12 penalties. 135 yards. 185 total net yards of offense. 3.1 yards per play, both rushing and passing. Numbers don’t lie.
That had to be the ugliest loss of the ’09 season to date. And after 75% of the schedule, there’s simply no denying what this year’s Baltimore Ravens are: not a playoff caliber football team. Not at 6 – 6 with two road games remaining to close the regular season. A .500 team. Again, numbers don’t lie.
Ask yourself this: Is there anything to suggest that the Ravens are capable of winning four straight games to finish the regular season? Or is there anything to suggest that this team, as currently constructed, and based upon their season long habit of falling behind when playing on the road, could somehow summon the ability to not only win their last four, but then make a serious playoff run as a Wild Card team playing exclusively on the road in January? Because after last night’s uneven, undisciplined, uninspired performance, I don’t see it. I don’t know how any objective viewer could.
The Ravens have regressed. Their quarterback certainly has. Their commitment to the running game certainly has. Their ability to play any kind of tenacious defense has. Their pass rush has. Their receivers have (although, to be honest, they really haven’t been game-changing playmakers at all, even last season).
I believe the franchise is rapidly approaching a crossroads this upcoming offseason. There are so many areas to address: Secondary, defensive line, wide receiver, tight end, linebacker. Where does the front office begin? So many questions and issues, and only so much money to go around, even if next year is an uncapped year.
And yes, I realize that injuries have played a role. But every team deals with the same problems. Injuries cannot be an excuse. Neither can a lack of adequate depth at any specific position be an excuse. After 12 games, you are what you are. And the Baltimore Ravens are a .500 football team. A poorly disciplined .500 football team.
It’s mysterious and it’s disturbing to realize that the only significant quality road win this team has earned was in San Diego on September 20th. After all they accomplished on the road last season, I honestly thought they would be capable of winning some of their tougher road matchups this year. But the pattern of falling behind early is now more than coincidence: It’s a trend. It’s who they are. And it’s beyond question now that they simply aren’t a good enough football team to come from behind on the road against a quality opponent. Amazingly, that San Diego win is now the exception instead of the rule.
So the season hangs in the balance every Sunday from here until January 3. An unthinkable slip-up at home against the Lions or the Bears drives the final nail in the coffin. A brutally physical matchup in Pittsburgh awaits on December 27, should they reach that game at 8 – 6. And a cross-country trip to the Black Hole (where Cincy and Philly have both already lost) closes out the regular season.
Somehow, after seeing the same kind of road game script play out again last night, the Ravens have to find a way to win four straight just to have a chance. Some way, they have to correct all the flaws on offense, all the penalties on defense, and all the mental and physical errors that consistently contribute to these deficits on the road. Can that be accomplished at this late point in the season? An optimist would say yes. A realist would say no. Especially after 12 penalties for 135 yards. Exactly how does something that atrocious get cleaned up after 12 games?
The Baltimore Ravens are who they are. A .500 football team that lacks focus, discipline and offensive consistency. A .500 football team that can’t beat quality opponents on the road. A .500 football team that really doesn’t deserve a playoff berth.
And more than likely won’t earn one.