 26-3 margin. They were 0-for-7 on third down in the first half and 4-for-15 for the game.

In their three road games this season, the Ravens are 11-for-40 (27.5 percent) on third down while they have gone 18-for-42 (43 percent) on third-down conversions at home.

Simply pitiful.

The showing continued the disturbing trend of poor offensive production away from M&T Bank Stadium. Dating back to the second half of their Week 2 loss in Philadelphia, the Ravens have managed just 28 points in their last 10 quarters on the road.

Players and coaches alike say it boils down to lack of execution in what’s become a “Jekyll and Hyde” offensive attack for the better part of the last few seasons. It’s only magnified this season with the defense no longer capable of carrying the team as it did in years past.

The blame falls on everyone with a hand in the mixing bowl that is the Baltimore offense.

It’s on Cameron.

It’s on Flacco.

Yes, it’s on Harbaugh, who may not have the offensive background but is ultimately responsible for all phases of his football team.

The bye week comes at the perfect time as the Ravens will take advantage of the week off to get healthy on the defensive side of the ball while the offense and defense both evaluate personnel, tendencies, and strategy for the final nine weeks of the regular season.